Remote work is definitely a controversial topic in the tech world. Some organizations fully embrace it and don’t even have a physical office. They believe that allowing people to live and work where they choose will motivate them to do their best work. Other organizations avoid it at all costs, worrying it will lead to wasted time and degraded work. Both of these things can certainly be true, but a more balanced and flexible approach is a better fit for most organizations. Introducing some level of remote work flexibility in your organization can enhance your team in a variety of ways: having a more cohesive team schedule, giving trust, enhancing creativity, more efficient use of time and improved communication.
The team can have a day to be consistently absent
At first, this one might seem a bit counterproductive. The perception certainly is that while one is out of the office, work isn’t getting done. But the thing is, life requires that people be away from the office from time to time. Whether it’s a doctors appointment for a child, running errands at the bank and post office, or getting the car tuned up, these things typically have to happen during business hours. If a business has a regularly scheduled remote day, all of these tasks can be scheduled on that designated day. This allows the team to be more consistently present on all of the other days of the week. Workplace solution company Circadian states in its article, “Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer,” unscheduled absenteeism costs about $2650 per year for salaried employees. A good majority of this time could be avoided by allowing employees the freedom to schedule work blocks at home around appointments. It could also reduce the spread of illness by allowing workers suffering from minor illnesses to continue to work without getting their coworkers sick.
The team will feel trusted
Allowing a team to work remotely, when a perfectly accessible office exists, implicitly tells the team they are trusted to decide for themselves how they can be most productive. Conversely, when a manager mandates that employees are always present in the office to do work it could imply the desire for micromanagement. When individuals are allowed to make their own schedule, it inspires autonomy and ownership throughout the rest of their work. When there is implicit trust between employees and their employer, they will be quicker to execute tasks with confidence in their expertise. While empowering the team with trust and autonomy on these days, it also forces the organization to be more intentional about scheduling focused meeting times. This will hopefully decrease unproductive impromptu meetings that lack a clear goal.
Creativity sometimes happens best outside the 9-to-5
“What I learnt from this experience was that being ‘creative’ and applying yourself does not just happen in the office between the specified hours of 9–5, so trying to force it was counterproductive. In such a competitive marketplace where these creative and innovative thoughts are the things that move businesses forward and set them apart, it is vital to allow employees to work in a way that is best for them as it ensures motivation and creativity remain high and the best work is delivered time and again.” Adam Henderson, Millennial Mindset Founder.
A lot of 20- and 30-something professionals are still geared for the late night caffeinated creative sessions they tackled in college. When an employee is mandated to sit at a desk for the majority of the daylight hours, he will probably end up drained in the evenings when creativity normally picks up. Or worse, an employee may opt to ignore creative impulses because she already clocked her hours for the day. This could also allow for an excellent opportunity for an employee to get in some midday exercise.
May Wong of Stanford News states, “A 2014 study by scientists at Stanford University affirmed Nietzsche’s predilection for perambulation. It showed that walking significantly improves certain types of cognitive efforts involved in creativity, specifically convergent thinking, such as the ability to come up with solutions to a problem, and divergent thinking, which involves conceiving open-ended, original ideas. Other studies have found that exercise tends to improve convergent thinking in those who exercise three or more times per week.”
This break in routine might just be the remedy for midday stagnation after the caffeine surge in the morning leads into an afternoon crash. In a previous job I had a consistent remote day that allowed me to get started earlier in the morning and have a longer lunch. I took advantage of this time to go out for a bike ride. This downtime allowed me to decompress from the stress of the morning and attack the afternoon anew.
Eliminating the commute allows workers to have more time
The American Community Survey found that the average one-way commute in the U.S. is 26 minutes. That’s nearly an hour a day! It might not seem like much, but an hour a day could be somebody’s workout routine or extra playtime with his kids. Time is our most valuable asset. There are and always will be only 24 hours in a day. Think of how happy a person would be if she could have an hour out of her day back. Not only that, if an employee is able to work from home, he no longer has to spend as much time getting ready in the morning. I’m certainly not advocating spending all day in pajamas, but we spend a lot of time trying to make ourselves presentable to our coworkers. As another bonus, employees will have access to cheap coffee, snacks, and lunch at home, allowing them to take shorter breaks.
Communication can actually be better
Millennial Mindset Founder Henderson found that employees working remotely tend to over communicate. There is often a negative perception of remote workers from their on-location counterparts. Some tend to think that a remote day is just another day off. In response to this, remote workers feel pressure to communicate more often, and more intentionally about what they are working on.
Remote workers also don’t have the luxury of just tapping someone on the shoulder. This forces them to use tools like Slack or video conference calls. These tools often have functions to save conversations which gives employees a more accessible reference to what they were talking about. These conversations are also often more contained, leading to less disruption to other employees.
There are many reasons to give employees more flexibility in how and where they choose to get their work done. In the end, all that matters is that work is accomplished. If working from home allows for more consistency, creativity, autonomy, trust, time and communication, why not encourage it? Of course, it will take time to adopt a policy that works well for a specific organization. And there will likely be individuals who abuse it. But if an individual is abusing her work schedule away from the office, she most certainly is abusing it just the same at the office. In the end, I believe giving employees implicit trust that they are capable of being responsible for their time will lead to greater ownership in the company. Greater ownership will lead to higher quality and higher output.
~Thomas Wilson, Software Developer