By Anna Johansson
Working from home is growing in popularity, both among workers and among employers. According to a recent survey, about 43 percent of Americans spend at least some time working remotely, either from home or from another location away from the office like a café or collaborative workspace. For employees, the benefits are immediate and obvious; you’ll face fewer distractions in a more comfortable environment. But some employers are skeptical of the benefits they’d see in such a scenario.
The truth is, remote work is a key development for the future of sustainable businesses.
Remote work structures affect sustainability by improving businesses’ triple bottom lines, impacting their social, environmental, and financial sustainability:
- First, allowing employees to work from home gives them an immediately healthier work-life balance. They’ll spend less time commuting and more time in their home environments, leading to higher morale and a greater appreciation for your company.
- The environmental impact of working remotely can’t be overstated. The average passenger vehicle produces 4.7 metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) every year; eliminating an hour-long daily commute for dozens to hundreds of workers could instantly slash this figure (at least in your local area).
- Repeated studies show that working from home improves employee productivity, at least for some roles. The motivation for this improvement—whether employees are putting forth extra effort to prove working from home is effective or if it’s truly a natural byproduct—is disputed, but the effect is consistently measurable. The benefits to the employer are real.
Tips to make the transition
Obviously, you can’t flip a switch and make your business fully remote overnight. Not all of your company’s roles will be easy to transition to a virtual environment, and you may still rely on paperwork or similar tangible assets for some functions.
Fortunately, you can use these tips to steadily or incrementally transition your business to a remote model:
- Use a phased approach. Instead of transitioning the entirety of your business all at once, institute a phased approach. Start with the department that seems to have the easiest transition to a fully virtual landscape, and migrate workers there one by one. As that department grows acclimated to its new environment, start working on the next department, and repeat the process. This gives you a number of advantages; you’ll gradually transition the entire business, and you’ll also learn more about the transition process as you try it out with the least sensitive departments.
- Cycle through part-time remote work rather than full-time. In a similar approach, you could transition your employees to be part-time remote workers, shutting down the office during specific days of the week, or rotating through different departments based on how much of a physical presence is required. This can help you proactively identify and correct failure points before your entire company is dependent on remote work.
- Equip employees with tools for success. The best way to ensure your employees are productive and capable is to equip them with the right devices. You’ll need to make sure everyone has a mobile device capable of handling their core responsibilities from anywhere, and a mobile hotspot to provide steady internet access, regardless of any Wi-Fi issues that may come up.
- Downsize the office. As you start transitioning to remote status, or if you intend on settling into a “hybrid” model, you’ll want to downsize the office. There’s no need for an office that holds 200 people if only 50 of them will be there at any given time. Reducing the size of your office could easily save you thousands of dollars a year on your lease (not to mention the reduction in your energy consumption).
- Create alternate work points. Even in a fully remote environment, it pays to meet face-to-face on an occasional basis. Because of this, you may consider creating alternate work points where your employees can meet and collaborate with one another. These could include collaborative workspaces, or much smaller satellite office locations surrounding the city.
Going fully remote isn’t ideal for every business, but most companies will see an improvement in their social, environmental, and financial standing by following these tips. Even if only part of your business ends up working from home, you’ll be able to reap the benefits to some degree
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Number1AnnaJo.
Image credit:krzyzanowskim Flickr