As the popularity of telecommuting grows, you may be wondering if it’s time for your company to let employees work from home, either occasionally or full time.
The short answer is maybe. Though having everyone show up at the same worksite is still the dominant model in America, a 2015 Gallup study found that the number of workers who have telecommuted has quadrupled over the past 20 years.
More are Working From Laptops and Coffee Shops
Since Gallup began tracking the issue, the percentage of employees who say they have used a computer to work from home or other non-office site has risen from 9% in 1995 to 37% today.
And unlike the early years of telecommuting, the recent increase is not limited to the practice of communicating with the home office outside of work hours. Forty-five percent of telecommuters in 2015 said they work that way only during regular business hours, just behind the 46% who said they usually do so after hours “as a supplement to the normal workday”.
Are Telecommuters Happier?
With over a third of the workforce at least occasionally telecommuting and many doing so as a replacement for the office-only approach, it’s worth looking at how their attitudes about work compare with those who don’t. Most telecommuters say they’re happier and more productive when working from home or a coffee shop. But many employers are skeptical, citing concerns about communication and productivity.
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And they might have reason to be. A 2016 study from the employee engagement firm TINYpulse found two key differences between remote workers and the pool of all employees:
- Remote workers are slightly happier at work.
- But remote workers also rate their relationships with coworkers lower than the general pool does.
Many employers will focus more on the stronger relationships to be found in a traditional work environment because of its obvious role in smooth communication. But in an increasingly mobile business world, some companies are clearly finding at least some of their employees are happier working from home.
More Flexible Schedules Can Impact Company Culture
So how should your company approach telecommuting?
First realize that both individual workers and the companies who employ them have wide variation in which work environments promote success. Finding the right mix of telecommuting and brick-and-mortar hours for your company will depend a lot on your culture and the personalities of your employees.
Though some companies do well, or even better, when their workers have the option of telecommuting, many need a single spot where everyone shows up Monday through Friday to do what they do best.
Building a great culture is essential to the success of any business, and doing so exclusively over email, on the phone or even through Skype is a challenge. It can be done, but it will likely require more effort than you’d need in a traditional work environment.
If you do opt to add some telecommuting to your business model, be sure to get everybody physically together one or two times a year for a company retreat or a town hall meeting. It would help to include these elements when you meet:
- Planning and strategy sessions to share what’s ahead for the company and employees
- Team-building activities to allow team members to get to know each other
- Fun and games to allow coworkers to bond
And beyond the periodic get-togethers, schedule times throughout the rest of the year for team meetings on Skype or FaceTime. That will keep team spirit high and enhance everyone’s sense of being on a common mission.
You have to be intentional about building your company culture. When everyone’s not together on a regular basis, it can make that tough. But with effort, companies who want to offer telecommuting as an option for workers can still succeed.