When I started my career, going to work meant getting in my car, sitting in gridlock, working until quitting time, then doing it again in reverse. Today, while many workers still follow this daily routine, increasingly it is not the norm for others. More and more workers are trading rush hour traffic for the “slipper commute” from the kitchen, with their morning cup of coffee, to their home office or dining room table.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, “Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed.” They also report that 40% more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago. Still, only 7% make it available to most of their employees. While this represents a small portion of the total workforce, if you ask employees what they want, 80% to 90% of the U.S. workforce say they want to telework at least part of the time.
Are remote workers actually working?
Managers have been known to make the argument that if an employee is not physically in the office or workplace, they aren’t being productive. However, an often-cited study found that remote (or home-based) workers were 13.5% more productive than office workers. Home-based workers generally find that there are fewer distractions and disruptions, not to mention more time to work, given that commuting time is eliminated.
What about remote worker well-being?
We might assume that the flexibility of working remotely leads to greater well-being. A remote worker can replace time spent commuting with exercise. They can step out at lunch and take a walk. They can stock their refrigerator with healthy foods and avoid the temptation of workplace treats. All of the above may be true but it takes great personal discipline to develop and stick to these good habits.
Seven ways to boost remote worker well-being and maximize productivity
Here are ways employers can show these employees they know they are there, and they believe in them:
- Offer well-being educational programs via webinar or broadcast. Consider recording each session and creating a library for employees to access anytime.
- If massages or other on-site perks are offered, provide comparable discounts or offer reimbursements to remote workers.
- Set up team-based, virtual well-being challenges so that all employees, regardless location, can feel connected around a fun topic.
- Establish meeting policies to use video conferencing whenever possible. Have meeting facilitators actively encourage participation from those connecting remotely, as well as those in the room.
- Provide educational sessions for workers who are new to working remotely. Topics may include: setting work/home boundaries, benefits of establishing structure, routine and a schedule, and healthy habits for home.
- Utilize cloud-based collaboration workspaces to keep distributed teams connected.
- Seek additional ways to stay connected. Regular contact with managers and colleagues is essential to keep remote workers from feeling forgotten.
As the number of employees working from home continues to grow, we need to create remote-friendly workplaces. Remote workers are valuable members of your organization. Keep inclusion and well-being top of mind.