Social, economic and cultural changes are affecting attitudes to how we balance our working lives with our home-lives, and employers are starting to recognise this. Analysis of official figures from the Office for National Statistics by the TUC showed that in 2015, almost 14% of the UK workforce undertook some form of working from home1.
While the benefits of remote working are obvious for employees: flexibility around childcare or caring for elderly parents, less time spent on long commutes and less distraction for those who simply feel they can get more done away from an office environment; there are also lots of benefits for the employer that go well beyond reducing costs; here are just some of them:
A wider talent-pool to choose from including parents, people with mobility or health issues and people based further from your physical location than a regular commute would allow.
A way to differentiate yourself from your competitors and arguably an important factor in winning younger workers into your business.
A tangible way to show staff that you trust them - challenging the traditional idea that when an employee is visible in the office, you're getting maximum value from them.
Of course, flexible or remote working isn't going to be the right choice for every employer or employee, but if you do have employees who work flexibly, here are some ideas for how to keep them connected.
1) Keep them in the loop
Effective communication is vital. Keeping remote workers well informed reminds them that they’re still an important part of the business.
There are now lots of online communication and training tools at your disposal, whether it’s WebEx, video conferencing, your company intranet, daily emails, or good old fashioned phone calls, so make the most of them. Remote employees won’t want too much face time though, as it’ll make them feel like you’re constantly checking up on them. Communicate when necessary, then leave them to get on with their job.
2) Host virtual or actual social events
Working remotely can leave you feeling that you’re missing out on the social aspects of an office environment. Tools such as Google Hangouts and Skype can bring employees closer together, and homeworkers can be invited to join workplace fantasy football leagues and other online competitions.
If employees live locally, you could also invite them to events you hold. These provide an opportunity for them to get to know colleagues they rarely see. Even if they can’t attend, just being asked shows that you’re thinking about them and the value they add.
3) Recognise a job well done
A 2015 YouGov survey showed that 30% of UK office workers are more productive when they work remotely2, and countless other studies have shown that remote workers get more done than their office-based colleagues. But they don’t always receive recognition for their work as it’s sometimes a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Make a point of always thanking them for good work. To boost morale, you could even offer little treats now and again, such as a spa treatment or store gift card. Even though they’re not in the office, they still want to feel as though their efforts are appreciated.
4) Don’t have set working hours
People work from home to make their lives easier, whether to avoid stressful commutes, attend hospital appointments or care for family members. They’ll be more engaged if they can work at a time to suit them.
If their position doesn’t require them to interact with clients or meet 5pm deadlines, allow them to work when they want. One person may perform better in an evening once the kids are in bed, while another might do their best work first thing in a morning.
5) Keep reviewing your remote working policy
If you’re relatively new to remote and flexible working, it’s vital to keep re-evaluating your processes to see where they can be improved. Feedback from both remote and office-based staff is important. It’s a learning curve for everyone, so make sure you listen to both sides.