Technology is drastically changing the way that work gets done across the country. While some jobs will always require employees to be at a physical office location, many do not. There is ample evidence that work-from-home arrangements are good for employees.
According to a recent article in Inc., a nine-month study conducted by Stanford researchers found letting employees work from home resulted in happier employees, who expressed deeper satisfaction with their work, ranked less likely than their in-office peers to quit and were more productive. While this is certainly good for the employee, it can also be good for the business, but there are lots of things to consider before you go down this road.
Here are five considerations and ways to make work-from-home options that work for both your staff and your business.
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1. Evaluate the Role
Regardless of the maturity and abilities of the employee there will be some positions that need to be kept in-office. In fact some industries have state and federal mandates, which require very specific protocols for remote workers, or don’t allow this type of work all together. Such industries are typically those that necessitate employees handling the confidential personal information of other individuals, like banking, finance or medical records.
While this isn’t always the case it certainly is a factor to consider. However, not all roles within these types of organizations are required to handle sensitive information and therefore might be a good fit for work-from-home arrangements, despite the nature of the business overall. The key is to know the laws for your industry and the records security requirements, as well as to have a security plan for data and records.
National HR solutions company TriNet suggests that businesses provide their remote employees with all necessary equipment and data encryption software to ensure cyber safety. Another consideration is the tax requirements of remote positions if they will be filled out of the local or state boundaries of your business. The U.S. Small Business Association suggests checking with your accountant or labor attorney on which rules govern your hiring, OSHA, minimum wage and other considerations if your remote employees will work outside your local physical business area.
2. Evaluate the Type of Arrangement
Not all remote working arrangements are created alike. According to Stanford University, the three most common non-traditional working arrangements are Flextime, Flexspace and Alternative Work Schedules.
Flextime schedules are those that offer options to stagger the start and end of the workday for employees with a core set of hours where all works are required to be in the office. For example you might elect to allow employees to choose a shift from 6am to 3pm, 7am to 4pm or 8am to 5pm, but require all employees be in-office during the core hours of 8am to 3pm regardless of the shift chosen. This is a great way to allow some degree of flexibility in scheduling so employees can choose which work shift fits best into their personal schedule and commute.
Flexspace implies either a complete work-from-home setup or potentially the ability to designate office space at a corporate office branch location that is more convenient to the employee’s home. Allowing an employee to work from a branch or field location that is closest to their home, versus directly related to their department, can be an agreeable option for both parties.
Alternative Work Schedules
Alternative Work Schedules are another potential compromise for the work-from-home employee, which fit a standard work week into non-standard hours, for example four ten-hour days vs. five eight hour days. Ensure Alternative Work Schedules are legal for your state before enacting any such arrangement, as some state labor laws require hourly employees be paid overtime on a per diem basis vs. weekly basis. In some cases you may find that a combination of these arrangements suits the individual needs of your business and your employees best.
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3. Evaluate the Employee
Not all employees are cut out for the responsibility of self-directed days as remote employees. You’ll need to establish a criterion for which performance evaluations and benchmarks warrant the option of work-from-home arrangements.
These criteria should always be clearly put forth to all employees and evaluated on a performance basis. According to Global Workplace Analytics, remote and in-office employees both need to understand exactly why they were or were not granted remote working privileges.
Additionally, they should also understand work-from-home arrangements to be performance based benefits and not guarantees. Some ways employers should evaluate potentially allowing remote work arrangements include requiring remote employees be comfortable and capable of operating any technology required for safe remote work access, that they be required to have a defined home office space and that remote workers with children understand and agree that remote working is not a replacement for childcare.
In other words you should make it clear with your employees that they need to be focused exclusively on work even while working from home.
4. Formalize the Agreement
Like any agreement between an employer and employees, you should formalize the terms and conditions of a work from home, or any nontraditional work arrangement.
Things to consider in the agreement include:
- The required and set hours of the agreement,
- The expectations for conduct and work,
- Any required in-office time (i.e. mandatory monthly or quarterly staff meetings).
The more detail included in the agreement ahead of time the better as it reduces the opportunity for miscommunication or ambiguity. Agreements should include review periods, mandatory hours of availability and any other terms that could cause the agreement to be terminated.
- Will the arrangement be on a trial basis?
- What specific actions or inactions would warrant a termination to the work-from-home agreement?
- What security expectations are required?
For a sample of the types of terms that could be included in a remote working agreement, the Society for Human Resource Management offers a basic, template on their site you can use to guide your specific agreement with employees.
5. Weigh the Performance
Monster.com says companies that encourage and support a work from home protocol actually save money in the long run, which is a definite bonus on the employer side, but how do you measure the long-term efficacy of remote work arrangements?
Keith Ferazzi, author of “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” outlined some of the performance metrics necessary for remote workers. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Ferazzi urges employers of remote workers to look beyond just metrics based performance and consider other factors like remote employee engagement and participation, as well as developing performance reviews that are equal for in-office and remote workers. By outlining performance metrics and standards ahead of time, you’ll ensure better success of remote working situations.
Ultimately the decision to allow remote workers or non-traditional work arrangements is up to you and your company. However, research continues to prove that with the variety of options available there are strong cases in favor of allowing flexible work schedules and environments that benefit the business and the individual employees.