For the past five years several U.S. and Canadian cities have been riding the wave of technology, attracting software companies and creating hundreds of tech jobs, resulting in sky-high commercial rental prices. This is leading to a mass migration of companies to smaller centres, partly in an effort to reduce overhead costs.
But what if your clients are city-based, and moving out to the boonies isn’t an option for you? Remote working could be the solution, not only for the company but for your employees, too.
The Shift to Telecommuting
From an employee viewpoint, “telecommuting” is becoming widely accepted, especially among Millennials. Statistics show 84 percent of younger demographics want a better work/life balance than their parents had, and remote working makes this possible. So much so, 35 percent are ready to drop out of the traditional office environment to enter the gig economy, if the right opportunity comes their way.
Interestingly, only 12 percent of companies are currently enabling telecommuting.
Benefits to the Bottom Line
Aside from the obvious advantages of cutting costs, there are additional benefits of telework for both your company and your region:
- Shorter or no work commute means fewer cars (and car accidents), less traffic congestion and road rage, and reduced emissions and air pollution.
- No commute results in less stress for your workers and more quality time for them to spend either working, at leisure, or with their families.
- Increased productivity, because remote workers typically take fewer breaks, work longer hours, and have fewer distractions.
Research shows remote workers firmly believe they are more productive, with home workers scoring their productivity a 7.7 out of 10.
- Salvaging of significant revenue that’s often lost to overhead, such as office rent, utilities, wi-fi, cleaning fees, equipment, and maintenance.
- A wider pool of candidates to hire from, since you’re no longer constrained by location.
- Reduction in office politics, interpersonal issues and conflicts, which leads to greater work satisfaction and retention of talent.
Companies that promote telework often score in the area of compensation, too, because employees no longer need to earn enough to cover their transportation costs, parking, lunch, or suitable workwear, so they may be ready to accept a slightly lower salary.
Revising Your Approach
So how can your business take advantage of this trend to cut costs successfully while retaining the best workers, staying city-based where the clients are, and still achieving the same levels of productivity? By revising your thinking on remote work, that’s how. Often, disproportionate attention is given to how employees may exploit a telework situation, rather than to how the company can benefit.
Start by identifying jobs that can be done remotely. Change your focus from the people in the jobs to the work itself.
Factors to consider include:
- What technology is required for the employee to work effectively? Would this include equipment they can reasonably be expected to provide themselves, e.g. a computer, tablet, printer, and phone? Or would the work require specialized machinery, and if so, would it be feasible for the company to provide it?
- How front-facing is the incumbent of each position under consideration? Do they deal with customers and/or suppliers in person? Does their work absolutely require them to be physically present on your company premises? Even if the answer to these is yes, would you be able to achieve the same results by having them attend occasionally only?
- If your primary opposition is using remote workers, why should it be different for you? And if they aren’t yet doing so, would this be one way to get ahead of the curve? After all, cutting overhead like office rent could potentially give you a competitive pricing edge.
Even in companies where teams spend countless hours in meetings, it’s often possible to migrate those meetings to online spaces such as Zoom, Uber Conference, or any of the other many platforms available. And between VOIP, phone, instant chat, email messaging, VPNs (virtual private networks), and tools like Slack or Asana, there’s very little that can’t take place between people located anywhere around the globe.
Making Telework Happen
In many companies, the shift to remote working happens almost without thought.Eventually, staff turnover leads to revisiting the requirements for new recruits, and management becomes aware that the scope could be wider than before. Making a concerted effort to change your model can bring tremendous rewards, if you follow these steps for making it happen.
- Review all the job descriptions of your employees. Consult with them to determine whether they feel their work could be done remotely. In some cases, it might be prudent to do a trial run with certain individuals. At the very least, this exercise will enable you to map out each job’s workflow, which could be useful later, and a consultative approach is always good for getting staff on board with your idea.
- Once you identify jobs that can be done remotely, calculate how it will affect your bottom line. Will you achieve substantial savings by needing less space? Are you locked into a long-term lease that you can’t escape, and if so, would sub-letting the excess area be a viable option?
- Consider how you will manage remote employees. A motivational approach is vital for companies that are outcomes-driven, and when you can no longer chat with your employees at the water cooler you might need to use other methods to keep them inspired.
- Choose the tools you’ll implement for collaborating on documents, meetings and other methods, and make sure none of them clash with each other. You don’t want employees having to exit one platform to log into another. Preferably, find tools that “talk” to each other comfortably, like Asana’s integration with Dropbox, or Basecamp’s with Google Drive.
- Devise “rules of engagement” so everyone knows what they’re doing. For example, Trello’s Guide to Remote Working suggests using instant chat for time-sensitive communications and posting messages in the project management board for non-urgent issues. That way, you can avoid creating an expectation that workers are available at any time of day just because someone pings them.
Set a realistic timeframe in which to realize your goal. Strategize how you’re going to achieve it and plan the actions and milestones of the process. If the whole idea feels overwhelmingly complex, a business coach can help you plot it out in such way that it doesn’t become your most stressful year ever.
Get rid of those lingering managerial fears that your staff can’t perform duties without direct physical supervision and you’ll make telecommuting work successfully for your business.
Get ahead of the curve, technology and motivational imperatives present major opportunities today. Implementing telecommuting might be the easiest and least expensive way to get a major productivity jump.