One silver lining of the shut-down is that you may have learned something that you never expected: employees who worked from home continued to be productive. In fact, some of them may have been more productive than they were when they were in your workplace.
Right now, your business is probably just starting to move beyond treading water. At some point, however, you may return to a real growth phase, which can be expensive, requiring more space and increasing fixed costs. Have you considered that you might be able to delay physical expansion by continuing your work-at-home policy?
A Few Statistics to Encourage You
During the nationwide work-at-home experiment, you may have already discovered that everyone gains when employees don’t have to go to the workplace every day. But, if you have any doubts, here are a few statistics that may convince you that (even before the shut-down) this new mode of employment offered many benefits to team members — and to your business.
Employees often prefer to telecommute
Employees who have flexibility in their work life are typically more satisfied, as evidenced by these statistics, offered by TimeDoctor, a software provider that focuses on tools dedicated specifically to remote work:
- The number of telecommuters is expected to rise after the shutdown: About 30 percent of workers worked from home some or all of the time before the shutdown. Upon return to normalcy, that number is expected to increase to about 40 percent.
- U.S. Workers prioritize flexible work conditions: In one survey, 80 percent of respondents want this type of flexibility. About 30 percent of those workers prefer flexibility over prestigious roles, and 75 percent see flexible schedules and full or partial remote work as the most effective type of non-monetary compensation that encourages employee retention.
- Remote workers are more productive for numerous reasons: As many as 80 percent report that reduced stress comes from many factors, including no commute and reduced office politics. Many find that fewer distractions and a quiet atmosphere contribute to their increased output.
- Telecommuters remain healthier: About half of remote workers took fewer sick days. More than 80 percent said that they are no longer exposed to sick co-workers, and reduced stress from their environment can make it easier to take better care of themselves.
Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), a research and consulting firm that focuses on the future of work, summarizes it well. Even before anyone ever heard of the virus, about 80 percent of employees said that they wanted to work from home, at least part time. Clearly, improved morale is bound to become a side-effect of such a program.
What’s good for the team is good for your company
Not all businesses can allow for employee teleworking based on the roles that they play. However, you can see many benefits when your employees work remotely, such as the following reported by GWA:
- Better retention: In one survey, 95 percent of employers reported a high retention rate when employees worked from home. This makes sense, since workers who get attached to a more flexible work situation are not terribly likely to give it up for an in-office job.
- Increased productivity: Many businesses report significant increases (as much as 45 percent) in productivity among their team members who work from home. Among the many reasons for this increase are fewer distractions and the tendency to use former commute times to do more work.
- Reduced absences: It’s probably no surprise that not all employees who call in sick are really ill. This is true of as many as 78 percent of sick calls, when workers actually need to be home for a family emergency or home repair. Plus, sick teleworkers often continue to work when they do it from home. An additional major plus is that they won’t infect other workers.
- Lower costs: Almost 60 percent of employers have reported a reduction in workplace expenses, particularly when all or most employees work remotely. Lower real estate costs seem to top the list, but consider the savings when employees don’t have to be relocated, along with many other cost reductions.
Since every company has unique experiences, this is just a starter list of benefits. If you’re not fully convinced that teleworking will work in your business, don’t say “no” before taking some time to imagine potential upsides.
There are a number of reasons why remote work is not all pie and honey for everyone:
- Not all remote workers can handle it: To avoid distractions and temptations, people need to maintain a structure to handle working from home. Additionally, some people are now reporting that they are starting to miss the person-to-person interaction of office life, and that exhaustion is setting in since they can never get away from work.
- You might face new employee demands: As workers notice that their expenses are increasing due to anything from higher utility costs to wear and tear on their personal office equipment, they might ask for higher wages or other compensation. As minimum wage standards continue to increase, these can become real concerns, but you might find that the increased productivity may justify compensation adjustments. Do the math to calculate the true bottom line.
- You will initially spend more to provide the right resources: Installing video conferencing software is not enough to ensure a workable system. You have to consider buying tools (including consulting) that ensure security protection for your computer network, and the purchase of company smart phones and other supplies for more employees is not out of the question.
- You can face potential legal issues: Can employees file Workers’ Compensation claims if they suffer injuries while working from home? How do you handle overtime pay for hourly workers? Can employees file discrimination lawsuits because you’re not allowing them to work from home? It’s best to seek legal guidance before establishing a formal, long-term telecommuting program.
You have probably seen and addressed some issues like these during the shutdown. Still, it’s best to re-visit every potential issue and come up with solid answers before you make it a permanent system.
Watch Out For The Cat
Now that your business is starting to ramp up again, your employees may be busier than they were before the shutdown. If they were more productive while working from home, why fix what’s not broken?
Still, you and your teleworking employees may have to clamp down to take control over others in the home. Just last April, one teleworking couple had to file a formal HR complaint against their cat. Her paw print on the document indicated that she understood and agreed to the conditions set forth. So far, there is no follow-up story on how well their furry co-worker complied.