How to Identify and Implement the Right Remote Policy for Your Company
Many businesses were unprepared when they were forced to work remotely as a result of the pandemic. There was a mad scramble to set expectations, create processes, and help employees settle in during a worldwide pandemic. Arguably, this was not the best way to try remote working for the first time.
Despite the circumstances, the remote work experiment proved successful in many companies. In fact, 90% of people surveyed felt their productivity had either stayed the same or improved when they were allowed to work from home during the pandemic. Also, more than 90% of respondents felt they were better able to avoid distractions and focus on a prolonged activity for a long time.
Employees save, on average 8.5 hours a week, by not commuting to work. This leaves them more time for their hobbies and exercise, which in turn improves their mental wellbeing.
It is no surprise then that most people expressed they wanted to work from home at least part of the time even after the pandemic. For example, 75% of software developers want to work remotely at least three days a week, while 60% are already working remotely full-time.
Many companies are now looking to retain their remote working policies so they can attract and retain talent during a significant labor shortage.
But how do companies go about identifying the right remote work approach for their business needs and employees? And what are their options?
Remote-friendly generally refers to companies that still have physical offices but are okay with their employees working from home if they wish. They have a remote policy in place to allow some flexibility, although most employees tend to go to the office at least some of the time.
Some remote-friendly companies are hybrid, while others allow staff to work from home for extended periods of time.
But in remote-friendly companies, remote work is seen as a perk rather than the default way of working.
The benefits of this type of workplace include:
- Staff have the flexibility they need to work from home if they wish.
- It's a good way to retain staff as nearly 33% of workers say they'll switch jobs if they're forced back to the office full-time.
- Employees who value face-to-face communication are catered for.
But there are drawbacks to this approach as well. For instance, many companies adopt a lax policy where they expect employees to negotiate their remote work allowance with their managers.
This doesn't always work, especially where managers feel like in-office interactions are important and only allow remote work in exceptional circumstances. This approach is likely to cause friction between teams, especially where some are more lax in their remote approach, while others have stringent in-office requirements.
Also, even if managers are open to their team working remotely, evidence suggests that some managers are still more likely to promote in-office workers than remote workers.
In fact, researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that while people working from home were more productive, they weren't getting promotions at the same rate as their office teammates.
Even staff members that weren't performing as well as their remote counterparts got promotions at higher rates simply for being present.
This could spook employees who want to work remotely and could alienate employees who don't have a choice because they live outside the local area.
What companies might be suited to a remote-friendly approach?
Companies that have a strong cultural preference for in-office work might benefit from a remote-friendly approach. For instance, companies where in-person collaboration is seen as integral to meeting business objectives may wish to retain their brick and mortar offices.
But, they may wish to offer their staff flexible options to attract and retain employees.
While the in-office environment remains the default option, employees will value the flexibility they have been offered.
How can a company implement an effective remote-friendly policy?
Remote-friendly companies would do well to create robust policies that stress the 'friendly' in remote-friendly.
This could include a remote working policy that is equitable across departments. Instead of taking the lax approach of asking employees to negotiate remote working arrangements with their managers, stipulate their remote working privileges as part of a policy.
Outline exactly what remote working arrangements are acceptable in your company. Remove the need to seek managerial approval to work remotely. Your policy could make allowances for people to work remotely part of the time, for extended periods of time, or based on where they are located, for example.
Further, training and guidelines should be provided to managers to ensure they don't promote people they see the most in the office, but rather make decisions based on performance. Most managers don't go out of their way to penalize people for not being present, but do it subconsciously. With the correct training and guidance, this could be prevented.
Robust and transparent policies will give your current and potential employees the confidence that your place of employment is truly remote-friendly, even if you still have a default office option.
A hybrid approach is where staff members are allowed to work from home for a set amount of time. They are expected to attend the office the rest of the time.
Hybrid companies might, for example, allow employees to work from home three days a week. Or, they might stipulate that employees must be in the office 60% of the time on average, with employees choosing how and when to work in the office.
The benefits of hybrid work include:
- Face-to-face time with all employees, negating presenteeism promotions
- The ability to adapt the existing model to make it more flexible where needed
- Great for people who work well in offices but also value flexibility
- A good way to attract and retain staff as at least 52% of workers want a hybrid approach
However, this model does come with its drawbacks.
