After several false starts, it seems reality is catching up with the hype when it comes to remote working. Could empowering staff to work remotely improve your workplace wellness and productivity? Let’s take a look at the potential benefits – and how to avoid the pitfalls so this working option works well for your employees and your business.
Studies in the USA show that the number of employees working remotely has increased in recent years, and we’re also seeing an increase in remote working in Australia. There are many reasons why remote working is on the march globally – improved internet speeds, advances in technology and a greater desire for work-life balance chief among them. In Australia, the Fair Work legislation means a large number of workers may request flexible work arrangements (including the option to work from home) from their employer.
There are compelling reasons or HR managers to consider starting up a remote working (also known as flexible working or telecommuting) policy:
Working from home can improve wellness, and boost workplace productivity
Employee wellness and productivity go hand in hand. When it comes to individual psychological wellbeing, every remote worker will give a different set of reasons why it works for them – but there are some common themes you can use to underpin your employee wellness and remote working policies.
Well-rested employees perform better
People have busy lives outside work and, when you add in an hour commute each way, it can be hard for some to get enough sleep. Well-rested employees make better decisions, switch between tasks more seamlessly and recover from distractions more quickly.
You can reduce distractions – and employee churn
Even for employees who are able to get plenty of rest without working remotely, the hustle and bustle of an open-plan office can be detrimental to concentration. The option to lock themselves away from these distractions even for a few hours a week could really take the quality of work and their output to the next level. Also, just being trusted to do the right thing away from the office can be enough to help some employees feel more valued and valued employees are much less likely to leave for another position.
Greener in more ways than one
Letting employees work from home can help your business reduce its carbon footprint – implementing a working from home policy could even be linked to your ESG or CSR policy if you have one. The reduction of damage to the environment isn’t limited to the fact that someone working from home who would otherwise drive – studies have shown that people actually act less wastefully in their own homes than in the office.
You could even start a conversation down the track – ask employees who work remotely what they do differently at home and how these behaviours could be replicated at work to improve environmental sustainability.
Set your remote workers up for success
Looking at potential pitfalls and having policies and plans in place before you start a remote working policy is the best way to make sure your employees and business benefit from all the positive changes that a remote working policy can bring.
You may be liable for employees when they are working from home and they could even claim WorkCover in some cases. Check what your business is insured for – does it cover clients who visit your employee at their home or children in an employee’s care during work hours?
Make sure the policy is seen to be fair
There’s no faster morale-killer than the impression that some employees are being unfairly favoured over others. The policy must spell out what circumstances are suitable for working from home, how often an employee is expected to be in the office, and who needs to approve the working arrangement.
Set clear accountabilities
Ensure that everyone knows what expectations they need to meet when working from home. This could include login times, out of office messages when remote workers are not contactable, data security when IP is being accessed away from the office, availability for video conferencing, and whether they must answer their phone during working hours rather than letting it go to voicemail. If everyone has a clear idea of what the expectations are when working remotely, things are more likely to run smoothly.
How flat is your organisation?
The more autonomy employees have, the more successful remote working is likely to be for them and your business. When developing a flexible work policy, think about how reporting and management processes could impede working from home and see if you can remove some of those barriers.
Once you’ve been through the process of developing a remote working policy, you will probably want to start small and iron out any kinks before you start to see employees working remotely more often. Perhaps you could offer the opportunity once a fortnight or so, and when the business isn’t too busy so you can test which technologies and processes work best for your business. Once things are running smoothly, you might then decide to give workers and teams more autonomy about how and when they chose to work away from the office.
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