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Do flexible work from home policies work?

November 7, 2016

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Telecommuting has revolutionized today’s workplace.  Depending on the position type, companies can now recruit nationally for certain positions rather than being limited to one geographical area.  This is especially useful for positions that require a very unique set of skills.  For workers, it has allowed working parents the flexibility they need to balance work and life.  Hours can be shaved off a work day simply by eliminating a long or busy commute.  How do organizations create a fair work from home policy that benefits both the employer and employee?  Do they work?

Telecommuting can be a full-time arrangement, an arrangement for 1-2 days per week, or used as needed.  Many companies have already caught on to this trend and allow some form of telecommuting, even if it’s only utilized as needed.  While it might not be for everybody, employers may find they save money and actually increase productivity in some workers.  For some employees, work from home benefits can be the difference between an enjoyable and stressful work life.  They key is creating a work at home policy that works for both the employer and employee, while not negatively effecting productivity or collaboration.  With the proper design and use of a work at home policy, this can be achieved.

Benefits of Telecommuting for Employers

Increased Productivity
If you hire responsible professionals, productivity often increases with work at home employees.  A 2014 Stanford study showed that call center employees increased productivity by 13% when they worked from home.  Another study by the University of Texas showed that telecommuters work an average of 5-7 hours longer per week than their office counterparts.

Reduced Turnover
Turnover can be expensive.  Studies have shown that workers allowed to telecommute are much happier than their office counterparts.  When employees are happy they are much less likely to seek out a new position, which can save employers a lot of dollars in the long run.

Increased Morale
Employees who are allowed to work from home enjoy a better work/life balance and feel more valued.  Pennsylvania State University did a study that showed that telecommuters tend to be less stressed and happier than traditional office workers.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Different work styles and preferences along with varying job duties all dictate whether or not working at home fits for a particular employee or position.  Some people can’t fathom working in the comfort of their own home with chores calling their name, but on the other hand, some people are constantly distracted by work chatter and other office distractions.  Then there is the difference in positions.  If a position is customer facing, then it obviously does not lend itself to remote options.  The same typically goes for hourly workers.  So how then does one create a fair policy?

Tips for Establishing a Telecommuting Program

Get Input on Program Creation
Consult with your managers and supervisors to discuss which positions are viable for telecommuting and to what extent….Full-time?  Part-time?  As needed?  This should include the establishment of guidelines and workflows.

Create Clear Guidelines
The program should be clearly defined in regard to employee roles and responsibilities, what days remote work is allowed, and who the policy applies to, including positions it does not fit.

Keep Communication Strong
Tools should be developed up front to keep telework employees connected to supervisors, team members, clients, and the office.  This is most important for any type of permanent work from home schedule.

Keep it Fair
Once you’ve established guidelines, stick to them.  The guidelines should contain enough flexibility to give managers the ability to approve or disapprove work from home arrangements as necessary, without having to “make exceptions.”

Once a program is established review it periodically and discuss any issues or pitfalls that have arose.  When a solid program is established, companies can retain talent while seeing their expenses drop and productivity rise.  In addition, employee satisfaction and engagement will likely improve.

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