In an effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, many office employees have now become remote workers. Since everyone is working from home, companies may be worried that they’ll see a significant drop in productivity.
Recent studies say otherwise.
A 2019 survey by Airtasker found that remote employees spend less time on distractions and on average work 1.4 more days every month (or 16.8 more days every year) than office workers. Which means that, generally, working from home actually improves productivity.
That said, our current global situation may affect everyone’s productivity, with employees having additional personal stresses in their lives such as caring for children or other dependents. This is why being flexible as an employer—and offering flexible working hours for your remote team—is one of the most important and valuable policies you can implement right now.
If a company’s priority is on results and not “butt-in-chair” time, when and where the work happens doesn’t matter. This is the guiding principle of working from home: increased flexibility for employees to choose their work hours and being able to complete their work in a way that’s most efficient for them.
Flextime is a work schedule arrangement that allows employees to work outside of the typical 9 to 5. Most commonly, you’ll find the early birds choosing a 7am to 3pm schedule and the night owls preferring to start work at 10am and finish at 6pm.
At your discretion, you can set specific limits to ensure that most of your employees are working through part of your core business hours and are able to collaborate as needed. However, it would be to your advantage (and your employee’s productivity) if you offer as much flexibility as possible by allowing your employees to choose their own flexible work hours and possibly being available by phone in any emergencies, should their role call for immediate action.
Often referred to as working from home (WFH), telecommuting can have a significant impact on company culture. In a 2017 Forbes article, top CEOs cited WFH as the company benefit that has THE most impact on company culture.
In the digital era, it’s no longer necessary for employees to be in the same room to stay connected and accomplish work, provided they have a reliable internet connection and home office equipment.
Some of your employees may not have been prepared to work from home or may find it more difficult to focus. Remind everyone that you’re here to help them through these challenging times by having managers reach out for wellness checks and providing your remote workers with as much support as possible.
You may have had to quickly implement flextime and telecommuting policies in response to COVID-19. Maybe you already had some policies in place that were simply extended to “daily working from home” instead of weekly or monthly WFH privileges. Or maybe you had to start from scratch and your teams are all still adjusting to suddenly become remote workers.
Regardless of your specific situation, everyone in your company can reap the benefits that come with flextime and/or telecommuting, now and in the future.
This experience can help you shape your WFH policies for the time when your employees will return to the office.
If your company didn’t previously offer flexible working hours or any work-from-home options, survey your employees to see if there’s interest and tailor your policies accordingly to retain and recruit top talent. Several years ago, Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) noted in an interview that “companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge” in regards to hiring the best talent.
If you haven’t already, establish communication and accountability protocols for your employees. Consider using Google Chat, Slack or similar software to keep your whole office connected and collaborative. Purchase licences for Zoom, GoToMeeting or similar conferencing software to help teams hold virtual stand-ups over video.
Focus on output and the volume of projects completed, not “butt-in-chair” time that often can yield disengaged employees and time-wasting tasks that don’t bring any real value to your company.
Remind your employees to take breaks, stretch and rest their eyes. Burnout is a very possible thing for remote workers who are still adjusting to self-scheduling and managing their time.
By showing your support for your employees in these challenging times through flexible work hours and work-life balance protocols, you’ll have a workforce that’s loyal, dedicated and more productive.