Why the rapid growth in working from home? Well, there is a certain allure to working from home. Employees don’t have to deal with traffic congestion, they can save on transportation costs and other expenses that come with physically going to work, and it helps improve work-life balance. At the same time, employers can drastically reduce company overhead, attract top candidates, and enjoy the benefits of a more relaxed and happier workforce.
Indeed, according to Global Workplace Analytics, a consulting firm, “Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed.”
However, not everyone has had success. A slew of organizations — such as Yahoo, IBM, Aetna, Best Buy and The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation — made headlines when they announced that they would be calling their telecommuters back to the worksite.
Why the about-face? According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it could be due to:
- Employees not receiving the training and resources they need to properly do their work remotely.
- Supervisors lacking the necessary training to manage and monitor remote workers.
- Supervisors being more comfortable with having employees on-site, possibly because it makes them feel more in control or because they don’t trust their employees to work off-site.
- Productivity among employees declines when they work off-site.
With the work-from-home phenomenon panning out for some employers but not for others, how can you tell if it’s right for your business? Here are some tips to help you decide:
- Make sure the job can be done from home. For example, if the role requires the use of special equipment under direct supervision, regular face-to-face meetings with clients or intensive collaboration with co-workers, it probably cannot effectively be done from home.
- Assess the employee to determine whether he or she is responsible and self-disciplined enough to work from home. Keep in mind that not every employee wants to work from home, and this doesn’t mean they are not good employees. They are simply not fit for work-from-home arrangements.
- Perform a cost-benefit analysis. Potential costs may include one-time implementation costs, administrative costs, accommodation costs and recurring annual costs. Potential benefits may include higher employee productivity, decreased sick leave, lower turnover rate and increased overhead savings.
- Determine whether you can overcome possible obstacles, such as addressing remote employees’ social needs; developing an impartial performance evaluation system; managing technical support issues; ensuring compliance with federal, state and local employment laws; and monitoring the effectiveness of your work-from-home program.
The decision to allow employees to work from home should be made after an extensive review of your situation. Get buy-in from the top down to secure input from key stakeholders, including management and rank-and-file employees. You’ll also want to consult with labor law experts who can explain the legalities of letting your employees work from home.