There is no question, the number one benefit you can offer your employees is time. Time to spend with their families and friends, enjoy their lives, go to the gym, spend more time outdoors, and pursue passions and interests outside of work. The old paradigm of expecting employees to sit in a chair or at a desk where you can watch them has little to do with productivity with many companies in the information age. Also, many employers stuck in the old paradigm expect employees to spend mindless hours commuting to a seat, desk or cubicle they have designated, as they are convinced that, somehow, the employee will be more productive.
Being a business owner, I fully understand the sense that your team is disparate, and you aren’t sure where they are and what they are doing. Leaping a flexible or remote workforce can be unnerving. I’ll be the first to admit that at times it makes me feel uneasy, sometimes I ask myself, is anyone working today as I walk down the halls of a partially occupied office?
Here are a few things I discovered work well allowing remote work and flex hours:
COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION.
Ensure you are in regular contact with your team members through multiple channels, be it instant messaging, message boards, video calls and, of course, the good ole’ telephone. Get employees in the habit of communicating with you through all the channels as well; communication should not be just one way.
Video calls can be beneficial for ad hoc meetings with smaller groups; many times, meetings will include a combination of employees who are in the office with remote employees, and at times employees who are in our overseas office. The process has become seamless on a global basis.
MEET IN-PERSON AT REGULAR INTERVALS WITHOUT AFFECTING PRODUCTIVITY.
Whether it be weekly, monthly, or quarterly formal meetings or informal get-togethers take the time to sit down with your team in-person, so you don’t lose that vital face to face touch altogether.
ACCEPT THE FACT THAT SOMEONE IS NOT GOING TO WORK WELL ON A REMOTE BASIS.
Let’s face it, remote work or even flex hours isn’t for everyone, and some employees, for some reason, need to be in the office to get work done. Perhaps there is too much distraction at home, and they are unable to create the required boundaries. Or, maybe they are easily distracted, lack self-discipline, and need the structure of an office to perform their best work. You will need to have processes in place where these people can come into the office if required. Not to mention, a candid conversation if you see their productivity drop when they go from working in the office to working from home.
Flexible work arrangements may not always be the answer and work best where there are measurable KPI’s and where there is some degree of variable compensation. Employees measured by results tend to self-regulate, and from a management standpoint, it’s easy to keep track of productivity, if / when you decide to move to a more flexible model.
Will some take advantage? Yes.
I have my share of stories, which I will keep to myself for now. But not enough to deter me from giving the perk to the majority of the employees who do put in an honest day’s work regardless of where they are. Anyways, how is that different from those who come into the office and browse the internet or spend time on their phone texting friends? In some ways, the office environment may be worse than a remote arrangement. Some employees spend time gossiping with colleagues or distracting others in the office because they are disengaged and see the office as a place to socialize.
Time is limited for all of us. ‘And then one day you find ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. [Pink Floyd, Time]. I believe we can ALL do great work without drowning ourselves in time spent working. Productivity is about finding the most efficient way of doing a task to obtain maximum output in the shortest amount of time, not trying to fit work into an arbitrary space and time. Don’t expect less from employees because they work from home or have flexible hours, what I’ve found is that giving them their time back allows them to work more efficiently and with more energy than before.
Remote arrangements and flex hours aren’t for everyone and every business. However, when it is an option, I believe business leaders should consider the possibility and perhaps pilot it for a month or quarter to determine it’s right for them and their company. As with anything, the devil’s in the details. Who will you offer remote to within your company, what are the communication protocols, what happens when someone doesn’t have the self-discipline to work remotely? There a lot of things to consider, so it’s not something to rush into. Perhaps, if a work from home option isn’t right for your company, something more palatable such as flex hours, maybe a safe middle ground giving your employees more flexibility for work-life balance while at the same time expected to be in the office during certain hours. One thing is for sure; more companies are considering the flexible options, which lends to the health and welfare of your employees, and as an employer, if you stay inflexible, it may put you at a disadvantage to your competitor.