Time was, companies in the corporate world measured their employees’ success by time that they spent at their desks and in meetings. But over the past 10-15 years, the workplace has seen some radical transformations spurred by the rise of digital communications. Companies are becoming less formal, less rigid in their expectations, and more likely to hire on short-term contracts even for high-skilled positions. Every company is different, but today’s most successful corporate cultures are more interested in evaluating employees based on their results rather than process-oriented metrics like time spent in the office.
Companies are competing for talent by offering a more humane workplace, including an emphasis on work / life balance that allows high performers to maintain a family and hobbies as well as a demanding career without going insane. Since work / life balance became a buzzword, more companies are paying lip service to the concept. But a few big companies are stepping up and recognizing that the concept can pay dividends for companies as well as workers.
One of the biggest related growing trends in the workforce is the rise of work from home policies. Tools like Slack, Google Drive, Skype and others are making working from home (or offsite) more feasible than ever before. Companies have long offered occasional “telecommuting,” and many startup-style corporate cultures are known for their flexibility, but more major companies are offering official, codified work from home policies. IBM recently slashed its work from home policy, but organizations as large as Amazon, Xerox, GE and Dell have adopted official policies allowing employees to work offsite at least some of the time.
Anecdotally, as a recruitment firm, we’re seeing more companies include official work from home policies in their job descriptions when they’re hiring – recognizing that it’s a great selling point for people hoping to avoid lengthy commutes. The practice is growing. According to data from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, the number of individuals at corporate jobs (not self-employed) who are able to work from home has increased 115% since 2005, which is almost 10 times as fast as the rest of the workforce.
Working from home can be great for candidates with young families, those who want to avoid lengthy commutes, or who want to be able to concentrate without the distractions of a busy office environment (putting aside, for now, the distractions of the home or a 3rd party working space). Working from home is also green; it saves on greenhouse gases from commuting. But they can also offer dividends to companies themselves: a typical business can save up to $11,000 per person per year by allowing candidates to work from home at least some of the time. This is money that your company can shave off the bottom line, or put into higher salaries to try to attract even stronger performers.
It’s a great policy, and workers are demanding work from home policies more than ever before, especially passive candidates who need to be enticed to make a move. As we recently mentioned in another post, more of the candidates we speak with are asking about work from home policies when we approach them with opportunities. According to statistics, 80-90% of people who don’t work from home want to start doing so at least 2-3 days a week to split their time between the kind of collaboration you can accomplish in an office, and the concentration you can achieve at home.
It’s where things are going, with more tools that make working from home easy coming online every day, and more Fortune 500 companies embracing it. Yet only 7% of corporations in the U.S. make working from home available to most of their employees. It can be a radical shift for a company to adopt a work from home policy, so it’s no wonder why so many companies are reticent. It doesn’t work for every industry and organization, but it can be an excellent strategy for talent attraction and retention.
While We’re on the Subject:
The New York Times recently published a great guide for how to work from home more effectively. It’s worth checking out for anyone who works from home or is considering pursuing a work from home opportunity. The writer, Kenneth R. Rosen, discusses how he got into working from offsite, and shares his experience and tips for getting the most out of working from home. Remote working can be great, but anyone who’s tried it knows that there are some common pitfalls in terms of distractions, feeling disconnected, and figuring out where to blend the line between your “working” and “non-working” time. Here are a few of Rosen’s tips for getting the most out of working from home:
- Treat your home like an office as much as possible. It might be enticing to conduct business from the comfort of your bed, but Rosen offers valuable advice that you should find a routine that’s similar to working when you’re going to an office: shower, have breakfast, get dressed in at least casual clothes, and set up a working space separate from your bedroom.
- Find ways to block out distractions. The office can be distracting, but the home is the ultimate venue for diversion. Rosen has tips for setting up a specific office space, explaining to any family members or children that you’re working and shouldn’t be disturbed, and installing apps that selectively block out social media sites and other distractions.
- Maintain communication with the office. This is a great tip because it’s easy, when you’re working from home, to miss out on the interaction that happens in the office. One solution is to work from home one or two days a week, and go into the office for the opportunity to collaborate the rest of the time. Rosen’s advice for when you’re working offsite is to stay highly visible and stay on top of communication using email, Slack, Skype, or whatever other tools your company prefers. Giving frequent updates to your supervisors keeps you in the loop even if you’re not physically present. However, when your working hours are over and you’ve accomplished all you need to do for the day, disconnect.
It’s definitely worth checking out the NYT’s guide for more tips.
Whether you’re a candidate thinking about looking to avoid a commute, or a company thinking about how you can save on overhead and attract exceptional talent, it’s worth thinking about working from home policies and what they have to offer the workplace.