Companies (and employees) across the globe are realizing the benefits of creating a remote or “virtual” workforce. This trend has spread from successful bloggers to designers, web developers, and exploded from there. However, companies do need to plan carefully to train and guide employees that are not on-site, so that they can be as productive as possible. Here’s a look at the benefits of a remote workforce and how to build a culture that supports productive remote workers.
Telecommuting saves companies on costs in many areas. Leasing office space and other overhead expenses such as janitorial services, utilities, and phones often become less expensive. In fact, according to Global Workplace Analytics, a business saves $11,000 per year per employee who works remotely just half of the time. The cost savings for the employees are just as valuable. Without expenses such as work clothes, lunches out, gas and wear and tear on vehicles to worry about, people who work remotely half of the time stand to save between $2,000 and $7,000 per year (and the environment is better for the effort, too). Check out this calculator to find out how much an employee could save by working remotely.
In quite a few cases, productivity increases with a remote workforce. There are fewer distractions from people such as co-workers, and productivity tools can keep workers focused. Another reason for the productivity boost is an emphasis on results-oriented performance. People need not worry as much about clocking in and out at specific times. Their schedules are more flexible; they can usually take a few hours to exercise or go to their kids’ games, for example. Consequently, employees enjoy a better work-life balance and are happier. Definitely not least is the fact that working remotely minimizes situations such as being singled out due to issues such as gender, race or disability. Everyone is on footing that feels more equal.
Before a company can best enjoy the advantages of a remote workforce, it needs to plan for issues such as developing telework policies and how it will communicate with employees. Start with a powerful orientation video spelling out benefits of working remotely, company expectations and other topics such as the main points of the remote-work policy handbook.
Ongoing Web, video and e-learning tools via companies such as Projections help keep employees in the loop and foster the connection between employees and company, particularly when those messages can be delivered online, and on-demand. It is important that employees working remotely not feel isolated, and such communications emphasize the fact that employees are part of a greater whole. In your orientation and ongoing communications, you could touch on areas such as data security, ergonomics, reducing clutter and maximizing space.
Tools for Remote Workers
Build protocols so that employees can collaborate and interact, including use of Google Drive for the sharing of documents and information, Dropbox to access images and files from anywhere, and of course, the favorite tool of many completely virtual companies, Slack and Skype. Skype offers chat, live calls, screen sharing, file transfer and more – all at no cost to the company! Slack also offers outstanding options for dedicated conversations and can vastly increase the speed at which decisions are made and tasks are accomplished.
Businesses that allow employees to work remotely tend to have happier workers and higher retention rates. The key to effective remote work, though, is building and maintaining a proper communications infrastructure.