One of my pet bugbears about working from home is how many people miss out the ‘working’ part when they think about what your day. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been invited to daytime social gatherings and friends have looked put out when I’ve said no. The unspoken question is written all over their face: You work from home, surely you can just take time off whenever you want?
Of course, the answer to that is, no. I have deadlines, and even if I didn’t, there’s this odd expectation that my clients have that I will do what they pay me for. I know, it’s weird, but they pay the bills so what are you doing to do? In spite of that, the idea that working from home is some privilege is everywhere.
It’s also not uncommon for companies to think about telecommuting as being a perk. It’s listed there amongst the other inducements to take on a position. The implication is that the firm is doing you a favor by letting you work from home.
Are they right? Should being part of a virtual team rank up alongside a company car or a dental plan as a perk of the job?
What is a perk?
A perk is defined as: An advantage or something extra such as money or goods that you are given because of your job.
To create an excellent company culture, and recruit and retain the best talent, companies around the globe do offer some incredible perks to their staff. From joining bonuses, through paid volunteering via children’s Christmas parties to bacon Thursdays, there are many things that companies do to show their appreciation. So, is remote working on the same level as those?
The benefits to the employee
There’s no doubt that working from home is something that staff wants to be able to do. As of June this year, 80-90% of the US workforce said they’d like to be able to work remotely, at least part-time. This is a shame because only around a half of roles could be done as part of a virtual team and only one-quarter of people get the opportunity.
Why do staff want to work from home? Well, there’s the issue of work-life balance. Although you do still need to do the work part, you can be more flexible about it. For example, on my daughter’s sports day I got up early and worked for a couple of hours before the kids woke up so I could take an hour or so off to stand in the drizzle and cheer her on. For many parents, this is the pattern. Get some work done early, enjoy breakfast with the kids, then back to it until they’re home from school/daycare.
Then there’s dodging the commute. Not only does that mean saving money (and helping the environment) but it’s also good for their health. When I say health, I mean mental and physical. The commute contributes to high blood pressure, back pain, stress and mental health issues. It’s a killer.
Employees also know that they get more done from home. Although there’s been a rise in popularity of open-plan offices with shared space, because that’s great for creativity, it doesn’t help productivity. We all know there are times when if we can tuck ourselves away, so we’re not at our desk and can’t hear the ringing phone, we can focus on what needs to be done.
And although those all sound like they are significant benefits to the employee, and therefore a perk, every one of those things also benefits the employer.
Benefits for the Employer
Staff who work from home are happier. Happiness improves productivity and retention rates. Employees who are spared the commute don’t have to take time off work with bad backs or high blood pressure. Happier, healthier employees who get to focus on the task at hand are more productive (as we’ve mentioned before).
Contrary to the myth that virtual employees slack off all the time, you get less sick days when people work from home. Why? Because those days when you’re just feeling a bit under the weather but can’t face the commute can be turned into productive days on the couch in your PJs.
But there’s more.
If you employ a virtual team, you can pick the top talent from around the globe. What are the chances that the very best people in the world all live within commuting distance of your offices? Why settle for second best when you can hire the very best (and if you need help with that, we happen to be rather good at it).
A virtual team also gives you the chance to recruit from underexploited talent pools. There is some incredible staff out there who get overlooked because of illness or disability, or because they want to be with their children.
And it’s worth noting that working from home isn’t all upside for the employee. There’s always the issue of perception. Digital nomads are aware that people, in general, think they slack off. It brings with it a pressure to over-achieve, to compensate for the misconception.
There’s also a certain amount of leakage between work and life. If something needs finishing, it can be tempting to log back onto the network after dinner or get an early start to catch up. That means that home workers often put in more hours than their office-bound colleagues.
So, is it a perk?
Is something that works so well for all concerned something we can consider a perk? I don’t think so. Although advertising roles as remote will attract candidates, your company will be the one that benefits. Virtual teams are one of those rare, win-win situations. When it’s done right, it works for everybody.
If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance that you’re thinking about hiring remote employees for your next role. If you are, then get in touch. We’d love to connect you with the very best global talent. Not as a perk, but because that’s what we do.