Now is an exciting time to be in the workforce – new technology breakthroughs seem constant, new business models appear every year and the potential to make a change in our world has never been more possible. But, with all the opportunities to make a difference and embrace these changes, there is an equal chance of letting fear of change or concern of the unknown let you completely miss out.
Take the PC as one example. Perhaps you know someone (likely an older person) who is not comfortable working on a computer. They might have one, and are likely on email by now … but not by choice. Not being able to take advantage of all the information on the world-wide web today would seriously diminish what shopping, communications and decorating ideas (just to name a few) you might never have even considered.
The same can be said of a remote workforce. If you still believe the best worker is one who is sitting in front of you in an office, then you might be that person who felt computers were a waste of time back in the 1990s.
Based on recent research, of those who work from home:
• 91% feel they get more work done when working remotely
• The happiest home workers work 7 days a week (with shorter hours)
• 92% are happy in how they receive feedback
Given the difficulty to learn a new skill and catch up a decade’s worth of learning and education overnight, perhaps now might the right time to consider starting a remote workforce policy? Of course, this type of program may not be applicable for all workers, but knowledge workers and sales personnel engaged in complex sales can likely do their job just as easily inside or outside of the office.
To that end, here are five factors to consider that might change your perception of remote working – to be the catalyst to start your new pilot program.
1. Time spent working from home is no less productive than in the office.
In the category of distractions, they exist everywhere. From the office conversations that occur at the coffee machine to searching online to buy something. As a parent, these distractions can be never ending, and include homework follow up, after school activities and other issues that need to be solved. These interruptions can occur anywhere – at home or at work – so why not gain the advantages of a work-from-home sales force if the level of distractions is a constant?
2. In the office, the smart phone may be the biggest distractor.
Based on a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, employers cited that the biggest productivity killers in the workplace were cell phones/texting, the Internet and the workplace. On the road, however, a smart phone becomes a productivity tool. It connects you to customers, co-workers and your boss. It reminds you of pending appointments, tells you when to leave by to arrive on time and is an excellent administrative assistant. The same tool, but two completely different perspectives. Turn a negative into a positive by encouraging work from the road.
3. Remote workers are happier, so are more pleasant when engaging in work activities, sales calls and customer inquiries
(Source: https://goo.gl/2ZCMZI). Given the personal nature of sales in the developed world’s service economies, the relationships that are built right are the ones that deliver better sales results. No one wants to be sold, but everyone wants to have problems solved with a trusted advisor. Having the right state of mind is a critical step to achieve service differentiation. If the competition has a happier remote sales team, what do you do differently to compete?
4. Expand the pool of available job candidates by removing geographic constraints from the search.
Do you work in an industry where it is difficult to find and retain your best workers? Select cities have incredible competition to hire staff. Bidding wars have been known to break out in locations such as the Silicon Valley, when a never-ending demand for engineers and sales engineers has made it nearly impossible to attract and retain top candidates without paying dearly in salaries, bonuses and other job perks. A remote workforce can be sourced from a far larger region, opening new options to locate your next ideal employee.
5. Productivity management tools now exist.
Just because remote workers are out of the office doesn’t mean their work can’t be tracked, managed or documented. Given the reliance upon smart phones, email and other digital tools, activity spend during these activities can be readily collected, analyzed and compared to easily reveal which workers on your team are the most productive, and those that could use with some coaching.
Changing times call for changing strategies. The challenge is that sometimes these changes are not always understood until after the transformation. Companies are expected to stay competitive and maintain or expand market share. But, this isn’t possible by resting on your laurels. New techniques must continually be evaluated and tested. This strategy applies to technologies, IT systems, management styles and remote work policies.
If you don’t yet have a remote worker policy, perhaps now is the time to consider. For those that do have a policy, have the results been quantified? Do you need better visibility, or do you know enough to consider your program a success? We all can benefit with continued education. The classroom may be right outside your office, or, perhaps across the cyber-reaches of today’s remote sales teams.