Most notably, hybrid companies need to hire from the local area. They can't tap into a wider talent pool by hiring from outside their immediate area because people are still expected to commute to the office on a regular basis.
Other drawbacks include:
- Some people may view it as too inflexible as they are still expected to be in the office a set amount of time.
- The office may be crowded on certain days (i.e. Wednesdays), and nearly empty on others (i.e. Fridays), defeating the purpose of collaboration.
What companies might be suited to a hybrid approach?
Just like companies that opt for a remote-friendly approach, hybrid companies tend to have a strong cultural preference for in-office interactions.
These are usually established companies with brick and mortar offices, where some of the work may be customer-facing and so in-office time is required.
However, they recognize the need to offer their employees flexibility in where they work and do it in a structured manner.
How can companies implement a hybrid approach?
A robust hybrid policy that can be adjusted as time goes on is the best way to implement a hybrid approach. This means accounting for:
- Whether certain teams will have in-office days on certain days of the week.
- What proportion of their time team members are expected to spend in the office.
- Whether some employees might be eligible for more flexibility depending on their personal circumstances.
A hybrid policy prepares a company for having staff in the office but allowing flexibility too. It works well because it can be adjusted as business needs and employee needs change. It can be tweaked to be more or less flexible if necessary.
A remote-first approach is where companies adopt remote working as the default mode of working. There may still be an office space for employees to meet or the company may provide memberships to coworking spaces for staff who prefer in-office environments.
Remote-first companies are location independent and often work asynchronously to maximize results. They have adopted remote work fully, although they may still have retreats and in-person meetings on occasion.
There are several benefits to adopting a remote-first approach. These include:
- A wider talent pool to choose from as there are no geographical limitations.
- Reduced costs as companies don't need large offices, but can instead opt for smaller spaces or coworking passes.
- A more productive workforce where team members are less likely to experience burnout.
- Attracting and retaining talent is easier as there is a strong desire for remote work.
While remote work offers many opportunities, it does come with its challenges, especially where companies choose to adopt the remote-first approach. These include:
- Difficulty building a cohesive team if everyone works remotely.
- No in-office camaraderie which can be a contributing factor to people leaving.
- Misunderstandings and slow responses, especially in asynchronous teams.
What companies might be suited to a remote-first approach?
New companies that can't afford an office as well as established companies that are looking to expand quickly would work well under a remote-first approach.
It is an innovative approach best suited to forward-thinking companies with no ingrained office culture. Companies where there is a strong preference for in-office interactions may struggle to implement this approach.
This type of approach also works well where customer-facing meetings can happen virtually and where employees are empowered to take ownership of their work.
How can companies implement a remote-first approach?
Companies adopting a remote-first approach will need to consider several factors to implement it successfully.
Building a cohesive team culture will be a challenge. There are ways to foster a strong culture even if your team is based all over the world. But companies need to take intentional steps to make this happen.
Policies around asynchronous communication will need to be discussed. Training around effective remote feedback may need to be provided. Additionally, if you have staff based in other countries, your company will need to make sure it is compliant with local tax laws.
Remote work is all about flexibility. Being remote-first means you will likely still have an office space of some sort. But if you have staff based all over the world, you may wish to invest in coworking spaces.
You could provide remote staff with a stipend, so they can purchase a coworking membership if they wish, for example.
This means they can choose to work from home or leave the house if that's their preference.
These are some of the key things to think about before implementing a remote-first approach.
What is the best remote work approach to take?
The best remote work approach for a company will depend on their individual needs and preferences.
A remote-first approach is an excellent way for companies to embrace remote working fully and take advantage of the many benefits it has to offer. However, it is important to be aware of the challenges that come with this type of approach.
Hybrid policies are a great way for companies who want the flexibility of remote work but also need some staff in the office to collaborate. This type of policy allows for a more gradual transition to remote work and can be easily adjusted to meet the needs of the business and employees.
Remote-friendly policies are ideal for companies who have a strong preference for in-office interactions. These policies allow for a mix of remote and in-office work and can be tailored to meet the needs of both the company and employees.
Choosing the right remote approach for your company is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. It is important to weigh up the pros and cons of each approach and decide what will work best for your individual business.
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