One of the most important skills of any successful business owner or manager is the ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the industry, technology, and the working population. Historical data can be helpful in identifying trends, but making decisions based on present (and anticipated future) conditions is crucial. That often means embracing change, however, which can be difficult for those who are comfortable or feel that their companies are running fine the way things are.
But, while business as usual might be acceptable, the goal should always be to improve. And, at a time when work-life balance has become a huge priority, telecommuting options can offer solutions to improve work for business owners and employees. Jacoby (2015) listed five prominent ways that telecommuting can help companies: increased productivity, higher retention rates, competitive edge, environmental friendliness, and cost-effectiveness. Employees with more flexibility in their schedules tend to be happier, dedicated, and willing to work harder, while the company benefits from better work output and reduced costs.
Understandably, many business owners are hesitant to relinquish the control of overseeing employees at the office. But, it is important to recognize that times have changed and requiring people to sit in an office for eight hours a day is not always the most effective policy. Instead, trusting employees to fulfill their responsibilities and meet their deadlines on a more variable schedule just makes sense. Of course, not all employees are self-motivated enough to handle such freedom, and not all jobs can be done properly from home. But, for many, a telecommuting option can make a huge difference.
Employees who telecommute save valuable time and money, while also being able to properly balance their work-life needs. These benefits, which can greatly reduce daily stress, are often more important than a higher salary. In addition, without the distractions of an office (socializing, noise, etc.), many employees find they can focus better at home, which increases productivity and the quality of work. In a recent study, Bloom (2014) found that employees who are allowed to work at home were happier, more loyal, and more productive. Therefore, employers benefit from higher morale and job satisfaction, while also spending less on overhead, office supplies, and wasted time. The right schedule can truly be a win-win.
My suggestion to business clients is always to start slow. Perhaps you can allow telecommuting one day a week as a trial to see if it makes sense for your company. For those who find face time important, you can schedule mandatory in-office days when meetings and group discussions can be conducted. Another option is to rotate telecommuting days amongst employees, so each department has employees in the office every day. An example of one such schedule would be to require all employees to work at the office on Mondays, but then half of the eligible telecommuters work in the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from home on Thursdays and Fridays, while the other half do the opposite. Then, you can monitor the results from both the management and employee perspective, and see if it is a long-term viable solution.
So, please do not let fear or uncertainty hold you, your employees, or your company back. A telecommuting option does not have to be permanent. But, why not give your employees the chance to be happier, your business the chance to be more efficient, and allow everyone to be part of a motivated and successful team that values the needs of its members?
Bloom, N. (2014). To raise productivity, let more employees work from home. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/01/to-raise-productivity-let-more-employees-work-from-home
Jacoby, M. (2015). 5 benefits of telecommuting for your small business. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-jacoby/5-benefits-of-telecommuting-for-your-small-business_b_7101894.html