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It has long been held that employees are more productive when they are at a workplace.
However, a recent study by Employer Alliance in Singapore suggests that companies who are willing to offer a remote working environment for their employees could potentially reduce overhead costs and increase productivity and profit. Moreover, the study found that employers who don’t allow their employees to work remotely are potentially missing out on a pool of highly-qualified staff that may be unable to make it to work due to location, disability or working conditions.
Indeed, there is evidence that employees in some industries can be more productive than those in-house. A recent Chinese experiment where staff were given the option to work from home showed higher productivity, less sick days and generally happier staff.
“The Employer Alliance recently stated that many Singaporeans (literally, hundreds of thousands) could re-enter the workforce, and hence ease Singapore’s manpower shortage, if more companies were willing to adopt flexible working arrangements”, states content strategist Daniel Tay.
That said, in order to ensure companies reap the full potential benefits of their employee’s working remotely, careful planning, implementation and often cost must be considered. Often the choice is not worthwhile.
Can it work?
In short, yes it can. Apple is a company who has excelled at letting their employees work remotely. They do this by developing a strict training procedure for off-site workers and by monitoring the attendance of employees – who must prove that they are working. One way Apple does this is by tracking mouse movements, random questioning and a final test where failure results in losing the position in the company. Apple has spent a lot of time and money ensuring that staff are motivated to work from home, and are rewarded for doing so.
That said, not every business is like Apple and smaller businesses looking to transfer their workers off-site need to overcome a number of logistical hurdles in order to maximise their productivity and profit with remote working employees.
Often remote working positions only require a computer to be effective, while others require much more. Keep in mind that you should avoid overcapitalising on setting up employees to work from home. It must be cost efficient to your business and you need to be sure that they are motivated to work without supervision. In addition, consider any occupational health and safety risks that your company may be liable for, if your employee injures themselves at home.
Data and information security policies should be drafted before allowing any staff external access to company information. Any connection to a server or internet must be set up and paid for or at least subsidised by the company and this needs to be discussed and agreed upon before commencement of a work from home policy.
Are they the best person for the job?
Choosing the right person for the job is imperative. All staff have their strengths, and weaknesses and it is as important to employ the correct person for a position especially if they are working remotely. Some qualities needed from a remote employee are motivation, trustworthiness, flexibility and the ability to complete their work to deadline. The employee’s performance must be effectively assessed to ensure targets are being met.
In order to get the highest output from employees, consider the following:
- Clearly defined expectations for staff. Ensuring that the tasks are achievable and measurable, for example setting up SMART goals for employees.
- Ensuring staff are given proper tools, training and support.
- Communication should be regular and consistent. Meetings, newsletters, training sessions and team building exercises can assist in keeping staff on track and working to their full potential.
- Salary expectations should be met and regularly assessed, for example by reviewing these salary guides by Robert Half.
- Implement incentive programs. Giving staff intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for completing tasks will ensure employees continue working to a high standard.
A lack of motivation and team unity were some of the reasons touted by Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, when she recalled all Yahoo! remote employees back to the Yahoo! office. Her reasoning was that the staff and the business benefited from collaboration, something that could not adequately be achieved from a payroll of remotely working staff.
Some small businesses may thrive under these conditions whereas others may not. Intensive research is required to ascertain whether or not the flexibility of part time or full time remote working environments is going to be beneficial for a particular company and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.