(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
Does your small business offer remote working options? If not, then you had better consider it. Otherwise, you could find yourself not only losing good employees, but losing out on prospective employees too.
That’s the conclusion from a report released this week by Zapier, a firm that provides connectivity tools for software and technologies. The study, which surveyed almost 900 US “knowledge workers” – those who primarily work in a professional setting and use a computer as part of their job – found 95% of those workers want to work remotely, and 74% would be willing to quit a job in order to do so.
Unfortunately, there are still too many companies that don’t offer remote working options, and they’re suffering because of it. According to the Zapier study, 31% of those surveyed said they don’t work remotely because their company doesn’t allow it and 26% quit their jobs because of this, a trend that only adds to an employer’s challenges to find and keep good people in these times of tight employment.
Remember – these are “knowledge” workers – people that aren’t on the factory floor or do work that requires them to be onsite or at a customer location all the time. Unfortunately, those employees can’t be accommodated with remote working options due to the nature of their jobs. But there are options for them too. I’ve seen some of my clients get creative with employee hours by offering extended shifts that have more continuous days off as well as offering greater flexibility over scheduling for those higher-performing workers who have been with the company for a certain period of time.
But for the rest of your workforce, it’s important to have a remote working policy. A good policy should require you, the employer, to provide technologies – cloud based applications, communications and collaboration tools and devices – that will enable remote employees to do their work productively from home. In return, the employees must commit to being available during work hours as if they were in the office and to minimize any signs that they’re working from home, such as dogs barking, kids crying and the team from The View arguing in the background.
Most importantly: a work from home policy doesn’t have to be permanent. Many of my clients have “trial periods” – maybe 90 days – which gives both the employee and employer the chance to determine if the arrangement is satisfactory because let’s face it: some people can handle working from home and others get distracted too easily. Giving both parties the opportunity to back out if things aren’t going well is important.
Maybe it’s my age, but I don’t agree with the two-thirds of respondents in the Zapier survey who believe that by 2030 the office will just “disappear”. I know this because I run a company where all of my people work remotely. We don’t have an office and even though I’m benefitting from lower overheads I can confidently say my company is probably the most dysfunctional company in the world.
Sure, we talk on the phone and see each other at client meetings. But offices provide an environment for collaboration, teamwork and plain old human contact that is an invaluable part of a successful company. I know that not having that environment means I’m missing out on identifying potential opportunities or solutions to problems that naturally come about during office conversations – even if most of these conversations are about The Bachelor.
So yes, you need to have a remote worker policy. The data proves it. But balance it with in-office requirements too. Your company will always need that as well.