Remote Employees — One Key to Employee Engagement?

Our blogging theme this month is how to motivate and inspire employees.  Our upcoming Supervisory Academy Virtual Round Table training series is aimed at helping supervisors get a better handle on this.  Businesses have been very focused on the activities and perks available in the workplace to motivate and create job satisfaction.

 

But what if one solution has nothing to do with what happens in the office but instead focuses on what could be happening outside of it?

 

I imagine that being able to work from home, aka telecommuting, is probably one of the biggest work fantasies of office-bound employees.  Sipping your coffee, in casual relaxed clothes (or maybe your PJs), no interruptions, no noisy office, working at your own pace, no supervisor looking over your shoulder….we have all thought about it and how great it could be, haven’t we?

 

However, as a team leader and supervisor, I must admit I’ve wondered and even doubted if having people working from home really was a benefit to the overall organization and work team.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in those doubts.

 

If some employees have low productivity in a controlled and structured environment, what would happen if they were at home?  And does the home environment present a strong temptation to ordinarily productive people to do laundry, prep dinner, hang out with their dog or cat, and catch up on Oprah?  Is home more of a distraction than the office environment?

 

The data and research done on the subject largely points to one conclusion: 

The typical workplace is more distracting today than being at home.  Remote home-based workers are not only more productive but they are happier and more engaged in their jobs. 

 

Check out these fascinating articles from Inc.com that support this conclusion:

https://www.inc.com/brian-de-haaff/3-ways-remote-workers-outperform-office-workers

https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/a-2-year-stanford-study-shows-astonishing-productivity-boost-of-working-from-home

 

In our organization, we have created a culture of high engagement and I believe that our practice of remote work and flexibility has contributed to that.  All of our employees can work from home when there is a necessity to do so.  When health, childcare issues, medical appointments, or other important life issues need to be handled, my staff have the permission to work some or all of their day from home.  This practice, coupled with flexible work schedules, demonstrates organizational trust in them, relieves them of the psychological burden, and is returned with a high level of engagement, accountability, and productivity.  For us, getting the job done and done well is what matters most.

 

How do you make it work? 

  • First and foremost, managers have to consider the job and tasks of each employee and their role on the team.  We have an employee who largely handles our finances and contracts; she can accomplish 90% of her work from home, so she telecommutes 4 out of 5 days per week.  Our other team members really need to connect interpersonally, use office equipment (copiers, etc.) hold impromptu meetings, and visit outside clients and partners; telecommuting most of the time would not fit their normal scope of work.  However they are able to telecommute when necessary.

 

  • You will have to ensure that all your staff have the tools and resources they need to be successful working from home.  All of our members at Invista Performance Solutions have access to their email, phones, and our network drive, through a VPN connection.  We also use Zoom to schedule and hold virtual meetings.  Our expectation is that, if you are working at home, you will be as available to your team as you are when you are at your desk.  We emphasize the need for regular communication and well-constructed work plans.

 

  • Not all employees are immediately suited to remote home-based work.  Some employees may need coaching and a high level of accountability with this kind of freedom.  I encourage supervisors to work closely with home-based employees who struggle with creating and maintaining a consistent structure.  If an employee does not manage time and tasks in the office well, I’d recommend limiting home-based work.  Extending this opportunity to brand new employees, or those who have had very little office experience in their background might be too risky.  Employees should prove their reliability on their teams in the office before having freedom to work from home.

 

 

 

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