The universal challenge that businesses face, whether SME or large corporation, is the ongoing need to find, recruit and retain skilled employees. The conventional bureaucratic norms of the average workplace are shifting rapidly, as fluid mobile technology has made it possible to work seamlessly from anywhere in the world.
Telecommuting is another digital transformation that some businesses have been slower to adopt. Concerns around supervision, disrupted team communication, and even moonlighting (working freelance while being paid salary to work from home) are all concerns for businesses considering the option of hiring remote workers. We’ll talk about some of the legitimate benefits to hiring remote workers, and why it may offer a solution to many recruitment and retention challenges.
The Skill Gap and Talent Shortage Is Regional
Specific to the technology industry, demand for talented and experienced workers, middle managers and executives exceeds supply in virtually every major market and tech hub. While both universities and technical colleges report an increase in IT graduates, businesses maintain that finding and recruiting employees within the sector remains a challenge.
There are several factors that contribute to the skill gap in major centers. First, the cost of living in cities or known technology hubs is disproportionately higher than suburban or rural areas. Young professionals may be willing to rent accommodation at a premium cost, if it places them in the center of a high-demand job market. However, as needs change and workers mature, the desire to own an affordable home can push workers into seeking employment elsewhere. The most experienced candidates may not be willing to work in urban areas.
Increasingly however, it is a matter of competition between employers that presents the most difficulty when it comes to retention of technology professionals. Salaries continue to increase in proportion to demand, and perks including flexible work hours, employee benefits including additional vacation time or profit sharing, and other incentives create a competitive environment in the industry. Tenure for IT professionals is impacted as opportunities loom with competitors.
The ability to hire salaried remote workers, solves the problem of recruiting employees to where your business or headquarters are located. By offering some positions as telecommuting roles, businesses can pick from a much larger pool of skilled professionals.
Studies Suggest Employees Are More Productive at Home
In a survey by the Harvard Business Review, called “Global Workplace Analytics”, the data revealed that 53% of remote workers indicated that they were more likely to work overtime in their role. Comparatively, workers in the same field and level who did the conventional 9-to-5 grind in the office, were less likely to put in extra hours; only 28% of respondents said they stay late at the office.
Why are staff more willing to put in extra time and effort, when they work from home? The study discussed the environmental factors of a home office. At home, many workers feel comfortable, and enough removed from other distractions in the workplace that they perform better in their duties. Consequently, they enjoy working from home as a perk (which offers better lifestyle balance, eliminates transportation costs and frustration). Telecommuting salaried staff work harder, because they are appreciative of the arrangement, and grateful to their employer.
Employees Save Money by Telecommuting
There are definitive economic advantages to working from home, that employees value. While businesses may struggle to finance perks and benefits to successfully recruit key talent or experienced executive leadership, the flexibility to work from home proves to be one of the most powerful considerations that can be offered by employers.
In urban centers, as we touched on briefly, the cost of commuting into the city is not only monetary; it costs time, effort and inconvenience for many workers to travel into an office that is located more than 45 minutes-drive from their home. Longer commutes have the effect of burning out staff in terms of energy level and alertness, before they even arrive at the office. Transportation can add on average 5 to 10 hours to the workweek of unpaid, exhausting travel that becomes a detriment to retaining talented staff; long commutes are not sustainable, and they are a motivating factor when employees leave.
Making it Work
Technology has to be in place, not only to allow the worker to complete daily tasks from home, but also culturally and collaboratively, to ensure that there is seamless communication between in-office personnel and remote workers. Intranets are useful to allow real time discussions between managers and subordinates, and project software (proprietary or third-party) to track progress, scheduling and other address daily administrative needs.
We found excellent telecommuting software recommendations in this article from Inc. Magazine. Video conferencing through Skype is another useful tool to keep teams engaged with virtual face-to-face meetings. Instant messaging and conference call software like WhatsApp or Slack are also valuable to teams. To retain the personal connectivity between the in-office staff and remote workers, where possible, periodic meetings should be scheduled for in-person opportunities to connect, and share, to avoid distance workers from feeling isolated.
Virtually every large corporation offers the opportunity to telecommute for different divisions, where the arrangement makes sense (without impacting productivity). If your business is struggling with the recruitment or retention of roles that could be redesigned to “work from home” it is a cost saving advantage worth considering.