Business is changing, and CEOs will either embrace change or miss pivots that can impact the future of business. Before COVID-19, 81% of people between the ages of 35 and 44 preferred to work from home. Now, though, the COVID-19 crisis is the most expansive remote work experiment ever conducted. Many agree that workplaces will not and should not return to what existed before.
The coronavirus not only changed how companies perform and where employees report from, it significantly increased the amount of work and the speed at which employees were required to work.
The State of Remote Work 2018 report indicated that, at that point, 90% of remote workers planned to keep working remotely for the rest of their careers. Remote work is often seen as beneficial for the employee, but it can also have many benefits for the employer. Among them are higher retention levels, increased brand awareness, better communication, improved employee morale and higher productivity.
A 100% remote work policy for employees is becoming normal. During the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, it became a reality for companies and organizations in every city and state across America. This necessary change reaffirmed research that has been emerging in recent years about the effectiveness of remote work.
Successful and productive companies often embrace remote work for all employees who can reasonably do it. However, organizations often decline to fully embrace remote work for senior management and top executives. Failure to apply consistent policies at the executive level is detrimental to both top-level performers and the top-level performance of an organization.
Benefits of allowing managers and executives to work remotely
Every company or organization that wants to accomplish its mission, attract high levels of talent, retain key performers, and find a competitive customer advantage will consider and employ remote work for all employees, including top executives. When companies embrace this new business reality, they will discover many benefits for employees and the company itself.
1. It enhances team morale, and staff feels valued and respected.
Remote work is a long-sought-after employee benefit. Studies and reports over the last two decades have shown increased productivity, higher employee engagement, and higher levels of key performance metrics for companies that maintain a robust remote policy.
In a time when employee engagement is essential for company success, a remote work policy for every level of employee is important for every company, agency, department, and organization to consider and apply. When employees feel cared for, they often care more for their organization and its goals.
2. It employs planning for continuity of operations.
A key benefit for companies and employees related to remote work for every level of an organization is the ability for continuity of operations to overcome unexpected setbacks, shutdowns, and crises like COVID-19. Many companies and organizations are not adequately prepared for the unexpected. Companies that plan for the unplanned are prepared to handle changes.
3. It boosts executive retention and reduces turnover.
Organizations that lead in finding innovative ways to enhance employee options to work remotely will discover the benefit of higher executive retention and engagement and lower executive turnover. When remote or flex work is not allowed or encouraged, many employees cease striving for higher roles in the organization, impacting their professional progress and draining the talent pool for top-level talent.
This executive turnover reality is essential for leaders and organizations to understand and address so that the organization's best talent is not sidelined or sidetracked, especially in underrepresented populations like women executives, people of color and other leaders from minority populations. When companies strive for diversity and inclusion, they become stronger companies. One might even express this important principle through the theme: “Improve the team to improve the organization.”
4. Team productivity, communication and corporate objectives are reached more effectively.
One of the most important benefits of establishing a robust remote work policy is that employees and supervisors generally accomplish more work. The supervisor released to work anywhere is the supervisor who can manage anywhere and anytime. When remote work is established as routine, then the supervisor merges life and work in congruency to manage their time, efforts, and results more effectively.
From a basic time standpoint, when a supervisor is allowed to convert commute time to production time, then both the supervisor and the organization become more effective and productive.
5. Money is saved, which converts to higher profits.
Facebook recently released the concept of moving executives to 100% remote work, which reduces the environmental impact of a corporate office. It found further financial benefits to adjusting executives' pay based on locality. This move could save larger companies millions of dollars by allowing executives to work in various cities across the country and adjust their pay to the city the executive chooses. These are real dollars that can be converted for use to enhance the mission, reward and attract employees, and reinvest in future products and services.
6. It allows for effective modeling of remote work behaviors.
Executives model excellent work behavior and cultural norms in many areas of an organization. One area that is often neglected for supervisors and managers is the ability to work remotely. Companies or organizations often give remote work to employees, but they want supervisors and managers to continue working in the office for accessibility and role-modeling purposes. However, in the digital age and in times of the coronavirus crisis, it is crucial that top executives set an example of how to work effectively from a remote location. This role model mode can help exhibit effective remote communications, the use of electronic systems, leadership in remote meetings, and distance delegating.
Workplace changes impact every generation. The millennial generation may be leading the charge of work changes in technology, outside-the-box thinking and innovative solutions, but they still need leaders who can help them grasp the art of working from home effectively and balancing work and their personal lives effectively to avoid burnout.
7. It increases companies' ability to hire the most qualified candidates.
Employers who expand their job pool improve the quality of their organization. A significant portion of the workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years, and with more of the workforce under age 30, businesses need to do more to attract the younger generation to work for them. This is especially important for workers with critical skills who are in high demand. Leveraging technology and allowing flexibility helps smaller companies compete with larger companies like Facebook, Google and Verizon. Smaller businesses need to offer competitive opportunities to the new generation of workers to attract the most effective workforce.
8. It increases efficiency of natural resources.
Telework not only contributes a cost and time savings to both organization and employee, but it also helps the environment. As one of the top 100 best employers, Fortune 500 company Verizon has been utilizing maximum telework policies for more than a decade. It continues to do so because of the proven benefits. Early in its teleworking experience, one such report "carried out to study employees in several locations, [sought] to determine the impacts of teleworking. Verizon found that over six months, the employees avoided 10,680 hours (445 days) of commuting time. By March 2011, they avoided driving 62,000 miles. Fewer than 200 Verizon employees saved more than 18,000 gallons of fuel through teleworking in just six months."
Objective/desired outcome defined
The desired outcome of this business case is for a company to create an employee/supervisor policy that allows top-level leadership, managers, supervisors, and executives to work remotely in the location of their choosing. For organizations with empowering missions, the opportunity to move supervisors into the role of brand ambassador can open up new relationships, new markets, and new opportunities that locality could never provide to the organization.
When supervisors are encouraged to work remotely in different parts of the country, new ideas are discovered and new solutions realized. As an example, a remote work policy could read:
"Both supervisors and managers are encouraged to embrace a 100% telework policy when they have been a high-performing employee for longer than five years and are going through a change where a move to a new location is beneficial to them and their family or helpful to the organization."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 73% of teams will have remote employees by 2028. More and more companies and government agencies embrace remote work not only as a small component of their operations but as a way of work. Companies and organizations looking to succeed in the landscape of work will strategically consider how to employ 100% remote employees and supervisors.
Success criteria measurements
Remote work makes business sense. This fact is further documented by a 2017 Gallup study, which found that employees who work from home work longer (four hours more per week), are more engaged (32% vs. 28%) and have lower absenteeism.
Companies should encourage employees to work with their managers and the human resources office to make decisions that are in the best interest of both the employee and the company as it relates to the following:
- If employees should maintain a residence inside or outside of a 50-mile radius of the business office
- How often team members would be available to report to the office for mandatory in-person meetings
- Who would pay for any associated travel costs to office location as necessary to complete the organization's mission and top priorities
- Who would be qualified to be deemed as a remote employee
- What criteria would be established to maintain work performance and cultural fit in the organization.
Employees want to be inspired to serve their organizations. Businesses and business leaders should consider the new normal of work as they discuss and evaluate the impact of COVID-19. This crisis might have created a new normal for the business community as it relates to remote work, or what I call non-commute work.
Small businesses and business owners will set the tone for the nation as a whole in the days ahead. Businesses that have a strong desire to keep the economy going and their businesses functioning will be wise to consider all the tools that can help them meet that goal.