How to Successfully Implement a Remote Work Program
When it comes to flexible work programs, company policies can run the gamut. There are organizations that recognize the tremendous benefits of remote work and advertise their flex policies in their job descriptions and on their company pages. Then, there are other organizations that take the loosey-goosey approach to flex work. These companies have policies, but only some people are eligible to use them and others are not, with no real rhyme or reason as to who qualifies and who doesn’t. And then there are organizations that have no formal flexible work programs in place at all.
It’s estimated that between 20 and 80 percent of employers already offer some sort of formal flexible work policy to their employees. Flex can come in many forms, from flexible schedules (in which employees start and end their days based on their professional and personal needs) to telecommuting (i.e., work-at-home or remote jobs), part-time hours, freelance, contract work, or some variation of the above.
Thing is, when a more formal policy is put into place, it can help employers reap bigger benefits and nix any potential problems that may arise.
No matter which camp your company falls into with regard to flexible work, it’s easy to implement a comprehensive formal program. You just have to follow a few steps:
1. Identify Your Needs
Maybe your company wants to improve its talent pool by widening its hiring net to reach more workers in more places. Or maybe you want to decrease employee turnover. Or you might just want to save some serious cash by eliminating office space.
Whatever your motivation(s), it’s critical to understand why you want to put a flexible work policy in place. Knowing the reasons why you need flexible work can ensure success over the long haul as your company makes the transition to remote work.
2. Fine-Tune the Flex
A flexible work policy isn’t always a one-size-fits-all thing. As you begin to formalize flex within your company, it’s a good idea to go through each department (and really, each job) to determine what type of flex would work best, not only for your employees, but also for the company, too.
After that, you might want to offer a questionnaire to your employees regarding what type of flex would fit their needs. This will help you appeal not only to your current employees, but also to your potential hires down the line.
Armed with this information, you can make a good judgment call on what type of flex is best for various workers so that the program as a whole works (no pun intended) for everyone.
3. Encourage Participation
You’d be hard-pressed to find an employee who wouldn’t want a flexible schedule. After all, who isn’t looking for that elusive thing called “work-life balance”?
But even when workers utilize their flex, some managers and other executive-level employees might not be so keen on the idea. They might think that they have to stick to traditional 9-5 hours. The problem with that is flexible work is often a case of monkey see, monkey do: If employees don’t see their bosses using their flex, they might hesitate to use it, too – even if they really need to.
For any flexible work program to be a success, management has to buy in to the idea of it and use it, too.
4. Offer Training
If your managers are used to having in-office teams, it can be tough to transition to managing remote workers. Make sure you set your company up for success by giving your managers the tools they need.
These might come in the form of training sessions and new communications tools that can help them bridge the distance between themselves and their remote employees – literally. Above all, there should be clearly defined guidelines for managers and employees alike. That way, the entire company will feel connected, engaged, valued, and respected for their contributions to the organization.
5. Stay in the Know
It’s great that your company wants to implement a successful remote work policy. But if you thought that setting it up was a one-and-done deal, think again.
Just like many of the other programs in your company, a flexible work policy can change over time, depending on the needs of your organization, employees, and the market. Top management needs to be aware of any changes in flexible work – not only for the organization itself, but for the industry and market as a whole.
One way to stay updated on innovations in flexible work is by attending webinars, meetings, and conferences. It’s one thing to read up on remote work, but it’s another (more useful) thing to experience it firsthand.
One conference you may want to check out is the TRaD Conference (Telecommuting, Remote, and Distributed). It is a community event designed to bring companies together that have already gone remote, as well as offer insights to those that are looking to bring more modern ways of conducting business to their workforces.
Companies can successfully implement successful flexible work policies in a variety of ways. By looking at what other companies are doing and then tweaking these programs to their own needs, companies can guarantee flexible work policies that meet the needs of everyone involved.
Brie Reynolds is the director of online content at FlexJobs.
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