Nearly a third of today's workers are doing some or all of their work remotely, and that number is only going to grow as worker bees decide it is their "right" to work from wherever suits them. However, many employers who still believe the calendar is stuck at 1980 are resisting embracing the remote-work concept. These employers are not only fighting a losing battle, but will be losing some of their top workers as a result of their limited insight.
That’s the takeaway of a study by Flex+Strategy Group and their similarly monickered study partner, Work+Life Fit.
The survey received input from 556 employees and drew conclusions about telework based on the feedback. But rather than simply reporting what they found, the research partners offered tips to employers for integrating this intelligence into their business game plans.
First, the data. The researchers felt their results “dispelled several telework stereotypes.” Among them:
- The teleworker is not a woman. Among those that telework, 71 percent were men.
- The teleworkers is not a parent. There is no significant difference between remote workers with or without kids.
- The teleworkers is not a millennial. There is no significant difference in the age groups of remote workers.
“Almost one-third of the work that gets done today gets done from home, coffee shops and other locations, yet too many corporate leaders treat telework as a disposable option, as in the case of Yahoo,” said Cali Williams Yost, Flex+ CEO. “Telework is not a perk and it’s certainly not just for moms and Gen Y. Rather, it’s an operational strategy. Think of it as anything less and organizations ignore what has become a vital part of their business and the way their people actually work.
That said, the researchers offered six tips for adapting to and taking best advantage of teleworking.
1. Understand the consequences to your business if you don’t pay attention to work life flexibility. The majority of respondents (66 percent) agreed that the business would suffer in a number of key areas without work-life flexibility, with the top three areas being health (48 percent), morale (41 percent) and productivity (36 percent).
2. Increased workloads may be here to stay but work life flexibility can help employees strategically manage their lives while getting the work done. The study found that a heavy workload and lack of time are the primary obstacles to work-life flexibility. Encourage experimentation with flextime and telework as ways to meet the needs of the business as well as manage life outside of work.
3. Position work-life flexibility in your organization as a talent recruitment/retention strategy. Avoid references that would imply a “benefit,” “program,” or “perk” that’s nice to have but not critical to the business. Language and perception matter.
4. Tackle lingering fears that keep individuals from optimizing their work-life flexibility. Respondents said they didn’t improve their flexibility because:
- 21 percent thought they’d make less money;
- 16 percent were concerned they’d lose their jobs;
- 11 percent felt others would think they don’t work hard;
- 13 percent worried that their boss would say “no.”
5. Expand the definition of work-life flexibility in your organization to include both informal, day-to-day flexibility as well as formal plans that officially change when, where or how work is done. In too many organizations, flexibility means formal arrangements only. This overlooks and undervalues the flexibility most commonly used by respondents, day-to-day, ad hoc, according to 62 percent of respondents.
6. To make day-to-day flexibility a win for the business and the individual employees, encourage communication and coordination across all stakeholder groups. The findings showed that communication related to the use of day-to-day flexibility is limited to employee-supervisor (79 percent) and employee-spouse/family/partner (63 percent). But it needs to also include colleagues and those supervised.