When Does Switching to a Remote Workplace Make Sense?
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You’ve just endured another bad winter, and you just found out your office rent is doubling. Thinking it’s the perfect time to try that “remote office” idea?
The Indianapolis-based software-as-a-service company I lead became a remote team in May 2013. Currently, about 40 percent of our employees live outside of Indiana, and even more work remotely several times a week. Along the way, we discovered a few pros -- and cons -- to share with any workplace considering the switch to a remote workplace:
A few reasons remote will be a win for your company:
You need to hire for specialized positions. Our door is wide open to qualified candidates, regardless of their location. New hires don’t have to leave their cities or uproot their families, which makes us a more attractive employer. As an added bonus, we don’t have to bother with relocation packages.
You want to give your employees freedom. My wife, Dana, was offered the perfect job in another state. We were able to make the move because I could work remotely. Remote working is about finding the place where you work best. It’s not always a different city (or country) -- sometimes you are most productive in your living room.
Your employees want flexibility. Instead of taking time off to wait for the plumber or attend a school play, our team members can put in a full day’s work from home. Workplace flexibility helps reduce stress, which often leads to happier and more productive employees.
You want to improve employee retention. The ability to work remotely helps us retain great talent. Our employees can move if they want or need to. They can choose to explore another city without taking time off. Many people have opportunities they could pursue if their job wasn’t keeping them in a certain place.
Going remote might be a mistake if:
You don’t know how to set boundaries. One of the problems with remote working is that some people don’t know when to stop. The New York Times recently reported that remote employees worked 9.5 percent longer than their in-office counterparts. That might seem great at first, but burnout is inevitable. Defining job expectations can help employees recharge without feeling guilty.
Related: Building an All-Star Virtual Team
You’re just trying to save money. For most companies, going remote won’t save you money. In fact, it might cost you more. We have invested heavily in technology for good communication such as high-quality microphones, speakers and projectors. We also get together a couple of times a year to strengthen our team. Travel costs can easily outweigh office costs. Cutting corners on essentials is counterproductive.
Your leaders won’t get out of the office. Leaders need to go remote, even if it’s just a long trip during the summer. Otherwise, managers will never fully grasp what their remote employees need. They won’t be able to support their team, and morale will suffer.
You are unwilling to change your communication. Remote working exposes weak communication. When we were all in an office, it was easy for people to glance around and absorb the culture. When we went remote, it didn’t initially translate. We now use instant messaging and video-conferencing apps, such as HipChat and Google Hangout, to stay informed.
Despite the initial challenges, the benefits of working remotely have given us better results and more focus than if we had stayed in a traditional office.
Your company needs to evaluate its intentions for remote working before making the leap. By putting a proper plan in place, you’ll be able to keep your team in the loop and maintain your culture.
And yes, office pranks are equally funny online.