While once viewed as a rare perk for some employees, working remotely, or telecommuting, has become a mainstay employment practice at many companies. According to an analysis of U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data performed by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs, the number of employees telecommuting in the U.S. increased 159% between 2005 and 2017. Remote workers are those who work principally from home at least half-time and does not include self-employed consultants or freelancers. Advances in technology such as web-based access to files, video conferencing and smartphones have been a driving force behind this trend.
The Benefits of Telecommuting For Businesses
The benefits to telecommuting for both employees and employers are many. A two-year study conducted by Stanford University showed an astounding productivity boost among telecommuting employees equivalent to a full day’s work. As further evidence of telecommuting as a viable employment practice, the study also showed that among the telecommuting study participants, attrition decreased by 50% and that, generally, the telecommuters took less time off.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Now that remote workers are more commonplace, perhaps the biggest drawback is their remoteness. Employees working remotely get little face time with their colleagues and supervisors which can lead to disengagement and reduced morale. An effective telecommuting policy and procedure addresses the importance of creating opportunities that keep remote workers engaged and committed to the organization. Here are some simple tips to ensure a successful working arrangement for remote workers.
Schedule Regular Video Conferencing
Live video conferencing using smartphones or laptops is almost the same as meeting in person. It enables remote workers to see and interact with coworkers in real time, strengthening working relationships and a sense of community. Recurring video “meetings” can quickly become part of a company’s culture.
Co-working is when people from different companies or who are self-employed share a remote working space that includes office equipment such as computers, conference tables, lounge or meeting areas and even day-care facilities. Co-working is an innovative way to simulate an office environment and allow for the exchange of ideas with others, increase networking opportunities and learn from others in different fields all face-to-face. Some co-working spaces even organize happy hours and other events after hours. Co-working could be a good option for an employee who wants to work remotely and benefits from collaboration and interaction with others.
Let’s Do Lunch
Everyone needs a lunch break, and it is the perfect time to catch up with remote workers and stay connected. Schedule one-on-one or small working group lunches at the new restaurant everyone is talking about. If you know in advance you will be in the vicinity of a remote worker for a client meeting, schedule coffee or lunch afterwards.
Can I Get Some Support Over Here?
Remote workers must have access to the software, files and technology needed to do their jobs. Cloud-based folders with automatic backups, access to internal systems and reliable IT support are imperative. IT departments must be trained on how to handle remote issues and be accessible by phone or means other than a computer. After all, an employee cannot complete a help desk ticket if her computer isn’t working.
Let the Numbers do the Talking
When assessing remote employees’ performance, managers must be particularly aware of performance appraisal biases. Some level of biases may be unavoidable, but to be objective, a manager must focus on job-related behavior and not other factors like a work situation or arrangement. Performance should be measured by outputs, not how much one-on-one time is spent with the employee.
A “similar-to-me” bias exists in which managers give more favorable ratings to an employee most like her, personality-wise, gender-wise or work arrangement-wise. A manager who is in the office every day may feel very dissimilar to a subordinate who works remotely. Awareness of these biases and training on how to avoid them is critical.
Learn More Ways To Engage With Your Remote Workers
Remote working arrangements are at the top of most “desirable benefits” lists for high-level talent. Smart HR can help you determine whether this arrangement works with your company’s culture, draft and communicate a policy with the appropriate parameters and procedures required and fine-tune it after implementation, if needed. Some trends come and go, but telecommuting is here to stay!