My Employee Asked to Work Remote … Should I Allow it?

If you’re a manager, chances are you had an employee ask to work from home

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What is remote work, and how to make it work for your business

As our world becomes more connected, the way people choose to do work continues to evolve. One area of work that has been impacted by change is the physical office space.

In 2019 and moving into 2020, employees are looking for more flexibility and control in their lives. Telecommuting is one way to achieve this. Telecommuting means going into work, without commuting to your office space, and it allows employees to work from home or remotely.

In a report done by Owl Labs, 51% of on-site workers wanted to start working remotely, and 34% of employees would take a pay cut to work remotely.

If you’re a small business owner, there’s a good chance that your employees’ will ask if they can work from home. If you’re considering letting your employees telecommute, here are a few points to consider as you build out a company policy or culture around the topic.

Benefits of remote work

From the perspective of the employee, there are many reasons why people prefer to work remotely. In the same Owl Labs study, workers who had the option to work from home (either part-time or full time) reported a 91% better work-life balance.

Many parents, both women, and men indicate that having a flexible work schedule and being able to telecommute is the most important thing when balancing their work-life with their families. Many feel it’s one of the main drivers for closing the gender pay gap at work and creating equitable opportunities for women.

Other important benefits include less commuting and traffic. This alone can reduce stress and increase time spent on things that make your employees happy, like spending time with their families and pets, while being able to do their groceries or go to the gym at lunch.

From the employer’s perspective, working from home can actually:

Owl Labs reported that 79% of participants reported increased productivity and better focus when working from home, a result that has been shown consistently across many studies.

51% of on-site workers wanted to start working remotely, and 34% of employees would take a pay cut to work remotely.

If you’ve never worked remotely, you might be tempted to believe the myth that working from home promotes slacking off. However, if someone wants to slack off, they’ll do so regardless of where they are. As long as your employee understands their goals, deliverables, and deadlines, they should be able to deliver results wherever they are.

On top of increased productivity, allowing people to telecommute can increase your exposure to top talent that may not otherwise be willing to commute to wherever your office is located.

Drawbacks  and challenges

While there are many benefits to this style of work, many employees who work from home can feel a sense of loneliness and isolation. Remote workers often report missing the sense of comradery and relationships that come from office culture. When considering remote work, managers should focus on relationship building and communicating with their remote workers. Business owners can benefit by providing training and tools to help managers evaluate performance and manage expectations of virtual teams.

Another concern across remote workers is around the hybrid meetings, where some employees are on-site, and others are in person. Not feeling included in the meeting, getting interrupted, and IT problems are a concern for those on the virtual side. To combat this, have a set of rules and standards around how meetings will take place, and make sure you’ve invested in the proper tools and technology to make virtual work possible.

Making it work for your organization

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for your small business, so it’s important to consider all the different ways you could make this work for your employees. Take the time to speak with the individuals and find out how often they want to work from home, and what their points of hesitation might be. You’ll want to consider the following points.

1. Frequency of work from home days

You may find that some people want to work from home full time, while others still enjoy the hybrid model of coming into the office half the week. Some companies tell employees to work from home whenever they want, while others give them a designated work from home day a week/month. Whichever way you go, make sure it’s clear to employees.

2. Model the policy

As a business owner, you’ll have to model the behavior and show that it’s OK to work from home. The optics of needing to be in the office have to be removed for people to feel comfortable.

3. Don’t make people tell you why

If people have to explain why they want to work from home each time, the benefit of flexibility will be lost and could even add additional stress to your employees. Employees with medical conditions or personal problems that require them to work from home may be uncomfortable having that conversation each time with their managers. You’ll have to build a culture of trust and strong relationships for the policy to have its greatest effect.

Flexibility is the way forward for businesses that want to do well and take advantage of the global talent economy.

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