More than a mere convenience, telecommuting—working from a home or other remote office—provides employees and employers with some fairly impressive benefits. It hasn’t always been easy allowing employees to work remotely due to technology constraints and an inability to monitor the success of the stay-at-home worker. However, advances in both hardware and software are giving businesses the opportunity to push the limits of efficiency and make remote offices as productive, if not more so, than the actual office.
What does the ideal remote office look like?
Remote offices can look like anything, really. They could be a laptop at home, a separate room dedicated to “work”, or any place that provides you with the equipment and technology to access and complete your work.
Now, obviously there are some caveats to a successful remote office. First and foremost is a secure internet connection. This means it’s important to have a stable, reliable, and secure point of access, whether it’s LAN or encrypted Wi-Fi. Besides having a computer/laptop, secure internet connection, and a comfortable place to work, a remote office can be anything or made to suit any need you might have to keep you happy, comfortable, and productive.
How can working remotely be so beneficial if it’s so simple?
You can supplement office work
Being able to work remotely means you can squeeze in that extra project or finalize important documents when you otherwise can’t be at the office. This is a big deal for employees who work 45+ hours a week as they may not want to spend all of their time at the office. So, being able to complete work at home, at a café, or somewhere comfortable can help them be productive and stay on task without pushing them to burn out back at the office after everyone else has gone home for the day.
You can reduce overhead costs
Renting office space, paying utilities, and purchasing equipment for every employee can be an expensive pursuit, especially if you’re a smaller company. Remote employees cover all of these expenses by having equipment, a location, and the necessary software already—all you have to do is give them permission and the tools (processes, protocols, etc.) to telecommute.
In addition to overhead costs, you can also save employees money on transportation costs.
It promotes productivity and boosts morale/lowers stress
Being able to work from home has been shown to boost employee retention, a product of lower stress levels and a higher degree of company loyalty. In fact, some people love the freedom of telecommuting so much that they’d prefer working remotely to a pay increase.
It lets employees work when they can’t be at the office
Employees no longer have to take a loss on their paychecks when they can work from home. Sickness, a hectic schedule, or travel plans can all accommodate a telecommuter’s need to continue working when they simply can’t make it to the office. It’s also a great benefit when you consider being snowed in, office power outages, or events that would make working at the office difficult or impossible.
Remote workers are better connected and more engaged
With the rise in use of social media and efficient communication software such as Skype, GoToMeetings, and more, employees are capable of remaining engaged with co-workers and their companies better than ever. They’re also encouraged to communicate more because they have the freedom of mobility, which necessitates access to devices like tablets, smartphones, and laptops—all of which can be used to keep them in constant communication with the office and their colleagues.
As the level and complexity of communication rises, so too, does an employee’s degree of engagement. It’s that notion of always being connected that allows employees to establish deeper, more impactful relationships with their peers that can truly bolster teamwork and strengthen inter-office relationships as far as efficiency and communication are concerned.
The true benefits of an effective remote office ultimately depend upon the company and its employees. While many would relish the opportunity to work from home, there may be just as many who would prefer to keep work and their home life separate—and that means not taking work home with them.
The best course is to develop an efficient and practical remote office plan and propose the idea to staff to gauge their interest level. If you need help developing that plan, effective protocols, or want to know more about creating the best kind of work-from-home setup, consult our Work from Home Gameplan: The Ultimate Small Business Guide to Setting Up a “Work from Home” System for Your Staff.