A national survey conducted in France in 2012 revealed that 73% of employees wished to engage in some sort of remote work arrangement, but more than half of them (53%) were afraid to ask, expecting their employers to refuse. While technological advancements are certainly allowing telework to be integrated into an organization as never before, only 16.7% of French employees were actively working remotely in 2012 (i.e., more than one work day a week away from their office).
Why you should consider remote work arrangements
Did Marissa Mayer reveal what’s on the mind of most heads of global companies when she ended Yahoo’s remote work policy in 2013? Communication and collaboration, as she noted, are a vital part of an organization and can only be achieved when everyone is in one building. But ask yourself this: How willingly will employees share knowledge and communicate on projects collaboratively, if they are struggling to keep up a healthy work-life balance, are distracted and work in a less focused way in open office spaces, spending hours trying to beat the traffic?
Besides a demonstrated increase in productivity and work-life balance (Microsoft White Paper 2011), eliminating transportation does not only increase valuable work time but also creates a non-negligible environmental benefit. Furthermore, it gives companies a recruitment advantage to tap into previously unused pools of candidates (returning parents, caregivers to family members), or raise the attractiveness of a company in a remote, less exciting location than its competitors. Flexible work structures have also been proven to retain top talent by demonstrating trust in their abilities to perform and exceed expectations without being micro-managed. In the end, it really boils down to two things: less control and more trust.
However, introducing a remote work policy does not mean every employee will take advantage of it. It will not be suitable for all positions and projects. The majority of workers actually still prefer the set 9-to-5 routine, or will only choose to work from home for a part of their working week. According to a survey on remote working in fact only 37 percent of employees made use of a formally introduced remote work policy. But that ratio might change, with the new generation (Millennials) pushing into the work force. Companies need to take note that Gen Y-ers value flexibility over money, are highly adept to connecting virtually on a global scale, and will demand a flexible workplace program in the future.
Advice for Implementation Strategies
To those who wish to engage in remote work practices, the company should provide secure network access, and enable adequate and accessible technology support 24/7. But foremost, the remote employee should remain engaged in conversations with the help of technology. The most cited disadvantages of working away from the office are lack of face-to-face interaction, difficulty communicating, and lack of accountability. New applications like Google Hangouts, Hipchat, Sqwiggle (virtual office room) and Basecamp (project management platform) or more established tools like video conferencing, VoiP, and Sharepoint can help the remote team members stay involved and feel included while raising their visibility. French companies that have started to engage in remote work practices have reported a substantial drop in the rating of their biggest concerns (1- incompatibility with the company culture, 2- the invisibility of the remote collaborators, and 3- the inefficiency of the team) after taking the leap forward (“Tour de France de Télétravail”, 2012). So, what is stopping you responding to the demand of 73% of the French workforce?