Working remotely — also known as telecommuting — isn’t a new concept, but its popularity has increased significantly within the last few years. Currently, 67 percent of companies allow some employees to work at home on occasion, and 38 percent allow employees to work remotely on a regular basis. In 2008, those numbers were 50 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Working remotely has expanded to multiple fields, but with its advantages come a few challenges.
Advantage: The Opportunity to Inspire Greater Creativity
Just as there are different styles of learning, there are different styles of working. Some people work best at a desk in a quiet room, while others thrive in a bustling and noisy environment. Furthermore, multiple studies show that people are most creative immediately after waking up and right before falling asleep — both of which are time periods outside the traditional workday. You can inspire greater creativity by allowing your employees to work remotely on their own schedule and at their preferred location.
Challenge: Lack of a United Team
When your employees are working remotely, how can you track them down when you have a question or need an update on a project? While technology makes global, immediate communication possible, there is no replacement for an in-person meeting where a team can interact in the same room. If you are considering allowing your employees to work remotely, you will need to determine how your team can best work together and communicate, whether it’s regular Skype meetings, online chat programs, or weekly face-to-face meetings in the office.
Advantage: Increased Productivity
An initial concern for many business owners is that remote work will result in decreased productivity. After all, a comfortable couch and Netflix is more alluring than work emails and spreadsheets. However, numerous studies show the opposite is true. One study conducted by Stanford researchers found that people who worked remotely made 13.5 percent more calls than the staff in the office did, which resulted in the company gaining nearly an extra workday a week out of each remote employee.
Challenge: Building Trust
It’s difficult to know how hard and how often your employees are working when you can’t see when they arrive and leave each day. While studies show remote work can increase productivity, trusting your employees can still be difficult, especially if they are new. One potential solution is to offer remote work only to experienced employees who have been with the company for a certain amount of time. You will know what they are capable of accomplishing in the office, and you can use this as a baseline to see if they are equally as productive working from home.
Advantage: Less Stress and Better Health
One study found that remote workers experience 25 percent less stress than those who work in the office. As a result, employees are happier and healthier. This is beneficial both for employees and the employer: healthier employees translates to less required sick time.
Challenge: A Technology Investment
In order for your employees to be productive when working from home, they need reliable technology and telecommunications. Employees won’t be productive if their Internet is unreliable or their phone doesn’t offer the advanced options of a business phone. Rather than have employees use their cellphones or home Wi-Fi, consider investing in a business phone and high-speed Internet for each remote worker or offering a stipend to offer such costs.
While allowing staff to work remotely has its challenges, there are many advantages that benefit both the employer and employees. Investing in advanced business technology, implementing a company-wide communication protocol, and identifying ways to track productivity can help make the transition to remote work smoother and more efficient.