If you think that allowing your employees to work remotely is a recipe for disaster, you might want to reconsider. In addition to the fact that doing so makes for happier employees, new research suggests that it can also be good for your bottom line. Here are just a few compelling arguments for instituting a work from home policy for your business:
Competitive Edge for Your Business
Giving your employees the opportunity to work from home either on a full or part-time basis can be a powerful recruiting tool and can increase your employee retention rates.
In a study released by Microsoft Small Business Resources last year, 72 percent of employees interviewed said they would prefer to work from home. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents said they felt they were actually more productive when working from home.
Many small business owners bridle at the thought of allowing their employees to work from home because they feel it would cost them money. Research, however, shows otherwise.
Allowing employees to work from home will also allow you to reduce your monthly office expenses including rent, utilities and office supplies.
According to data compiled by The Telework Coalition, business that allow their employees to work from home actually save an average of $20,000 per full-time employee, per year.
Remote Workers are More Productive
Research conducted by The Telework Coalition also showed that among the companies studied, productivity rose an average of 22 percent after they began allowing their employees to work from home.
Creating and Implementing a Work-From-Home Policy
So what should you do to make sure a new remote-worker policy succeeds for your business?
The first step is to develop a detailed plan of how the new policy will be implemented. Determine which employees will be given the privilege. This can be based on seniority, performance or by department. If the policy won’t include all your employees, come up with a plan to deal with dissent among employees who are not afforded the opportunity.
Make sure your remote workers have the tools they need to remain productive and effective while working from home. Depending on your particular business, these tools can include phones, computers, broadband internet access, software, fax machines and webcams among others.
In business, good communication is essential for success. That’s especially true for remote employees, so be sure their email and instant messaging platforms integrate seamlessly with your office-bound systems.
There are a number of open-source and low-cost Web-based applications that will allow you to collaborate with work-from-home employees despite their remote locations. They include Google Docs, Google Voice, GoToMeeting, Skype and Basecamp, just to mention a few.
Set realistic expectations for your remote employees and for yourself. Your employees must understand that, although their physical location has changed, their job responsibilities have not. Likewise, if you or your managers have a very hands-on style, the new arrangement can be a little unnerving in the beginning.
The best way to overcome doubts and anxiety about the new arrangement is to focus on results and not processes. As long as your remote employees complete their work to your satisfaction and on-time, you should view the arrangement as a success.
In short, you should trust your remote employees to manage their own time and workloads unless they give you a reason not to.
It’s a good idea “huddle up” with your remote workers on a regular basis. In most cases, weekly meetings, conference calls or Web conferences involving all your remote workers should be sufficient. Avoid the temptation to hold these calls or meetings on a daily basis as they tend to be less productive and can make employees feel that they aren’t trusted to do their jobs.
Workers who have made the shift from an in-office to work-from-home arrangement typically miss the camaraderie of the workplace over time. Occasional, face-to-face “meet-ups” — whether in the office or over lunch — can help you and your remote employees stay connected and moving in a positive, productive direction.