The trend for employers to offer telecommuting (work-from-home) options and flexible work schedules is on the rise. Recently a Gallup report indicated that offering employees the ability to work remotely is effective at supporting engagement and productivity. In fact, the Gallup report indicated that 54 percent of office workers say they'd leave their job for one that offers flexible work time. But it doesn’t stop there. The benefits of flexible and telecommuting options for employees, employers, and the environment are also good reasons to adopt this trend. Let’s do a little dive into all of the benefits and the practical implications.
According to a Ring Central, employee benefits include:
Less distractions: “less office chatter, clients, footfall, and even the prying eyes of your manager peering over your shoulder” can all enhance job satisfaction and productivity.
Greater work-life satisfaction: employees have “more control over work-life integration and the ability to take a moment to deal with a personal emergency”. Employees then can easily make that time up later in the day, when their kids have gone to bed or during the time they would have been commuting.
Reduced stress: “One study found that 82 percent of people working away from the office experience lower levels of stress. People have more freedom to build their work around their lives, rather than doing things the other way around.”
“Improved happiness and satisfaction: According to the Global State of Work Report, people who telecommute are more likely to be happier. The people who can telework at least once a month in this study were 24 percent happier than their coworkers. “
The benefits to the employer are endless. Of course, employees are happier, healthier, more engaged and productive, but it also helps your reputation. Did you know that 87 percent of Starbucks clients drink their coffee because they like the way they treat their employees (Morgan, 2018)? In a nutshell, here are the employer benefits.
Better employee engagement
Decreased costs in absenteeism and turnover
Enhanced recruitment and retention
Reduced costs (think office sharing)
Greater creativity and innovation
Better organizational reputation
Bill Gates was right on the money when he said employers that offer flex time will have an edge. Why? Well according to Business Insider, 84 percent of millennials want more work-life integration and 54 percent want to work a flexible or alternative schedule. From the same source, up to 90 percent of the US workforce say they would like to "telework" at least part-time.
Allowing people to telecommute also is good for the environment. Think about all the reduced carbon emissions from commuting. Offering this option is not only good for business and employees, but it is also a socially responsible option.
So now that you might be sold on the idea of offering more flexibility and telecommuting options, let’s have a look at the practicality of it all.
The Right Balance
There is a balance to improving engagement through flexible schedules. For telecommuting options, limit home days to three times a week for full time employees. More than that and morale can suffer, and engagement can drop. When offering greater flexibility for work hours, in collaborative work environments, keep a few hours where everybody needs to be available. For example, having 9 am-3 pm set hours allows employees to start at 9 am and work until 5 pm, start a 7 am and end at 3 pm, or offer any other combination. If work is more individually focused, you may not need six hours . Perhaps, you only need people to be available between 9 and 11 am or 1 and 3 pm. Just be careful and make sure that all employees have consistent access. I have seen organizations with great policies that individual managers haven’t followed. If a team or entire department can’t access the perk, you will get resentful, disengaged employees. So, either get your managers on board or make sure everyone has fair access.
Okay, now we know about the benefits and the right balance. So how do you implement more flexible schedules, while making sure employees don't abuse this perk?
Have a policy in place to keep things fair and consistent. This policy may include the following to ensure it is used fairly:
Include a trial (one to three months) for telecommuting options for each employee before implementing options long term. Every employee is different. Not all can be successful work remotely.
Clearly layout times people are expected to be available.
Include a statement on how you will deal with any potential abuse.
Ensure that following the policy is a shared responsibility between everyone.
Re-think performance development and start tracking outcomes rather than minutes and hours of work. Have employees share in the development of work outcomes if possible. If individual performance suffers, include a statement to amend the policy on a case-by-case basis.
For full-time employees, keep telecommuting options to no more than three days per week to keep up engagement and morale.
Make sure that employees are equipped with, or have, a space at home that is ergonomically appropriate. Ensuring employees complete and sign off on a checklist before starting out can make sure they are set up for success.
Summing it Up
The benefits to offering greater employee flexibility and telecommuting options are endless for the employer and employee. It reduces costs, increases employee engagement, well-being and productivity, is good for reputation, and can be good for the environment. Making sure you have a good policy in place will make sure it is successful, and not abused.
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