Remote work is on the rise. According to surveys, employees have been increasingly working from home to at least some degree in recent years. Odds are good this trend isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. After all, it offers major benefits to everyone involved: Workers get the flexibility of not having to commute to an office every day, and businesses get the freedom to hire the right employees for open positions, instead of limiting their searches to candidates who live in the area or are willing to move.
That means your business needs to prepare accordingly. Even if you don’t have a remote work model or policy in place now, there’s a good chance you will in the near future. Of course, while remote work does benefit organizations in some ways, you might worry about the impact this shift will have on productivity.
This is an understandable concern. It’s important to consider how a work environment affects business performance. Is remote work truly ideal when compared to an office environment? The following points will clarify the issue, helping you better understand the degree to which remote work will change how you do business.
Consider the Trade-Off
Remote work is becoming more popular for many reasons. Chief among them, however, may be employee expectations. Younger workers have made it clear that being able to work from home (or wherever they wish) is a major selling point for job opportunities.
This isn’t because they are entitled; on the contrary, this expectation represents a fair trade-off. Today’s digital tools have made it easier than ever to be productive. They’ve also made it easier than ever for employers to remain in contact with employees. This has resulted in a generation of workers who operate as if they are always on call.
For younger employees, work doesn’t necessarily end when they clock out at five every day. Before work, after work, and even on the weekends, they may be checking (and responding to) emails, completing tasks, etc. This “always on” workforce is simply more willing to accept such an arrangement if they are allowed to work remotely.
That’s the main reason you need to consider a remote work policy. Younger employees are beginning to seek out jobs at companies that offer such flexibility. However, you may still question whether such a policy is good for overall productivity.
The answer might surprise you.
How Remote Work Affects Productivity
It’s important to understand that a remote work policy isn’t ideal for every company and every position. For instance, while an employee who sits at a desk all day may be able to complete their tasks from virtually anywhere with Internet access, someone whose responsibilities involve manual labor or frequent interaction with their coworkers might have to report to the office more often than not. Don’t assume a remote work arrangement has the same impact at all organizations.
That said, you also shouldn’t assume that remote workers get less done than their in-office counterparts. Though it seems natural that employees will be less inclined to work hard when they don’t have supervisors around to hold them accountable, the opposite can be true.
Thus, you might be surprised to learn that remote work can actually lead to productivity gains. A two-year Stanford study indicates remote workers actually tend to be more productive than employees who work in an office. On top of that, the study reveals that a remote work policy can save companies thousands of dollars per employee by eliminating the costs of renting office space to accommodate an entire team.
This makes sense when you consider it from the perspective of employees. Because remote work is a perk, and not an accepted policy at all organizations, employees know they need to earn the right to work from home. They want to demonstrate that allowing them to continue enjoying a certain degree of flexibility is beneficial. In order to do so, they put in the appropriate effort.
That’s not to say a remote work policy alone is enough to yield productivity gains. If your company does implement such changes, you’re more likely to benefit from them if you keep the following key points in mind:
Teams Need Technology
Working in an office provides employees with constant access to the resources they need to be productive. If you’re going to let your employees work remotely, make sure they have the tools necessary to succeed.
Feedback is Crucial
Surveys indicate most employees want more feedback from their managers than they currently receive. This is particularly important to remember if your employees aren’t going to be sharing an office with their supervisors. You need to establish methods to ensure regular check-ins are a natural component of your remote work policy.
Coaching Might Be Necessary
It’s possible that employees who are accustomed to working from an office might need some help shifting to a new environment. Prepare them for these changes with training sessions. These should cover such topics as how to establish a daily routine, how to communicate with supervisors and coworkers from a remote environment, how to set up a home office, and any other topics you find relevant.
Expect some growing pains when shifting to remote work. These changes might not yield immediate benefits. However, surveys show employees want flexibility, and studies show that offering it can boost productivity. You simply need to prepare accordingly.