Turning to Telecommuting
1Rivet just moved into new office space to accommodate our expending organization. As we’ve added people, we’ve evaluated work-life balance,
weighed the need for flexibility against the synergy employees gain from collaboration and considered how remote teams might fit into our corporate culture.
Many growing organizations face these choices. Here are some of the research findings and questions I considered when making the remote teams decision for 1Rivet.
Perhaps it will help clarify the remote teams versus on-site teams issue in your business.
Do Your Employees Want to Work Remotely?
There’s little doubt that U.S. workers like to work remotely. A 2015 Gallup Poll found 37 percent of U.S. workers have telecommuted at some point. About 1 in 4 of those telecommuters (the equivalent of 1 in 11 workers) worked remotely most days.
The rest logged in outside of business hours. Meanwhile, the average worker telecommuted two days a month.
However, not everyone wants to work remotely. A Stanford study conducted at CTrip.com, a billion-dollar Shanghai
company, found letting call center employees work from home four days a week saved the company about $2,000 per worker per year and increased employee performance by 13 percent. However, when the 10-month experiment ended, about half the telecommuters wanted to return to the office, even though the test used only people who expressed interest in working from home.
Will Your Future Employees Want to Telecommute?
You can survey employees to ask how many want to work remotely versus on-site, but gaining insight into future workforce trends is harder. U.S.
Census Bureau data show the percentage of workers doing some or all of their work from home (WFH) rose slightly from 21.1 percent in 2006 to 24.1
percent in 2015. That average combines professions where many people WFH (more than a third of managers sometimes work from home) with professions
where few people WFH (a scant 5.5 percent of workers who produce things like baked goods WFH).
If you plan to hire white-collar professionals earning $75,000 a year and up, they’ll expect to WFH occasionally.
Factor in Time & Location
Does your workforce need to be on-site?
This one is a deal breaker. The only people who can assemble airplane parts at home are the ones working on model planes. When the workforce doesn’t need to be on-site,
it’s worthwhile to consider offering remote work as an option when you expand your workforce.
Does your workforce want to be at home all day, or just avoid rush-hour traffic?
Offering flexibility shows an organization respects employees’ life choices, whether that’s making it home in time to watch a child play a sport, or practice hot yoga every day. Telecommuting doesn’t have to be an either-or choice. Can you allow an employee to work remotely from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., so he can drop off the kids at day care and arrive at the office at 10 a.m.? What does the organization lose if instead that employee has to get everyone up and out of the house at 7 a.m.,
pay for before school day care and then fight traffic to arrive at 9 a.m. for the sake of being physically present at a meeting?
Is the talent you need living in your market? Are you losing talent to better-paying local competitors?
Using remote employees allows your organization to pick from a wider pool of talent, including experts who live in lower-cost areas. If the killer coders your Washington,
D.C. business needs live in Oklahoma City, you can pay them based on Oklahoma’s cost of living versus higher-priced D.C.
Consider Capital & Culture
Is hiring the talent you need full time too expensive? Can part-time remote teams handle the work?
Telecommuting options are especially appealing to folks that don’t want to commute or work full time.
This includes highly experienced baby boomers seeking lower-pressure encore careers or midcareer professionals trying to balance caring for kids and elderly parents. Paying an hourly rate for remote talent gives you the benefit of the expertise without the full-time salary and overhead. For every hour you buy, you get maximum output from someone who’s not gossiping at the water cooler.
Do your clients and customers have expectations about flexibility? Will remote teams match their culture?
When your business serves customers and clients whose culture calls for on-site work, accommodate that culture. Once you’ve nurtured the relationship and earned trust, it’s much easier to ask a client to allow your consultant to telecommute.
How will we collaborate? Is competition a mechanism for achieving excellence in our business? How will remote teams get feedback?
Sometimes, people need in person collaboration. There’s also a productive, competitive element that arises when people are in the office and the energy is flowing back and forth between them.
How will teams get the feedback they need to improve when they’re 100 percent remote? How will you keep them in the office loop? Can you video conference the meetings you want them to attend?
Find What's Best for Your Company, Too
With about 1 in 4 employees now telecommuting at least occasionally, it’s clear people like to have the option of logging in instead of going into the office. People would also like to have six months of paid vacation, too,
but that doesn’t make it a good idea. You have to figure out if remote teams are good for the organization.