Not too long ago, I dreaded the idea of employees consistently working from home. I've always been the type of person that likes to be in front of the people I'm working with - it's just always felt easier to communicate that way.
Admittedly, my thought process was similar to most managers that don't support remote work. I worried about communication lapses, company culture, and the overall productivity of our staff.
But I had to try to get over that, because remote work is becoming more popular whether I like it or not. So much so that half the U.S. workforce is projected to work remotely by the end of next year. The reasons why make perfect sense - less time commuting, more time to work without distractions, and better work-life balance.
For those that are still hesitant to set up a work-from-home policy, I have a simple message: it's actually pretty great. We've found that offering this flexibility has allowed members of our team to make more time for other obligations, while also freeing them up to spend more time doing focused, uninterrupted work. It's done a lot for productivity & morale, and I think that if more companies knew how to set remote workers up for success, they'd be better off. But before they can do that, their managers have to face their remote work fears, so I thought I'd write up this post on my top 3 - and why they don't hold up in practice.
I'd be willing to bet that this one comes to mind for any management team that's thought about allowing remote work. It's easy to assume that employees who aren't physically present won't be as compelled to stay on task, whether it's because they're not around other workers or because there's no one around to supervise them.
On the surface, this concern seems reasonable. Working from home comes with its own set of distractions, and if employees haven't developed a structure to keep themselves on track, things can go south pretty quickly.
But when you do have an established work-from-home policy and know how to help employees navigate the challenges of remote work, you quickly learn that people can just as much - if not more - done. When employees work from home, they're able to avoid office distractions and spend more time doing focused work. Think about the amount of time you spend in drawn-out meetings or having side conversations when you're in the office. Communication is important, but if its not structured, it can end up being a huge time-waster. Which brings us to my next fear:
This can be true, especially when the employees working from home don't have an easy way to collaborate with their teams. While the lack of workplace distractions is a major benefit to working from home, the flip side is that it can make effective communication more of a challenge.
Combating this comes down to two things: using the right tools and making communication a priority.
Let's start with the latter, because it seems fairly obvious. Communication should always be a priority, but it's easy to overlook when coworkers aren't physically present. Like most things with remote work, this ties back to effective structure & scheduling. Encourage your staff to take ownership beyond just virtually attending team meetings. When I'm working from home, I set aside various times during the day to check-in with coworkers, whether its by email or phone. That way, I can avoid feeling isolated or behind, and my team knows that I'm available if they need me for anything.
As for using the right tools, we're definitely a little biased. Still, being able to reach coworkers using different communication channels is a must for remote workers - being able to take work calls & have face-to-face meetings from home helps keep them engaged and in the loop.
As someone who's spent a TON of time thinking about our work environment, I used to worry a lot about the impact remote work would have on our company culture. After all, if less people are in the office, it's harder to align everyone and build camaraderie right?
Well, not exactly. When people are caught up in their day-to-day, they have so much on their minds that they're always not looking to socialize in a significant way. And if employees live relatively close to your office, it's not like they'll never come in once they get a taste of remote work. For the members of our staff that like to work remotely, there's usually a balance - they'll come into the office a few times a week, and work remotely on days that their commutes are especially bad or they have other obligations to handle.
By creating an environment that allows and effectively facilitates remote work, you actually make your company a more appealing destination for job seekers. Recent research shows that close to 75% of workers would switch jobs for the opportunity to work off site more often, and the "work from home" trend has really caught on with Millennials too. So by embracing remote workers, you're not only providing flexibility for your existing employees, you're creating a work environment that appeals to the majority of today's workforce.