Sick of High Turnover? Let Your Employees Work Remotely

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High turnover rates often result from a combination of factors. Fixing the issue completely generally requires extensive audits to identify all the reasons why employees are heading for the door.

But while you’re doing all that investigating, you might also want to try one relatively easy way to increase employee happiness and loyalty: Offer remote work opportunities.

Companies that offer remote work options experience 25 percent less turnover, according to “State of Remote Work 2017,”  a report from Owl Labs and TINYPulse.

In explaining the report’s findings, Owl Labs CEO Max Makeev references a remote work pilot program offered some years ago by the MIT Sloan Executive Education department. The department found that offering remote work opportunities had significant positive impact on employee engagement, morale, and trust.

“This is incredibly impactful, because employees who feel trusted work harder and are more engaged at work,” Makeev says.

It makes sense that remote work would make employees feel more trusted. When you’re working from home, no one is breathing over your shoulder. Managers aren’t constantly hounding you to get your work done.

“You instead need to set strong goals and objectives, have strong communication with your employee, and trust him or her to be a professional,” Makeev says. “Don’t you feel good when your boss trusts you?”

Nah, That Would Never Work at Our Company

One thing keeping many companies from implementing remote work programs is the worry that such programs simply won’t fit the company’s business model, or that certain tasks cannot possibly be carried out remotely. These beliefs, however, are often based on narrow thinking or misconceptions about what remote work actually entails.

According to the report, 57 percent of employees who don’t work remotely say their job doesn’t allow for it. According to Makeev, this line of thinking is especially common among HR professionals, who feel they need to be there in person in order to support team members.

“Is that fair?” Makeev asks. “HR is just as important of a function as marketing or sales, for example. Managers need to think about how to make small adaptations to job functions so at least some flexible work is possible. If remote and flexible work is not a universal opportunity across the organization, that’s going to make some employees appear to have more privilege than others, and that’s not right.”

Understanding the challenges that may arise for managers and employees will be key to implementing a successful remote work program.

“Managers have a learning curve to understand how they need to adapt their leadership techniques to more naturally fit a remote work style,” Makeev says. “For example, we found that remote employees have fewer career conversations than their in-office counterparts. This indicates another unconscious bias. Managers also may use visual cues to trigger career conversations, or to decide when someone may be up for a new challenge. The better approach is to evaluate each team member’s impact equally regardless of their location.”

One of the most common misconceptions about remote work is that remote employees are unable to communicate efficiently or collaborate with teammates. The right technology and processes can assuage these fears. For example, video chat technology can make meetings with remote employees feel as personal and collaborative as traditional, in-office meetings.

Everybody Else Is Doing It

Your employees want to work at home at least part of the time because they know plenty of other people who are doing it. Fifty-two percent of workers surveyed in the report said they work from home at least one day a week. If you don’t give your employees the option, odds are they will find more flexible opportunities elsewhere.

It’s time to give up the stigmas attached to flexible work. Most positions in most companies can work flexibly to some degree. Trust your employees, and they’ll be inclined to pay you back with more loyalty, higher productivity, and better performance.

By Jason McDowell