Rebecca Hawk is the product manager for ASAE Business Services, Inc.
The most common benefits you’ll hear from advocates of remote work are probably flexibility and focus. But there are a slew of others that don’t come up as often and should be considered when you make decisions about remote work options for your staff.
For hyper-connected millennials, work can happen just as easily while eating breakfast at home, after dinner in the evening, or at coffee shop over the weekend as it can at their employer’s official place of business. And that’s increasingly true for older employees and managers, too, as they look for ways to balance career responsibilities with life outside of work.
“Remote work” can mean a number of arrangements, and the definition isn’t consistent across organizations. In some workplaces, all employees work somewhere other than their employer’s office, all or most of the time. Other organizations have policies in place for employees who need to work from home temporarily due to weather, transportation, child care issues, and other unexpected events. Many offices maintain a mix of flexible hours and remote work options for their staff members, according to individual needs.
In a recent survey, more than half of employees said they feel just as connected, if not more connected, to their colleagues when working remotely.
More and more employers are embracing remote work options in whatever form best fits the needs of the organization and its workers. Regardless of the details, allowing employees to work remotely brings important advantages, including a few that aren’t touted as often by advocates. Here are a few:
You’ll have more options when recruiting. When you offer the option for remote work, your candidate pool automatically expands, and your reach is no longer limited by geography.
Your organization—and your employees—will save money. In the not-for-profit world, budgets are often tight, and remote employees can help the bottom line. If a whole staff works remotely, you remove the cost of permanent office space and office services. Even with a few staff working remotely, you’ll cut down on small things like coffee and tea refills. For employees, savings will come from decreased commuting costs, added tax write-offs for working from home, and eating meals and drinking coffee from their own kitchens rather than from the deli down the street from the office.
Your staff will have more opportunities for professional development and networking. While many employers fear losing the in-person connections between colleagues that comes along with proximity, it turns out that there’s not much to worry about. In a recent survey, more than half of employees said they feel just as connected, if not more connected, to their colleagues when working remotely, compared to when they work in the office, because they have more intentional conversations and interactions enabled by online communication systems.
Your remote team members are also likely to forge new connections with other professionals. They will probably spend at least a few hours a week working at their favorite coffee shop, coworking space, or library, and there they’ll build relationships with people from outside the organization. They’ll also have the flexibility to attend daytime professional development events. That means they’ll expand their personal and professional networks—and by extension, your association’s network as well.
Your staff will be healthier. Employees are more likely to eat more healthfully (because they’re more likely to cook for themselves) when working from home than when at the office. Plus, without a commute, employees gain flexibility in terms of child care, time for exercise, and the ability to take short, productivity-boosting breaks, among other things. For many employees, this flexibility will almost instantly decrease stress and increase job satisfaction. And with the savings you reap on office space and services, you might be able to spring for a gym membership allowance or health spending account for your employees.
Of course, the success of remote work will depend largely on you understanding your employees’ respective temperaments and the work of your organization. Employees who are self-motivated and effective communicators should excel with remote work, but you might need to provide extra support to those who need more guidance. For many associations, remote work can be an excellent solution to improving employee morale without straining the organizational budget.