Working from home has become an incredibly popular workplace benefit. According to FlexJobs, the United States has witnessed a 115 percent increase in employee telecommuting since 2005, with 43 percent of people regularly following a work from home policy. Like many other studies, this report documents the many advantages employers and employees have gained from telecommuting, from enhanced productivity to improved morale.
Although allowing employees to work from anywhere may seem easy, establishing a successful policy can be challenging for some businesses. Here are four reasons your company's work from home policy may not be working effectively, along with four tips for ensuring success.
It's a Win-Win ... Right?
Working from home appears to be beneficial for employers and employees alike. Businesses can save money on operating costs, while remote workers enjoy greater work-life balance, often staying with the company for longer tenures than their in-office counterparts.
Telecommuting isn't always a smashing success, however. Yahoo famously canceled its work from home policy in 2013, insisting that all of its employees come into the office in person. IBM actually pioneered telecommuting back in the 1980s, but they recently put the kibosh on working from home, too. Why are the work from home policies at these and other companies just not working? Let's see.
4 Reasons Your Work from Home Policy Isn't Working
There are several common roadblocks that can prevent a work from home policy from fully succeeding, including the following four.
- Telecommuting doesn't work for your job type. Some jobs, like sales or medical positions that require considerable face-to-face communication, sometimes can't be performed remotely. Anyone who needs to handle specific equipment or on-site assets as part of their position may find that their job doesn't translate well to a remote setting.
- Some of your employees aren't suited for telecommuting. It's tempting to assume that a star employee will shine as brilliantly when working from home as they do at the office, but that's not necessarily the case. Effectively working from home requires a certain level of self-direction and tech savviness. Even when you have web conferencing solutions and powerful business software integration that help you efficiently collaborate with your in-office colleagues, the remote setting can still prove challenging sometimes. Some people really work best and are most motivated when they can team up with others in a traditional office setting.
- You're having difficulty managing telecommuters. Remote work management isn't the same as traditional on-site management, and managers may not automatically know how best to supervise their remote employees. Without effective collaboration tools in place — such as web/video conferencing, mobile integrations, and cloud-based office phone systems — managing remote employees is nearly impossible. If your managers haven't been trained to handle these tools, they may have trouble ensuring that team members are held accountable for achieving results.
- Your employees feel isolated or overlooked. Face time with the boss is important, especially if your employees are hoping to secure a promotion or a high-profile assignment. If they don't have regular video check-ins with their supervisors, remote workers may suddenly feel overlooked or shut out of opportunities for advancement at the company. If remote workers can't join important team or company-wide meetings via video conference, they may also feel isolated from important goings-on in the organization.
By carefully evaluating how your company provides work from home arrangements to its staff, you can ensure that your business and its employees are able to enjoy the greatest benefits that telecommuting makes possible.
4 Remote Work Policy Tips for Success
If you're running into any of these challenges, don't worry. You don't have to throw in the towel just yet. Here are four remote work policy tips that can turn things around and ensure that your telecommuting policy actually works for you.
- Clarify who is eligible and why. If your policy states that employees are able to work from home a certain number of days per week, does it apply to every job role? Be clear with your employees on who is eligible and why you've made that determination.
- Set clear expectations for remote workers. Create a remote employee agreement that clarifies the rights and responsibilities of employees who work from home. Among other things, it should specify exactly when and how they are expected to be available, any equipment that will be provided, collaboration solutions that will be used for keeping the team connected, and the policies to which remote workers must adhere.
- Train managers on managing remote employees. Consider having the HR team develop specific guidelines for remote work management. For example, managers often find it valuable to have regular one-on-one and team check-ins using video conferencing solutions. Proactive, scheduled opportunities to visually touch base often help alleviate remote workers' feelings of isolation and ensure smooth communication.
- Give remote workers the tools to succeed. Businesses can connect virtual teams and offices using business communication tools like web conferencing that help remote workers collaborate with their in-office counterparts. Some remote workers find SMS or chat app messaging especially helpful since it allows them to bounce quick questions off their colleagues without the interruption of a phone call.
It's important to make sure that your work from home policy maximizes the chances of success for everyone involved. By carefully evaluating how your company provides work from home arrangements to its staff, you can ensure that your business and its employees are able to enjoy the greatest benefits that telecommuting makes possible.