Having a remote employee is a win-win scenario—for the employer and the employee. Many companies now recognize the mutual benefits of allowing employees to telecommute and are leading the way with remote employee options including Google, Dell, American Express, Aetna, Xerox, Humana, IBM, Microsoft and Bausch and Lomb.
Assistant Dean for Masters Programs at the Whitman School of Management Amy McHale knows firsthand the advantages that come with the ability to work remotely, and she says that today’s work environment makes the option incredibly convenient.
“I was somewhat of a pioneer at Kodak in the late ’90s when I began telecommuting because my husband was transferred from Rochester to Syracuse,” McHale said. “For 10 years I was able to work remotely four days a week and would make the hour and a half drive for face-to-face meetings once per week. Now in my second remote position, I find that improved and more accessible technology such as Adobe Connect and Skype for Business make it much easier to connect face-to-face.”
Below are four ways companies can benefit from having remote employees.
- Productivity increases because of the quiet environment.
Co-workers are a primary source of distractions and interruptions in the workplace. From people laughing and talking loudly to ringing phones to employees stopping by to chat, it’s difficult for most people to concentrate at work. However, employees who work remotely can choose to work from home, a library or another environment that is more conducive to concentrating. And without these interruptions, they can work more efficiently and effectively.
- The company will appeal to prospective employees.
Companies that provide a remote work option are viewed as more desirable, especially among employees with family obligations. A recent HR & Talent Management article notes that many working parents admit to lying or stretching the truth to employers out of fear of revealing that they needed to take time for family obligations. These workers felt that they could be fired, demoted or denied a raise if they were truthful about family responsibilities. Allowing employees to work remotely allows them more flexibility in their schedule, and eliminates the need to hide family commitments.
- The company can tap into a larger talent pool.
Usually, your talent pool is limited by the company’s location. Not many people want to move to Timbuktu, regardless of how lucrative the position may be. And believe it or not, everyone doesn’t want a job in downtown Chicago, Manhattan or Los Angeles either due to the stress-inducing traffic levels and other issues that accompany large metropolitan areas. However, with a remote position, there are no geographical borders or limitations on the number and quality of applicants that may apply to work for your company. In other words, offering a remote work option can attract top talent.
- The company saves money.
According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, the average company could save over $11,000 per employee each year just by letting them telecommute. When employees work from home, companies don’t have to buy furniture, and they save on heating, cooling, and lighting costs. In addition, they don’t have to purchase bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels, plastic cups, snacks and other types of supplies. And the telecommuters could save anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 annually since they don’t have to pay transportation costs, routinely purchase new clothing and some won’t even have to pay for childcare.
While having remote work options can be beneficial for many companies, the decision to do so does not come without a few risks. Before finalizing the decision to allow employees to work at home, companies should keep the following points in mind to ensure they have picked the right people for the right job.
Caution 1: Avoid hiring mistakes.
Just because you’re hiring someone to work remotely doesn’t mean you should hire blindly. Avoid common remote hiring mistakes by using video interviews to gain a better feel for your job candidates. Video allows you to assess nonverbal communication that is not as easily detected during a phone call or through email communication. Also, remember that your needs may be different for a virtual employee. Although cultural fit is not as important, remote employees need to already have most of the skills that you seek in this position, since it will be more difficult to coach or develop workers from a distance.
Caution 2: Know job limitations.
Not every job can be performed remotely. Sometimes, you may need to have employees in a specific location. However, you can still take advantage of remote working benefits by staggering work schedules. For example, let some employees work remotely on Mondays and Tuesdays, and let other employees work remotely on Thursdays and Fridays.
Not every employee can be successful working remotely. Some people lack the discipline, motivation and integrity to work in an unsupervised setting. However, if the vast majority of your employees have drive, determination and intrinsic motivation, they can be successful as remote workers.