July 27, 2017

Is Telecommuting in Your Company’s Toolkit? The Future is Here!

By Kay Linder, Partner and Manager, Healthcare Technology & Innovation

As emerging technologies continue to “break down” brick-and-mortar walls in the workplace, more employees want to work from home on a full-time or part-time basis. Savvy companies are seeing huge leaps in productivity by enabling MVP job recruits to thrive in remote work arrangements. Offering work-from-home programs boosts employers’ ability to attract — and keep — top talent.

According to Global Work Analytics [1], 3.7 million American employees telecommute at least halftime. A 2016 Gallup report [2] also reveals that 60 percent of companies offer some kind of remote-work program — that’s more than three times the number in 1996. “Flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job,” the report states; it also suggests that telecommuting leads to happier and more productive employees.

A few quick statistics: fully-remote workers are 27 percent more likely than non-remote employees to “strongly agree they have the materials and equipment to do their work right.” Furthermore, slightly more than 30 percent “strongly agree they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.” Finally, 27 percent of fully remote workers “strongly agree their opinions count at work.”

Clearly, a part-time or full-time remote work plan attracts hires who focus on getting the job done right, with the appropriate resources and the highest amount of engagement.

“The most crucial benefit companies realize from enabling telecommuting is the expansion of their talent pool,” said Greg Baker, CFO of Logicalis, in a 2014 interview with Entrepreneur [3]. “It is clearly a competitive advantage to employ the very best people, but it’s usually impossible to find them all in just one town or city. Extending the telework option removes geography as a limiting factor and allows you to attract the very best talent wherever they are.”

Many companies find that hybrid programs — mixing flexible remote work with requisite office time – produces optimal results. While working from home may allow some workers to stay focused, a lack of interaction with their team can take its toll on productivity over time.

Gallup finds that workers who work from home more than 40 percent of the time report that they are 50 percent more likely to understand their job description and 28 percent more likely to understand the expectations of their coworkers — perhaps due to the fact they still get some measure of weekly face-time with their teammates and manager. “Employees want and expect work-from-home opportunities, and overall, their ability to do so is producing positive gains in engagement,” the Gallup report concludes.

Despite the many advantages, though, employers must answer key questions to determine if telecommuting fits into their company’s mission and culture. Do your current employees have a solid track record with past remote work? Can they show measurable upward progress as a result of telecommuting?

Some employees may have experience working freelance “side gigs,” such as writing, editing, and graphic design. Employees who’ve already worked remotely, even on smaller projects, have already demonstrated that they have what it takes to self-direct, balancing responsibilities and meeting deadlines.

Another key question: is your company willing (and able) to deploy the right resources for telecommuters? A company’s virtual toolkit of collaborative resources (or lack thereof) can make or break a successful remote plan. Your team may need to leverage cloud storage solutions that enable and encourage collaboration, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft SharePoint. A lack of proper resources in place will mean that employees likely won’t have the means to succeed remotely, though no fault of their own.

Shareable project management tools — such as Slack, Evernote and OneNote — will also allow your team to keep track of complicated projects across multiple devices, which is key for employees who work while traveling. Make sure your team understands how every tool contributes to the team’s remote strategy.

Establishing dynamic remote-work plans will not only attract the high performing recruits regardless of their location, but will also keep your firm relevant and competitive through these shifting workforce trends. Telecommuting isn’t a futuristic fantasy anymore, and it isn’t even the exception to the rule — it’s a tool to be leveraged in an increasingly competitive hiring landscape. After all, when it comes to happiness and productivity, there’s no place like home!