Should you support remote work arrangements?

Remote work arrangement image

With thousands of cars cluttering the roads and rush hour traffic getting steadily worse with each passing year, you’d think more people would be on board with remote work arrangements.  Keeping commuters off the road has the potential to reduce overcrowding, revitalize cities, and just generally make a lot of people’s lives a whole lot less stressful.  Unfortunately, the concept of telecommuting has yet to be embraced in most businesses.

Employers are concerned that their workers will slack off without supervision, but many compelling studies (like this one from WORKshift Canada) suggest that the opposite is true; employees with the ability to work where they want, when they want, tend to get more done.  This is largely attributed to the fact that they usually have fewer interruptions to deal with.  Other factors, like the ability to work during the hours when they feel most productive, have an impact on these results as well.

In addition to being more productive, employees with flexible hours also tend to work more hours.  With the ability to work around activities that would cut into an ordinary worker’s schedule, like doctors appointments, childcare and eldercare, they can achieve a better work-life balance without actually taking any time off.  This reduces their stress levels which, in turn, cuts back on the number of sick days they end up taking, too.

As with any major organizational change, transitioning from a traditional work environment to a virtual one comes with its own set of challenges.  Employees may find the arrangement isolating, or feel frustrated by a lack of recognition.  For managers, learning how to effectively handle a remote workforce means questioning old assumptions about performance evaluation, communication and trust.

Of course, telecommuting doesn’t need to be all or nothing.  Even allowing workers to telecommute on a part-time basis can be financially beneficial and help to boost your team’s productivity.

Deciding on whether or not you should allow your employees to work from home is an important decision, and not one that should be taken lightly.  To make it work, you’ll need to provide your affected employees with access to all of the network resources they might need from the office, set clear expectations and guidelines, and take steps to facilitate effective communication between coworkers.  Most of all, you’ll need to learn to trust your employees, and include them in your decision-making process.  Giving them the option to work from home may be the best way to ensure that they end up working in the environment where they can be the most productive — after all, who knows how they work best better than they do?