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Implementing a Successful Remote Work Policy

Remote work as a trend has been increasing steadily over the last 10 years and has come to the forefront recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, all of us are teleworking, and some are more prepared to do so than others. Pre-pandemic, approximately 70% of organizations offered some form of telework to their employees, although when you drill down a little further into the numbers, there are some telling metrics.

Of all the jobs in the United States, an estimated 56% of them are telework-capable. Out of the employees who hold these jobs, 82% say they would like to telework at least some of the time. Only 43% actually do telework at least one day a week, with 3.6% of employees working from home half-to-full-time.* According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 7% of organizations offer telework to all their employees. Typically, this alternate working arrangement is only reserved for the most senior staff or employees with a long tenure at the company. These numbers highlight that there’s a significant gap between those who want to work remotely, and those who actually do.

What are the benefits of teleworking? According to estimates done by Global Workplace Analytics, employers can save approximately $11,000 per year per half-time teleworker (assuming a salary of $48K per year). This is savings the employer can realize in commuting and real estate costs, but there’s also a significant time savings from which the employer reaps the benefits; approximately 60% of the time an employee might have been commuting goes back into work time.* This creates a better work-life balance, especially in cities (like Washington, DC) where commutes can be three or more hours per day. This flexible work system is becoming more and more important to those entering the workforce; 63% of Millennials report they would change jobs for a flexible work schedule that allowed some remote work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown remote work into the spotlight with varying results. Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, notes that this is not an effective test case for remote work because this is an extreme case. She says, “We’re all at home, so I’m working in the same office with my spouse, and we’re juggling phone call schedules, while trying to home-school our children at the same time. A more typical scenario would be that we’d be working while our children are at school or daycare, and our spouses would telework on different days, or I’d be teleworking at the library or my local coffee shop (and all those other venues which are currently unavailable to us).” Also, an organization looking to implement a telework policy would start with a formalized, written process; the roll-out for such a change would take six to 12 months, and be accompanied by multiple meetings, town-halls, training classes, and technology discussions. Most of us haven’t had that amount of preparation for the state in which we’re currently operating.

To implement a successful remote work policy, Kate Lister, Dr. Anita Kamouri (VP and Co-Founder of Iometrics), and Lucy Jeynes (Founder of Larch Consulting) discussed the following recommendations in a recent IFMA-Sponsored Webinar:

  • Formalize a Telework Policy and a Telework Agreement
    1. By formalizing, you can plan better for your facilities and technologies used in remote work.
    2. This also takes the burden off each individual supervisor to come up with a unique telework plan for their staff; if formalized, the plan applies to everyone.
  • Re-train management
    1. Telework requires managing in a different way—on a deliverable/results basis, and not based on seeing someone do the work.
    2. Managers also need to learn to manage employee burnout, which is prevalent among remote workers. It is very easy to work all the time when there’s no physical separation from the office.
  • Introduce stronger Cyber-Security measures or reinforce existing ones to ensure information safety while remote.
  • Institute engagement campaigns with your remote employees to ensure they’re still part of the culture. This also applies to employees who are on client site and not in the physical office even part of the time. Zoom videos/Google Meets, emails, newsletters, and the like all contribute to the construction of a robust culture that can reach past the boundaries of a physical workplace.

So, what are we learning through our current state of exile from the office? Most of us are learning we can do our jobs just as effectively at home, although many are struggling with the lack of personal connection. Since this wasn’t an intentional change to remote work, some of us don’t have a dedicated office space (or are sharing one), and are working in our kitchens, on the sofa, or in our backyards (what I refer to as the “office annex”). Maybe we have to try a little harder to stay engaged with our team. I like to think this has brought us closer together. We can see each other’s homes, families, children, and pets. A study shows that 75% of us don’t feel we can be ourselves at the office.* The hope is that this experience makes us more flexible, more sympathetic to what our colleagues are dealing with in their personal lives, and altogether more human, regardless of where we work.

 

*IFMA Webinar - Work from Home: The New Global Reality. April 1 (Part 1) and April 8 (Part 2), 2020. Panelists Kate Lister (President, Global Workplace Analytics), Dr. Anita Kamouri (VP and Co-Founder, Iometrics), Lucy Jeynes (Founder, Larch Consulting), and Peter Ankerstjerne, IFMA Fellow and Employee Services Lead for JLL

Give us your thoughts on the current environment and what the future of telework looks like.

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