Now more than ever remote work is becoming an integral part of the way we do business. And love it or loathe it, particularly from an HR perspective, the fact is, you’re probably going to have to learn to at least accept it.
The thing is, you may even be working from home yourself and love the freedom and flexibility it gives you. But that doesn’t mean you are necessarily comfortable with the rest of your workforce doing the same.
Let’s face it, we could all sometimes use a gentle push in the right direction when it comes to staying motivated when we’re working remotely, but as HR or a manager you might have a sneaking suspicion that some of your employees require more of a firm shove...
How to embrace the idea of your employees working remotely
But in many industries remote work is becoming the new norm and indeed, it can go a long way to helping transform your organisation into a more streamlined, more empowered workplace. After all, if you’re hiring people specifically to work remotely you have a much deeper and wider talent pool to cherry pick from.
So why are so many employers still so hesitant to truly embrace the concept of allowing their employees to work remotely or from home? After all, it’s not like we don’t have the technology to support remote work - and thanks to the global pandemic, even the biggest technophobes or technically inept among us now know how to interact with other people using Zoom!
Remote work: what are YOU worried about?
The worries around hiring remote workers are genuinely understandable: your people are unsupervised so therefore how do you know they’re a) not making costly errors and b) not “getting creative” with their timesheets?
Of course one of the beauties of working from home is having the ability to work when it suits you (depending on your industry, job, company and boss!) It can be a real blessing to be able to pick the kids up from school, make their dinner and then log back on when they’ve gone to bed. But as an employer or manager you need to know they are logging back on and putting their contracted hours in.
It’s true that there can be external distractions when working from home (unless you’re very disciplined): you need to pop out to bring the recycling bins in and get caught by a chatty neighbour. You stick some laundry in the washing machine - but then you need to get it out and hang it up to dry.
But the same can be said for the office: you might have a chatty neigbour at home but it’s possible you have a chatty colleague too. And you can get away from your neighbour by telling them you have a work call to make. Your colleague? Not so easy to escape! Every workplace comes with a myriad of distractions - not all of them simple to get away from.
In fact you can draw these comparisons between remote and office work all day long if you like. Think that employees who want to work remotely want to do so because they can slack off and put in minimal effort? If that’s their approach to work, then sorry to break it to you, but they’ll be doing exactly that in the office whenever possible.
Think that remote workers pose a greater security risk to your documents and data? Providing your business takes a sensible approach to your IT and tech, the location of the employee really doesn’t matter.
Some businesses are also concerned that if they let one person work remotely, they’re going to have to let everyone work remotely but this doesn’t have to be the case. Just as some of your staff will relish the chance to work from their kitchen table and wave goodbye to the daily commute, you’ll find that others much prefer the social aspect and structure of getting up and going to the office each day. And you’ll probably find, still, that there are those employees who would like to mix it up and do both.
What it comes down to is making sure that your organisation correctly implements remote working policies and infrastructure. You need an IT department (or person) who takes access and controls seriously and HR systems that ensure people are working their contracted hours as well as onboarding processes and new hire checklists that are specifically geared towards remote workers.
You also need to make sure that your HR department and your managers, supervisors and team leaders all know how to encourage engagement with your remote workers and make them feel part of the team no matter who or where they are by checking in with them - especially when they're new hires.
So why should you allow remote work in your company - and how can you truly get onboard with the idea? By looking at the undeniable benefits that implementing a more flexible working policy brings.
The benefits of allowing employees to work remotely
We’ve already mentioned that you’ll have a much deeper talent pool to select candidates from when you open yourself up to hiring remotely, but what else would you benefit from?
Consider that you could be putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to having the pick of candidates. Allowing remote and flexi work is seen as a real perk of the job by job seekers and passive candidates alike.
If you offer benefits such as gym memberships, free snacks, and duvet days you might want to further enhance your attractiveness to candidates by also offering remote working. Indeed, a report found that 80% of employees in the United States said they would turn down a job offer if flexible working wasn’t part of the deal.
Therefore, working remotely is clearly something that is prized by employees, both potential and current, and allowing them to do so will have a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing, their perception of you as an employer, and their loyalty to your company. Thus increasing employee retention.
Candidates are also increasingly concerned about the ethics of the companies they apply to. And by embracing remote working, you’ll be able to give your green credentials a boost because you’ll be actively playing a part in reducing commuting and therefore pollution (and your employees’ fuel costs.)
It’s also been shown that remote workers are more productive than their office based counterparts, with one study showing that they work 1.4 days a month more. Surely that dispels the myth of remote workers slacking off! Indeed you may even need to ensure that your remote workers are managing their work-life balance effectively.
You may well also discover that your finances look a little - or a lot - healthier. With less people physically in the office, you might find that you can move to smaller premises.
Embracing remote work: the conclusion
Remote working is no longer a buzzword or a trend: it’s a reality. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Can you afford to ignore it? If you choose to, you may also be ignoring the benefits it can bring to your workplace and to your staff.
Embrace remote work and your business, people and, by default, your clients, will thank you for it.