Should You Allow Employees to Work Remotely? Here's How to Decide
The remote-working trend has been on the rise for years, and now 62 percent of employees work remotely. For many companies and employees, buying into this trend seems to be paying off—research indicates remote work arrangements contribute to increases in productivity.
However, some of the largest companies in the world have retracted their remote-work policies in an effort to increase collaboration and productivity on-site. Companies like Dell encourage employees to work from wherever they want whenever they want, while other corporate conglomerates like Yahoo! and IBM are eliminating work-from-home benefits and seeing significant increases in employee efficiency.
Clearly, companies are catching on to the pros and cons of allowing remote work. So how do you decide if remote-work benefits are right for your business? Below we outline the benefits of offering both remote-work arrangements as well as requiring employees to come into the office on a regular basis.
Studies have found that remote workers are more productive — 77 percent of survey respondents reported greater productivity, and a study on work-from-home call center employees found that remote workers outperformed peers in the office because they took shorter breaks and used less sick leave.
But remote work and working from home can also have drawbacks, especially when employees lack the discipline to set and abide by their own schedules.
In a typical office setting, there’s the standard 9-to-5 mindset that provides some structure to a workday. This keeps employees focused on completing tasks within a specific time frame rather than bouncing between projects throughout the day.
When employees are connected, they can do incredible work together. That’s why face-to-face and on-site interaction helps drive innovation, brainstorming and collaboration. Collaboration is definitely still possible when working with remote employees.
Technology like video conferencing and live chat make communicating with remote co-workers easier than ever before. But technology will fail at times, and you can’t replace the benefits of in-person communication with a computer screen.
Not being able to simply walk across the office when you want to connect with a colleague is one of the major drawbacks to remote work. While remote workers can find ways to collaborate virtually, at the end of the day they are still working as individuals in their own space.
Engagement is another important factor when considering if you should allow employees to work remotely. Only about one-third of the U.S. workforce is engaged at work. You might assume that one way to increase engagement is to bring employees together to foster connection and collaboration.
But a recent Gallup study found the opposite: Remote employees work more hours throughout the day and they’re slightly more engaged than their office counterparts. Those who worked remotely just part time were the most engaged because they had the flexibility to work-from-home on their own time and enjoyed the perks of working in an office where they could connect with people face to face.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to deciding if you should allow employees to work remotely. Consider your leadership style and your company culture to get a sense of how your employees work and collaborate best.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.