Remote Work and How to Leverage It

With the 4th Quarter in full swing, it is time to take a look at your business and figure out where you stand, where you want to be, and where you are headed.

Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of having remote employees. I know, especially here in Arizona, a lot of my clients are shifted away from having any remote employees; opting instead for having everyone front and center at the office. But, as we continue to interview for open positions, I find candidates are still searching for flexible, hybrid, and remote positions.

Here are some advantages to having remote workers. Before you discount them completely, take a moment to reflect on the questions I asked above. Where is your business headed? Do you have the resources (and space) to take you to that next level?

The ability to expand your staff, without moving to a bigger office suite.

Your business continues to grow and expand. One challenge I hear all the time is you don’t have space for that much needed employee. It may be difficult to add to your staff when there physically isn’t anywhere to put them or their desk. Enabling some employees to work from home means that you can hire additional employees and not be concerned about where you are going to put them. A compromise could be a desk-share program or hybrid work schedule. Want to work out the details? Give me a call and we can talk it though.

You can hire employees based on their experience and not their location.

We are interviewing for a position that has a very specific skill set. My client wanted someone who had their skills already established and could easy just walk into the job without much training. This can be challenging to accomplish, but my client agreed to list the job as remote. The result? People across the country flooded in to apply for the position. We were able to find several extremely qualified candidates, that lived in a different state, and were able to fill the position within a much shorter time frame. In the end it was wonderful to be able to expand our applicants to people that normally would have been excluded due to their location.

Physical challenges aren’t a problem.

There are some employees who are spectacular employees that can do their jobs well but have a physical limitation that makes coming into the office difficult. Whether the injury is temporary, or a permanent disability, the situation is the same. Does Sally really need to get to work with that cast on her foot for the next 8 weeks and struggle to keep her foot elevated or is it easier to tell Sally to work from home without having to hassle with an Uber twice every day because she can’t drive with the cast on? Let’s think outside the old school box here, does that employee really NEED to be present in the workplace. You get to keep your skilled employee and save yourself the cost of another hiring search.

As small businesses struggle to find their next, best employee, or grow to meet their current commitments or market need it is time to revisit the benefits of remote work. We proved we could work from home and be productive a couple years ago. Why discount and ignore that knowledge? Instead use it to your advantage and give your business, and employees, the flexibility and strength to move to the next level.

Can employers require employees to work from home as an infection-control strategy? Should they?

               Absolutely, and it is recommended. Creating a telework policy will ensure your business keeps running and save you the expense of having the entire staff out sick.

Things to consider when creating a telecommuting policy:

  • Develop a policy for tracking and restricting work time for non-exempt employees. Working from home does not mean automatic authorized overtime. Emailed time sheets should do the trick.
  • Allow telecommuting for everyone, not just the employees with children or others claiming some kind of hardship. Create a policy that covers all your employees.
  • Document that telecommuting is a temporary accommodation for your firm (or team) due to the public health crisis. When things get back to normal, things will get back to normal.
  • Remember, your employees need to be as available to you as if they were down the hall in their office. Establish the hours you expect them to work and be available. Do you want them to respond within two hours to every email? One hour? Be reasonable but firm in your expectations.
  • Not enough work for everyone? Create a list of special projects you haven’t been able to get to in busier times. Does the F drive need to be cleaned out? New forms created? Policies and procedures updated? Now is the perfect opportunity to accomplish everything you have been putting off.
  • Schedule Zoom meetings with your entire staff to keep in touch. I recommend Mondays to set the priorities for the week and Thursday or Friday afternoons for the weekly recap.
  • Telecommuting means more accountability, not less. This does not mean you should suddenly turn into a micromanager, but this isn’t a free pass to no longer lead your team. Leading looks different than it did 10 days ago, but people need your leadership skills now more than ever. Lead by example. Be as available to your team as you expect them to be to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to use humor to keep up morale. (Appropriate humor, of course—I am the HR Lady, after all.)