Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

Is Working From Home Bad For Business?

Work from home options are becoming more and more popular with employees, but are these arrangements good for employers?

According to some research, the answer isn’t yes. It’s “Heck, yes!”

One study by TinyPulse revealed that 91% of telecommuters said they were more productive working remotely than in the office. Given this information, it may be tempting take the telecommuting idea and run with it.

But before you shut down the office and send everybody packing, there are some key things to consider.

The Pros

Today’s employees love being able to make choices about when, where, and how they work. Offering work from home options may give you the edge when it comes to recruiting and retention. In addition to feeling more productive, remote workers also felt more valued, had higher levels of job satisfaction, and said they were more likely to stick around than their in-office counterparts.

Allowing for remote employees can also open up your hiring pool significantly. Have a great candidate who isn’t interested in commuting, relocating, or sticking to a rigid schedule? These things are no longer automatic deal breakers.

Working from home allows your employees to be productive without physically being in the office. Major snow storm? No problem. Make some cocoa and work in front of the fire. Systems down in the office? Grab your laptop and head to a cafe. A little under the weather? Instead of taking a sick day, now employees can choose to log their hours from home— without exposing everyone to the crud.

Employers with telecommuting programs in place have reported lower levels of absenteeism, fewer employee sick days, increased hiring flexibility, lower turnover, and reduced overhead costs. Those are some pretty great benefits.

The Cons

Before you decide to go all in here, it’s important to note that survey responses differed when remote workers were broken out by those who chose to work from home vs. those who were forced to work from home.

Not surprisingly, employees who chose to telecommute were happier, felt more valued, and were more likely to see themselves staying with the company than those who were mandated to work remotely.

The lesson here? Today’s job seekers value choice and flexibility, and are taking these things consideration when making career moves and decisions.

A word of caution regarding choice: If you do plan to offer telecommuting benefits, make sure to standardize the program as much as possible. If only a few select groups or individuals are offered work at home benefits, it can cause friction and resentment on the team.

And since we’re on the topic of team dynamics, it’s also worth noting that remote employees scored lower than their in-office mates when it came to rating the overall quality of their relationships at work.

The Balance

Obviously, it’s harder for remote teams to feel and stay connected, but that doesn’t mean you need to toss your telecommuting plans out the window. Instead, you can use this opportunity to design programs that address these issues from the get-go.

Work from home success relies largely on three key foundations:

  1. Communication

Communication is important for every organization, but even more so when you have remote workers. The good news is that there are a million technology tools to help your team stay connected and on track.

Programs that facilitate video conferencing and screen sharing like Zoom and Skype help coworkers collaborate from different offices, time zones, and even countries. Instant messaging apps like Slack and Teams allow people to communicate and “hang out” in real time. Project management programs like Asana and Trello let everyone follow and contribute to the projects they are involved in.

  1. Connection

Just because everyone isn’t in the same place doesn’t mean they can’t be on the same page. If you hire primarily for cultural fit, you’ll end up with a group of people who are likely to work well together, even if it’s primarily online.

That said, you’ll want to take some of that money you’re saving on office space and furniture and invest it in making sure your team gets together in person from time to time. Tech solutions are fantastic, but nothing beats real, live interaction every now and then. Preferably with delicious food and a little fun thrown in.

  1. Culture

If your company culture is crappy, it doesn’t matter where your employees work. No one is going to be inspired to give their all. The same goes for companies who have fantastic cultures. Dedicated employees will be even more devoted when they are given high levels of trust and flexibility, even if they rarely step foot in the office.

If you’ve got a strong, positive culture and trusted employees, you’re more than halfway there. Put together a telecommuting program and give it a try. You may be surprised at the positivity (and productivity!) it brings.

If you’re looking for a corporate employee benefits consultant who is a true business partner, and not just a once a year policy peddler, Sonus is here for you. We help clients all throughout the Midwest identify organizational challenges and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to human resource management services, we’ve got you covered.