“Remote employees are less accountable.” “Employees are not as productive working from home.” “I need to see people in the office to ensure work is getting done.” While many employers have adopted and embraced the “new normal” work arrangements either through necessity or choice, other employers are struggling to do so. How does an employer decide if work from home/anywhere (WFA) is a feasible option? And, how does an employer hold remote workers accountable and keep them engaged?
Benefits of Teleworking
Teleworking has several benefits for employers and employees.
Employers who optimize WFA have a reduced need for commercial space and do not incur the costs of rent, utilities, office equipment, and furniture. Employers may realize a reduction in employee relation issues saving legal costs. Eliminating geographic boundaries affords employers access to a wider pool of talent and strategic hiring in low or no tax states and countries thereby reducing payroll expenses.
Employees benefit from eliminating the work commute saving time and money on related transportation costs, have the flexibility of living where they want, enjoy enhanced work/life balance, and may have more schedule flexibility. A 2017 study conducted by Princeton and Harvard University found that the average worker was willing to accept 8% less pay for the option to work from home and other studies have indicated that the ability to work from home, even on a part-time basis, is considered a benefit by many employees.
The benefits are clear but not every company or industry is able or willing to embrace the WFA trend. A company should evaluate WFA fit by considering the following:
- Does the industry lend itself to WFA for all or some employees?
- Should WFA be offered as a full or part-time option or only on an as need, limited basis accommodation?
- Should WFA be mandatory or optional?
- Does the organization have reliable technology and security protocols in place?
- What do employees think?
Accountability and employee engagement are key components for employers adopting WFA work arrangements.
Tips for Building Accountability
- Use telecommuting agreements to clearly communicate employee tasks, work schedule, and responsibilities.
- Set short term goals with milestones and deadlines.
- Review your current performance evaluation process/form and adjust for teleworking.
- Schedule necessary meetings as you normally would using a video platform.
- Consider time zones and meeting times.
- Maintain or adjust compensation structure including bonus and commission programs.
Tips for Maintaining Engagement
- Schedule weekly, video team meetings with an agenda.
- Require everyone to participate and use their webcam to facilitate better engagement.
- Share work at home tips and best practices to employees.
- Recognize and praise employees during live video meetings and in email.
- Employ the use of contests and rewards.
- Celebrate the wins.
- Keep open lines of communication with employees.
- Provide updates, plans to reopen, and safety protocols as applicable.
- Invest in online employee development and training.
- Include employees in the conversation by soliciting their opinions and ideas.
- Check-in with employees. How are they doing and what help do they need?
- Add benefits such as allowances for cell phones, home internet, computer equipment and home office furniture.
- Consider adding an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to support employees who may be experiencing challenges, fatigue, and anxiety.
- Be flexible and reasonable with schedules, response time, and telecommuting arrangements.
- Understand legal obligations, leave laws, and reasonable accommodations.
Whether an employer decides to adopt WFA due to government mandate, choice, or on a temporary or long term basis; the ability to hold remote workers accountable and to maintain engagement levels is possible and should not be a hindrance to implementing WFA arrangements.