The Rise of the Remote Workforce: Benefits, Behaviors and Best Practices
Once the domain of traveling sales and service people, this space is rapidly changing. In the last (5) years alone, remote work, or allowing professionals to work from home or outside the traditional office, has increased by 44% and shows no signs of slowing, especially in light of recent events. Currently, the number of remote workers is rising out of necessity, whether it be temporary or permanent decisions by companies to support a virtual workforce.
With technology allowing us to take our lives with us anywhere we go, more people are requesting flexible working spaces. There are many reasons why remote working is increasing in popularity with both business leaders and their pool of labor. Not every company wants to allow employees to work from home. However, there are benefits of having a remote workforce. Not every person should work from home, thus, we will review the personal behaviors that best apply to this style of work and best practices for being a remote workforce manager and an efficient employee.
There are (4) key benefits to having a remote workforce: talent pool, cost reduction, happier work life, and health.
Your talent pool becomes limitless. Hiring the right person comes with many challenges. The company needs to find a person with the right background, customer knowledge, behaviors, and nearby. By limiting the talent pool to around a 25-mile radius (about a 45-minute commute) a company is missing out on top talent. With remote workers, the world now becomes your talent pool.
It saves the company and employees money. According to a ConnectSolutions survey, the average remote worker saves a company approximately $4,600 per year. Fuel, car maintenance, commuting time, parking, childcare, lunches are top employee considerations, and this is a good chunk of change most people would like to keep in their wallets. Having remote workers also reduces the amount of money the company has to spend on computers, phones, utilities, office supplies, and on real estate and office leases.
A happier work-life balance leads to employee retention. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 72% of employers say remote work has a high impact on employee retention, and 90% of employees feel flexible work arrangements increase employee morale. It is no wonder then that 45% of remote workers have been in the same position for (5) years or more.
Remote Workers are healthy. Even before many schools, companies, and even whole countries were put on lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, research showed that remote workers on average take fewer sick days and can stay productive longer. It has become a lifestyle, with many companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon encouraging work from home– as well as many others who are less tech-centered. Plus, in this new age of social distancing, it is much less likely that an employee will come in contact with any germs around the office.
While remote work provides many benefits, both to the company and the employee, it doesn’t mean everyone in your company is ready for this lifestyle. On the contrary, this new work arrangement takes a person with a particular set of skills and behaviors. As we conduct candidate interviews for remote positions, we assess the following behaviors that make for a successful and productive remote worker. These are:
Strong Connector and Communicator
- Enjoys sharing expertise and ideas proactively with other professionals.
- Prefers and enjoys team projects.
- Proactively taps into all available knowledge and support resources.
- Confident and self-assured.
- Seeks independence and enjoys due recognition.
- Driven to high levels of accomplishment.
- High stamina and endurance— one who doesn’t count hours on the job.
- Maintains focus during work activities.
- Active hobbies and involvement.
- Honesty and integrity are hallmarks of how they conduct themselves in all they do.
- Refuses to cut corners or over-promise.
- Represents their company judiciously.
- Skilled in self-appraisal.
- Quickly sorts the critical from the superfluous in prioritizing – street smart!
- Acts appropriately— is tactful and knows what NOT to say.
The Best Practices
As with any mode of work, there are managerial and work practices that lead to success. We have identified six key best practices for remote work:
Communicate early and often. Because an employee is not working in the office, communication is one of the essential tools they can use. In a traditional office setting, it is easy to talk to an associate in person if questions or concerns arise. Efficient telecommunicators understand the importance of this trait and use it to work effectively with the rest of the team. Be proactive in your communication with your coworkers and clients. Managers also need to communicate effectively with daily calls or video chats.
Daily routine and consistency are a big part of working from home. When working in a traditional office setting, this routine could consist of waking up around the same time each day, taking a shower, making coffee, and commuting to the office. A person who is taken out of the office should still try to do these same things each morning and to keep their regular office hours. This will set the tone for the day. Instead of feeling like you are just staying home, it will make it feel like you are getting ready for work. Managers should also set up routines and consistent check-ins (phone or video) with their remote teams.
Set schedule and prioritize. Remote work provides more flexibility but has the potential for a lot less structure. Set a plan of action to make sure that time is productive. When working from home, utilize company calendars to stay updated on office events and meetings. Keep to your regular work schedule hours and agenda while holding yourself accountable to these, as your manager would.
Create a separate workspace free from distraction. It is almost impossible to produce high-quality while household distractions abound. TV, walking the dog, and the laundry can wait until after work. Create a separate office area or room, similar to if you were working in an office— a place away from everyday household clutter and somewhere quiet enough to concentrate fully. Managers and companies can assist by providing adequate equipment, covering computing and internet expenses, and providing stipends for office supplies. There are also tax benefits to working from home.
Take Scheduled and timed breaks. It is always good to take a moment to clear your mind and stretch your legs. During a break is an excellent time to take that barking dog on a walk, or throw in a quick load of laundry, but make sure these breaks are as timed as they would be if you were in an office. Getting a breath of fresh air is ideal for those times when you are feeling stuck and need to reprioritize. Remote work does not always mean working from home at a desk you have set aside for that purpose. It can also mean working from a local coffee shop, or even outside. However, only if you are capable of being productive and are not distracted by the change of scenery.
Schedule occasional in-person meetings. One of the negatives of remote work is that you could lose touch of what is going on around the office. It is always a good idea to touch base with employees and managers (and for managers to reach out too) to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you are working on a team project, taking a few hours one day could help make sure that the team is working cohesively, and everyone is on schedule. Be present through your telecommunications, but the occasional in-person meeting is also beneficial.
One of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 outbreak will be the continuing growth of the remote workforce in light of current forced trials. Both the pros and cons of remote work to your company will be especially clear after the outbreak has passed. As business leaders and employees, there are many benefits, behaviors to look for, and best practices to successfully implement remote work in our companies as we plan for a future without social distancing and containment. What better time than now to plan?