It’s becoming increasingly common for people to spend some, or even the majority, of their time working from home.
Research shows that 70 percent of people around the globe work remotely at least once per week, and that number’s growing. Whether it’s a desire to maintain work/life balance, right through to the dramatic rise in people needing to stay at home thanks to COVID-19, the concept of working from home has become mainstream.
There’s more to enabling staff to work from home than simply providing them with a laptop, however, and businesses will need to grapple with establishing policies and processes to working from home in such a way that won’t disrupt the productivity of the overall organization.
There is still the perception – particularly among executives – that telecommuting will lead to lower productivity, and staff are more difficult to supervise and manage. In order to foster a work from the home culture within the organization, it will first require a viable “telecommuting policy.” This policy should address each of the five key criteria:
It’s important to understand that not every employee needs to take advantage of the remote working policy, and that the success of the project for all employees ultimately rests on everyone making responsible use of it.
So, be sure to interview each employee requesting the ability to work from home – ask them the reasons behind the request, whether they’ve got the capacity, with a dedicated home office space, and what impact this will have on their work hours and availability.
Finally, consider whether their job is suited to home office work – not every job is. Armed with all this information, you’ll know whether the employee will be able to work from home on a part or full-time basis, but don’t be afraid to deny their request if it’s not a good fit (just make sure you can articulate the reasons if other people within the organization are working from home).
One of the most important benefits from an office is the interaction – from brainstorming sessions to casual Friday afternoon beers and socialization. That communication is critical – it keeps staff morale high, and ensures that teams are working towards common goals. It also provides a sense of belonging. Working from home can be an isolating experience if not managed, and that can lead to a lack of investment in the organization.
Make sure there are plenty of channels of communication between the remote workers and the rest of the staff and be sure to continue checking in. Additionally, ensure that there are channels available for the non-work related social chat – off-topic chat rooms and the like, to allow the remote worker to also participate in their team as a human being.
Remote work holds any number of benefits to the organization. Studies show that it improves loyalty and employee retention, and it gives organizations access to a global pool of talent to recruit. It also improves productivity by lowering the commute times of staff and even helps reduce the carbon footprint. Building a successful remote work practice requires good management, but with the right policies in place, remote work will be a bigger boost to your organization than you expected.
Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo! News and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.