An executive team asked me about the company’s need to cut overhead costs and invest more money in R&D. “Why not switch to a flexible work environment?” I suggested. Many companies find that 25 percent to 45 percent of the workforce could work at home three to four days a week. In addition, companies discover they can save up to $11k per remote worker with a redesigned office space and with the productivity gains from home office workers. That will free up a lot of dollars to invest in R&D!
Besides, working from home is the No. 1 desired non-pay benefit of workers of all ages and men and women, and it improves employee morale, recruiting, and retention.[i]
Working from home is a growing trend. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), remote work increased 115% from 2005 to 2015. Currently, 16% of the workforce — 26 million Americans — work remotely at least part of the time.
Here’s what you need to do to assure your company’s success with telework:
- Make it job-specific. Recognize from the beginning that telework is not for every worker. Telework is based on the requirements of the job and the team. If a worker must be present to do a manufacturing job, be in a research lab to use its equipment, have access to data they can only access at the office (say, for security reasons), or need to be available for frequent face-to-face meetings and interactions, they must be physically at the office. If, on the other hand, most of their work is accomplished on the computer and most communications can be done over the phone, email, text, or videoconference, they can usually work from home, or at customers’ or suppliers’ sites three-to-four day a week.
- Continually communicate expectations and norms. Telework requires that leaders do what they should have been doing all along: provide workers with clarity about the company’s business strategies, goals, and the standards for excellence. Managers also need to provide clarity on expected operating norms, such as how quickly to respond to others, which meetings will be face-to-face vs. digital, and where commonly used documents will be stored online.
- Update your digital technology. Companies with multiple locations and home office workers need to use excellent video conferencing, collaboration, and data-storage technology. No worker wants to waste time searching for documents or wait minutes for a file to open online. Video conferencing improves teamwork and collaboration as opposed to a phone call.
- Certify the remote workplace. Teleworkers need to certify that they have a safe, ergonomically sound, and dedicated workspace at home. That workspace also needs to comply with the company’s security requirements. Working from a stool at the kitchen counter is not such a space!
- Train your managers and employees. We have found that companies can make this transition quickly and smoothly after training and answering the questions from managers and employees. It is not as easy as saying, “take your computer and start working from home!”
- Manage by trust and accountability—not compliance. Organizations with leaders who inspire their workers to achieve a higher purpose and emphasize collaboration, trust, and results are more productive and innovative.
- Redesign your office for those who will come in to work every day. The ubiquitous open office environment isn’t the answer for office-based employees! Open office environments commonly lead to distracted, irritated, unproductive workers.[ii] Teleworkers no longer need to have a dedicated cube or patch of floor space when they are working from home or the customers’ site three-to-four days a week. When they come into the office, it will usually be for meetings.
For many organizations, the best workspace design calls for more collaborative space for impromptu meetings, where the discussion won’t disturb others. Small huddle-rooms often meet that need. Organizations often need more high-quality videoconference rooms for excellent visual transmission and to see the emotions of team members in remote locations. Teams need dedicated rooms that allow teams a shared space to collaborate and access the data they need. Individual team members also need quiet spaces for “head-down” work, which is best done without interruption.
Data shows that redesigned workspaces can lead to significant reductions in real estate costs, even after the initial investment of new technology and furniture.
Are you ready to switch to a flexible work environment? I invite you to join me on Feb. 6 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM at the Arizona Small Business Association, P-Level meeting room, 11811 N Tatum Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85028 in Phoenix! Register today!
Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and works with companies to improve their recruiting, HR operations, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and cultures. His new book is Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. You can buy it online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Archway Publishing, and now The SHRMStore. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHrConsultant.com.
[i] Victor Assad, Hack Recruiting: The Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Archway Publishing, 2019.