By Denise Leaser, President, GreatBizTools
One of the many unintended side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that many workers have finally gotten what they’ve been asking from their companies for so long: the ability to work remotely. Working remotely has long been seen as a privilege, something reserved for higher level or senior employees who could be “trusted” to still remain productive despite not working from their desk.
Sooner or later, the pandemic is going to come to an end, and companies that shifted to working remotely are going to be faced with a more difficult choice then they might realize: do we open the office again and put an end to working remotely? The decision will mean more to employees than just losing the ability to work in their pajamas; working from home is a highly sought after perk for multiple reasons, reasons of comfort being relatively low on most worker’s agenda. But, allowing employees to work remotely can yield benefits for the employer as well.
Today’s workforce wants to work at home. According to a Gallup poll, 37% of today’s workforce would switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time. This is good news for companies. If they really want a diverse workforce, they need to think seriously about looking outside their zip code and look to remote workers to expand the labor pool.
It’s essential to determine employee suitability. This is an area that is often overlooked, and frankly some people just don’t have the discipline to work independently. That’s where good pre-hire assessments can evaluate personality traits and work habits of employees to determine if they are a good fit for remote work – and in an objective, scalable and non-biased way.
Below, we outline a few reasons why working remotely is a step your company should consider. If you or the business you work for is adamant that all employees should return to the office once the pandemic has ended, I encourage you to really take these points into consideration. As with anything, there is a trade-off to allowing employees to work remotely, but what you end up gaining from the bargain might be worth what you have to give up.
Remote work brings families together
Working in the office takes a toll on family life. For the average American, the time spent commuting to work is 26 minutes, one-way. If they come into the office five days a week, that’s four and a half hours of your employee’s valuable time spent just getting to work. And that’s just the average. In big cities where traffic is heavy and workers may have to catch multiple trains or other methods of public transport, it’s not unusual to spend an hour going and coming from work. And then there’s the cost. The average cost of commuting racks up to around $9,000 a year, based on the findings of AAA.
That considered, it’s no wonder that modern employees rate work-from-home privileges so highly. Employees have a life outside of the office. According to findings from Deloitte, about 80 percent of workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. And no matter how much some people might enjoy going into the office, we all work in order to live, not the other way around. From a study conducted by a gallup poll, over a third of all workers asked said they would switch companies based solely on if the new employer allowed them to work remotely, even part time. If your company isn’t providing the ability for workers to live a fulfilling life outside of work, you’re going to suddenly find that your best employees will start looking for other options.
Increasing Employee Happiness
Happiness is not the same thing as fulfillment—fulfillment is long term—but nonetheless, maximizing the happiness of your employees will show in the increased productivity and renewed positive energy of your workforce.
Working in the office five days a week puts a huge strain on the infrastructure of your building. Maintenance will be needed more frequently, equipment is more liable to break. On the whole, allowing for working remotely can save around $5 billion a year, even if you’re only allowing it part time, but saving on expenses is just one benefit to you allowing your employees to work remotely.
When you give employees a longer leash, they’re less likely to think of you as a distrustful, micro-manager, and more likely to think of you as a mentor who has their best interests in mind. You’ll increase company retention, keep some of your top talent invested in staying with your company, and extend the careers of older employees who may have issues that make coming into the office every day complicated.
Most importantly, it will decrease feelings of stress and improve the mental health of your employees. Your workers aren’t going to give 100% at their jobs if they’re worried about paying bills or running errands in their limited time outside of the office. The American Psychological foundation found that employees who have more control over their schedules have a higher morale and more enthusiasm for their jobs.
It creates a wealth of hiring opportunities
For your employees, work-from-home capabilities mean increased leisure time and less of their income spent commuting. For you, expanding your hiring search to include remote applicants widens your candidate pool immensely.
Employees who are hired to work remotely are proven to be more productive and responsible during work hours than employees working onsite. There are a variety of factors that play into this, the foremost being that the offsite worker isn’t part of your office community, and thus won’t spend time on water-cooler talk that doesn’t pertain to their job.
But, most importantly, if employers are going to follow through on building a diverse workforce, they’re going to need to start searching outside of their own zip code. We’ve talked before about how bringing people with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and outlooks into your company yields positive results, but it’s nearly impossible to build the kind of diverse workforce when you hire strictly in a 25 mile radius of your office.
How to implement work-from-home capabilities
Some employers may bulk at the idea of cutting their employees loose from their desks and conducting business solely from behind a computer screen. And yes, that would be a drastic measure, but rest assured that even if this article has swayed you to consider expanding work-from-home privileges, you don’t have to paint the situation with a broad brush.
Not every employee is going to benefit from working from home. Some may need, or even want, the structure of coming into the office at nine and punching out at five, either to firmly separate work life and home life, or because that kind of structure aids in their productivity. Also remember that, ultimately, what your employees do and don’t get to do on company times is at your discretion. It is going to be beneficial for you to allow some of your employees to work remotely, but, frankly, not everybody has the discipline for that.
If you want a more certain way to know who can handle the responsibility of working from home and who would be better suited working in the office, consider determining your employees suitability with a workplace assessment. Assessments are an objective and unbiased way of learning more about your employees; their work styles, productivity habits, and much more. With the results of this assessment, you can determine who would benefit from access to working remotely and, in the process, might be able to keep your top talent around a little longer.
If you plan to start hiring with remote candidates in mind, a good idea is to include an aptitude assessment in the pre-hire process, to determine which candidates can truly handle the responsibility.