Finding and keeping qualified small business employees is more challenging than ever. With job openings growing and unemployment at record lows, one way to attract candidates to your business—and retain the employees you already have—is to offer the ability to work remotely.
Working remotely is a popular benefit for employees, but before allowing remote work, it’s important to know what it takes to help your employees succeed. A new survey by time tracking company TSheets has some insights about the pros and cons of remote work. (Disclosure: TSheets is a client of my company.)
The survey polled 500 employees who work remotely at least some of the time. Three quarters of employees surveyed (75%) say they telecommute at least three days per week. Nearly three in 10 (28 %) work remotely every day. The majority (58%) are able to work from home.
One of the biggest benefits for remote workers is saving time. Employees in the survey save an average of 165 minutes, or nearly three hours, each week by not commuting to work. No wonder more than half of respondents in the survey report being more productive when they work remotely. In fact, respondents say the number-one benefit of remote work is being able to avoid a commute.
However, not everyone responds to remote work in the same way. More than one-third of employees say remote work is more relaxing than working in an office setting, but 30% say working remotely increases their stress. Still, the majority of employees rated remote work either four or five stars on a scale of 1 to 5.
Clearly, remote work also poses some challenges for employees. According to the survey, the top five challenges are:
- They tend to work more hours than they would at the office.
- Coworkers or bosses think they aren’t working.
- It’s difficult to self-motivate when working remotely.
- They struggle to disconnect from work.
- They’re lonely.
How can you help remote workers overcome these five challenges?
- Encourage employees to unplug after certain hours. For example, set a rule not to send work emails or call coworkers before or after certain hours of the day. This rule should apply to both remote workers and those in the office, and will help everyone disconnect from work so they have time to recharge.
- Set employee hours. Set “core hours” when all employees, both remote workers and on-site workers, must be working. This helps to set boundaries and also makes it easier to coordinate meetings.
- Set up easy-to-use options for team communication. For example, chat tools such as Slack provide instant communication, no matter where your employees are. You can build a sense of teamwork by incorporating regular videoconferences into the workweek so that remote employees are more than just disembodied texts.
- Keep employees in the loop. Be sure to include remote employees in company-wide emails and other communications so they stay in the loop. Celebrate their life events, such as birthdays, the same way you would with employees in the office.
- Have in-person meetings. If possible, bring remote workers into the office for regular in-person meetings to help build connections. Even just an annual meeting can increase camaraderie and help remote workers feel part of the team. (Here are some virtual team-building exercises to bring your team closer together.)
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More than three-fourths of remote workers in the survey say working remotely has overwhelmingly positive effects on everything from their family life and finances to their career and physical health. Is there anything that could convince these employees to give up remote work?
Well, yes. Nearly seven in 10 (69%) would give up remote work in return for a promotion; 68% would give it up for a raise or better employee benefits.
For others, remote work is a response to housing issues. Some 57% of respondents say they would stop working remotely if they could find affordable housing closer to work; 55% would give up remote work for a shorter commute.
If you can’t afford to give employees promotions, raises or additional benefits, remote work can be a valuable tool to boost their loyalty.