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Want to Make Remote Working Work? Do You Really?

Woman works on a computer from her bed

While Austin has been named the telecommuting capital of the country, not all of its employers are enthusiastically on board. Last year IBM, which is a major Austin employer, raised eyebrows by ending its decades-long love affair with remote work. As much about 40% of the company’s workforce has telecommuted since 2007, so summoning most of these employees back to the office—when they had never worked there in the first place—is a big deal. Facebook, Apple, Google and others have or are creating Austin workplaces centered around face-to-face, in-office interactions.

At the same time, Round Rock, Texas-based Dell, Inc. declared it wants half of its workforce to work remotely by 2020. “We are pushing for a culture where it simply doesn’t matter where you work from,” Mohammed Chahdi, global director of HR services for Dell, told the Austin American-Statesman’s Lilly Rockwell. Canonical, Mozilla and MySQL agree: Most of their employees work remotely, too.

“The irony is that technology makes remote work and collaboration easier. Yet the companies making this technology aren’t fully taking advantage of it,” writes blogger Fred Perrotta, who cites nuanced reasons why startups tend to bring workers into the office. Collaboration and communication seem to be the biggest reasons the C-Suite fights telecommuting, reasons that have come under harsh criticism.

What gives? Who’s got it right?

What Are Your Priorities?
The decision to allow telecommuting depends on your organization’s culture and goals. It can also differ between departments and positions. Here’s what we do know:

  • As of 2017, approximately 43% of employed Americans said they spent “at least some time” working remotely.
  • Remote workers are fairly evenly split between genders: about 52% of remote workers are female.
  • Employees reported that they’re 77% more productive when working away from the office, but other studies disprove this and argue that employees who have more chance encounters and unplanned interactions with colleagues perform better.
  • Nearly 80% percent of workers are more likely to accept a job offer that includes at least some telecommuting. That number jumps to 86% of employees under the age of 34.

“While offering telecommuting can be good for recruiting, though, don’t feel bullied into offering into it if it doesn’t seem right for the organization,” says Craig Patterson, Director of Professional Services at The HT Group. One recent study shows up to 40% of remote workers report a lack of timely information and information from management that can be critical to succeeding in their jobs. “Those communication problems can be crippling for sales teams and others who rely on real-time collaboration from all levels of the organization.

Put a Policy in Place
We also know that 57% of companies lack a remote work policy, even among those that allow telecommuting. Such a policy can help define boundaries and establish clear rules on who can telecommute, when, and how they can do it. For instance, collaboration company Trello enforces that remote employees must have a dedicated office with a door that closes and a fast-enough Internet to support video calls.

Dan Medlin, manager of talent acquisition at ARM, the world’s leading semiconductor IP company, says that they require the use of specific collaboration tools. “Tools like WebEx and are low-cost alternatives to connecting staff, customers, partners or vendors virtually,” he says.

Recruiting Manager Kevin Tougas of Austin-based global mobile commerce company Mozido adds that they require certain hours for collaboration. “While we don’t have traditional set hours, we do have core on-site hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in order to promote our agile organization,” Tougas explains. For more about how ARM and Mozido make flexible work arrangements work, look at this previous article.

Find the Right Fit
Even if you decide remote working works for your culture, it may not be right for every employee. We’ll leave you with this comprehensive infographic by Hubstaff that can help you find the right job candidates for remote positions: