Embracing distance workers via technology to increase productivity

Working at home, at first blush seems a contradiction, but there are many benefits for the employee and the employer.

By allowing employees to work at home, employers can realize reduced costs, increased productivity and have more satisfied employees. Christina Desmarais reported in Inc. Magazine on a study by researchers at Stanford University, which indicates that remote workers were happier, less likely to quit and more productive than their office peers. Researchers Bloom and Liang found study participants who worked from home also put in more hours and took fewer sick days. Additionally, thanks to not having to commute, were much happier on the job.

In a New York Times article, Marilyn Kennedy cited a 2013 survey by the non-profit research association, WorldatWork, which found that 88 percent of some 800 businesses large and small offered telecommute options, and that having a quieter environment, offices are actually incredibly distracting places. Kennedy notes that, the adoption of technology, will speed the pace of work, and allow for working at home is a necessity for both employee and employer alike.

Protection of the company culture can and should be preserved in today’s telecommuting environment. In their book, “Remote: Office Not Required” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write, “Employers worry that remote work means less frequent brainstorming and slower communication. Additionally, worries of employees slacking off and being distracted, (can be overcome by) hiring people you trust.” Just as importantly, they indicate, “Remote work exposes bad workers (due to the fact) it’s easy to see who’s not performing.”

Fried and Hansson cite a common reluctance by industry managers due to the feeling they will lose control and it will cost “a lot” of money. Allowing existing employees to be the first to try working at home will help save the culture and eliminate the “us against them” attitude. The Stanford research suggests, “That with most jobs, a good rule of thumb is to let employees have one to two days a week at home. It's hugely beneficial to their well-being, helps you attract talent, and lowers attrition." Loss of “face to face” at the office interactions can be overcome by using technology to increase productivity like web conferences and sharing calendars and files. Kennedy emphasizes that, “Indeed, ties to co-workers and bosses back at the office play a key role in the success of these remote work arrangements”.

Office space costs can also be reduced, and talent can be drawn on from any location. eBook Author Phil Byrne of Head in the Clouds touts this aspect by saying, “Rural areas can prosper online thanks to remote and location-independent work.” He also believes that most jobs today could be done remotely. “Rural communities, where jobs tend to be scarce, could really prosper if more people move to location-independent work and businesses… using the latest ‘cloud’ based software and web applications.” Byrne sums it up with, “remote working and the freedom it can bring into our lives… simply (allows) enjoyment (of) more quality time in the place you call home, remote working can change all of our lives for the better.”

Looking to change the way you do business? Michigan State University Extension educators working in conjunction with the MSU Product Center assist new and expanding businesses better understand the necessary human resources for a more efficient use of this vital component.

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