Technology has made it exponentially easier to connect and communicate online. People can video call, send emails, share documents, and manage tasks anywhere they have an internet connection.
This flexibility has led many employees to request working from home—but organizations are less excited about this laissez-faire approach.
How can you know your employees are actually working all day? Will the quality of work suffer without regular face-to-face interaction? It’s much easier for businesses to monitor employees and hold them accountable in the office—can they really trust employees to work from home?
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses no longer have the luxury of testing remote work—employees around the globe are being forced to work from home. So ready or not, we are going to stress-test remote work globally.
As we come out on the other side of the coronavirus outbreak, you’re going to know a lot more about how effective working remotely is for your business. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at remote work and whether it’s something you should consider long-term.
Employees Already Waste Time at Work
Companies that try to limit remote work often want to cut down on employee distractions. If an employee is in the office, then management can walk by and make sure they aren’t wasting time or doing non-work-related tasks. However, managers might not be as good as they think at catching employees.
Employees admit that they waste three hours on average during an eight-hour workday. This time is spent surfing the web, socializing with coworkers, and generally spacing out. Furthermore, 77% of employees with a Facebook account say they use it at work.
Your employees will find a way to waste time at work—they just won’t do it in front of you.
Remote Work Doesn’t Mean Lower Productivity
When you look at the productivity numbers, remote workers are statistically more productive. A 2019 study of more than 1,000 employees found that remote workers work an average of 1.4 more days every month than their in-office counterparts.
Remote workers only reported being idle for 27 minutes each day (outside of lunch and breaks) compared to 37 minutes for in-office staff.
This evidence suggests that if your employees are happy to work for your company and value their jobs, they will work just as hard remotely as they would in a face-to-face setting. If they aren’t engaged in their jobs, then it doesn’t matter where they work—these team members won’t give it their all.
Remote Work Has Multiple Human Resource Benefits
While most managers focus on productivity when they consider letting employees work remotely, there are other benefits to consider. For example, remote workers save an average of $4,500 on fuel each year and clock an extra 25 minutes of physical exercise each week. These benefits mean that remote work options can serve as a cash bonus for your team members while making them healthier and happier.
Along with helping employees, the benefits that come from remote work can also help employers. For example:
- -Happier employees are less likely to quit, reducing turnover and lost profits because of it.
- -More employees will apply to a job that offers remote work options, increasing your talent pool so you find qualified candidates.
- -Hiring workers for full-time remote positions allows you to increase your talent pool across the country, helping you find the perfect fit for your brand.
Ask yourself: is a reliable employee working from home better than a handful of average employees in the office? Most would probably say yes.
You Don’t Have to Approve Full-Time Remote Work
One of the biggest misconceptions that employers have is that their remote workers are never in the office. In fact, 60% of workers actually prefer being able to work in the office and don’t believe that having flexible work options would interfere or disconnect them from their office. Despite the majority preferring to work onsite, more than 80% of workers still like the idea of being given the option to work remotely – even if it’s on occasion.
In fact, when employees are able to work from home at least once a month, they are 24% more likely to be happy and productive. In other words, giving employees the flexible work options, even on occasion, plays a factor in their well-being and overall productivity.
Consider the needs of your employees and why they want to work from home. This information can guide your remote work policy. A few examples include:
- -Letting employees work remotely on Fridays as a perk of the job.
- -Allowing parents to work remotely in the afternoon once they pick the kids up from school.
- -Permitting employees to work remotely to greet repairmen or other home service providers.
- -Letting employees work overtime remotely over a weekend to complete a project on a tight deadline.
Even if you do let employees work remotely whenever they want, you can still ask them to come to the office for certain meetings or on specific days to meet with clients. This approach creates a fair amount of remote and office time.
Furthermore, setting up remote work policies when everything is fine can prepare your company in the event that your team members need to stay home during a natural disaster or emergency—as we’re seeing now.
The Future of Remote Work
Organizations around the world are being forced to work remotely—even if they were ill-prepared. As a result, businesses will have growing pains and hurdles to overcome with working from home. However, there’s no denying that there will be lessons learned.
Will we discover the remote office to be the next frontier of the workplace? Will working from home prove to be a complete failure?
Likely, we’re going to land somewhere in the middle. Remote work will have its flaws, but it will also have benefits for the employees and employers. Once we get back to business as usual, companies should evaluate their experiences and consider adapting their businesses for remote work opportunities.
Remote work isn’t the right choice for every company, but that doesn’t mean you should completely write it off. With the right system, your employees might appreciate the flexibility and reward you with increased productivity.
Derek Miller is a writer specializing in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing. His work has featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp. He’s currently the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses.