"Working from home", or WFH is sometimes referred to as telecommuting. Telecommuting describes using technology to work remotely (usually at home) in place of commuting to the office. But why should your company have an official WFH policy? Obviously, telecommuting full-time would not suitable for every single job role, but it needn't be an all-or-nothing affair.
Having a stated WFH policy is about offering your team greater flexibility. Whilst the notion of letting your team work individually and unsupervised may sound counter-intuitive to standard business practice on the surface, there are undeniable upsides for giving your team more flexibility where viable.
There is a long list of potential positives for both employers and employees in giving people the freedom to work from home where possible. We've collected some of the main points below followed a short review of reasons why a company may not want to implement a WFH strategy and then lastly, we've provided a quick checklist for building your own company policy.
Benefits for employees:
Offers a better work-life balance
The opportunity for spending more time with children and family for example or completing personal errands without taking time off.
Work with no distractions
For work that requires high focus, such as writing an annual report, employees can be out of the office and away from distractions or interruptions.
Increased personal productivity
When Chinese travel website Ctrip gave it's call center staff the choice to work from home, over nine months the average number of calls for individual team members increased by an impressive 13.5% per shift (that worked out to roughly an extra day's productivity per person!).
Save money and time
Avoiding the cost of the morning commute on a regular or semi-regular basis is one of the small details that adds up over time. Save on fuel and parking, or the dreaded morning commute.
A confidence boost
The show of faith from management that giving individuals greater freedom to run their work day will give people more confidence and motivate them to do well.
Benefits to the company
Many employees state they would give up some financial compensation in return for being able to work from home some or all of the time.
Physical offices cost a lot to maintain. More people working from home gives the opportunity to reduce your running costs, from needing to rent less space, to reduced energy consumption.
Reduce instances of unauthorized absences since issues that might prevent an employee going to the office (family, stress etc) don’t prevent them from being at home.
Communications must be better planned, so meetings and other discussions are more effectively coordinated as a consequence.
Increase the size of your potential talent pool
If some positions can be performed entirely remotely, or with only occasional trips to your physical office then congratulations, your recruiting pool just went from here to global.
Become a more attractive place to work
Many employees, especially the much-discussed Millennials, express an interest in being offered flexible working policies such as working from home.
Develop a more agile workforce
Work is becoming ever more global and allowing a workforce the option to work from anywhere helps people respond at the most appropriate time, not when they get to the office.
It can also help develop workflows so people are used to collaborating with others in different locations such as remote workers, clients, or you other offices.
While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy that says telecommuting is right or wrong for every company, there are two main arguments people might raise to challenge the wisdom of letting people work from home all or some of the time.
1) Reduced collaboration and efficiency
The main argument against telecommuting is the theory it will negatively impact on productivity due to the lack of in-person meetings and discussions. But you can always set mandatory days for being in the office to counteract this and with professional videoconferencing tools affordable for the average business, there’s no reason people have to miss out face-to-face meetings.
2) Company culture is too hard to change
Although the modern office space is transitioning into the digital realm, old approaches to management and workplace habits are taking some time to catch up. The main challenge is that managers are used to judging employees on their presence in the office, with the expectation that going to work is the place where we get most things done. So what’s required is a shift to judging employees on results; and sometimes, at home is where individuals will achieve the best results.But with a little planning, it’s pretty simply to create a robust policy that benefits both your employees and the company, making transitioning to new culture of results and agility smooth and effective.
Checklist for Building Your WFH Policy
1. Define the roles that can’t be done remotely
There might be some roles that have to remain on-site.
- Some roles might be suitable for full-time telecommuting, while others part-time.
2. Start slow
You don’t have to go all in with 100% telecommuting positions. It can be as simple as beginning with one day a week.
3. Set mandatory office days if appropriate
There might be days team members have to be in the office. Designate them and make sure everybody knows and respects them.
Remember to cover specific periods or events where you want people to be in the office (eg. end of financial year, new product launch etc).
4. Define results-driven performance targets
They should be easy to measure (no. of calls/emails/sales etc). That way people are clear they will be judged on what they produce, whether in the office or not, and managers have a sense of security of something visible to monitor, to replace the habit of monitoring someone’s time in the office.
5. Select the right tools
You don’t need a team using three different chat tools and 2 different video services.
Pick the specific tools and make sure everyone has access to them and knows how to use them.
Start with a minimum of:
Cloud storage /file sharing
Video tool (select a videoconferencing tool that makes it simple to host video meetings with multiple participants rather than just enabling simple video calling between two people)
6. Make sure your privacy policies and processes are up to date
As enterprises move more and more to the cloud, most businesses are developing strong privacy strategies anyway, but make sure your IT team review all network protocols, as well as putting them in charge of granting remote access to individuals.
You can further strengthen this by making sure employees only have access to the databases relevant to their job role and providing mandatory security training.
7. Create your process
Define what the process will be for employees and managers.
Write your processes down and share it with everyone.
Remember to include:
Who to inform, how to inform them, and when (manager, team, whole office, clients, etc.)
Specific days or periods not permitted to work from home
The chosen tools to use: chat, cloud storage/file sharing, and video
8. Last but not least, learn to trust your employees and their motivation!
Once you’ve set up the right processes, and people know how to communicate and how they will be measured, talented employees should have no problems adapting to a more flexible working environment.