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With all the advances in technology, most employers provide for employees to work remotely from home. HR experts often cite this as a benefit of great importance to millennials and younger professionals when evaluating a prospective employer. That said, I often hear many employers and managers in my age bracket cite this practice as detrimental to client service and productivity. We all know there are “pros” and “cons” to everything, so I thought it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at the topic of telecommuting.
According to a February 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review, many of the most-valued benefits for employees were ones that provided flexibility and enhanced work-life balance. Flexibility and work-life balance are of great importance to a large segment of today’s workforce: parents. Many younger workers value flexible hours and work-life balance above salary and health insurance in a potential job.
Offering the ability to work from home and flexible hours are affordable perks for companies that want to offer appealing benefits but can’t afford an expensive benefits package. These benefits typically cost the employer nothing — and often save money by lowering overhead costs. Other commonly cited benefits for employers include the following:
- Working remotely can increase productivity. Employees do not encounter commuting time, they do not experience the distractions of water cooler gossip, unnecessary impromptu meetings, and the disruptive behaviors of colleagues.
- Higher employee morale. Studies cite that remote workers are generally happier with their work and often miss less time away from work for sickness or personal reasons.
- Providing remote work opportunities can lower employee turnover.
- Companies can save overhead and facilities related costs.
- Communication is more intentional and purposeful. Remote workers are often more engaged as their interactions with coworkers and colleagues are often better planned, more organized and outcome driven.
So, given all these benefits, why do some employers remain skeptic?
While employers see the benefits of working remotely and providing flexible work schedules, many choose not to provide these benefits because of the management and cultural challenges they can create. Among these challenges are the following:
- The need for employee personal accountability. The most common employer concern is how to prevent the employee of taking advantage of the benefit.
- Lack of workplace culture. Culture is important to building effective work groups and aligning employee behavior to advance a company’s mission and vision. Culture-building activities may not be effective without face-to-face interaction.
- Some studies have shown remote employees are overlooked for promotion and salary increases due to the lack of “visibility” with managers and supervisors.
- Dependence on technology. The ability to work remotely is totally dependent on the employees’ technology resources. Connectivity and stability of an employees’ internet service provider can adversely impact productivity when working from home.
- Constantly connected. While true of their colleagues working in the office, remote workers may feel a greater need to “stay connected” resulting in less of a work-life balance due to constantly checking emails and their smart phones.
If working remotely is vital to our ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest, what are we to do as employers? Simply put, we need to set expectations with our remote workers that provides mutual benefits for them and us. Some examples:
- The requirement to maintain an on-line presence for certain hours during the day.
- Regularly scheduled communication with supervisors and managers.
- Days when they are required to be in the office.
I’m certain there are many more. I am interested in hearing from all of you on how your company is balancing the need to provide employees the opportunity to work remotely with the needs of your organization?