As the pandemic subsides and things slowly get back to some form of normality, as a business owner, you may be confronted with an unusual question. Should you let your employees work from home (WFH)? It's an extraordinary situation because there's no modern-day precedent.
This means that there's no rulebook or convention you can turn to and that makes it problematic. To help you make an objective assessment, first, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of WFH.
When employees don’t have to be physically present in a location and adhere to office rules, it gives them the freedom to work on their terms. It gives them flexible working hours that they can customise to their lifestyle without impacting productivity. It also lets them prioritise and schedule work with ease.
By all estimates, productivity has improved among employees working from home. This could primarily be due to fewer interruptions that often occur in their offices. It could also be due to the fact that they don’t have to spend hours commuting every day.
With no use for a physical office, you get to save on rent, utility bills and travel expenses. These can translate to higher investments in new projects, marketing or remuneration.
A business that lets its employees work from home will find it easier to retain its workers. They will be less likely to forego the freedom and flexibility merely for an incremental raise. It will also make it easier for businesses to attract talent, as people can work from anywhere in the world.
When employees work from home, they will be spending more time with their families and hopefully have a better work-life balance. This will ensure that there are fewer sick days taken.
Work from home does away with all the unnecessary aspects of office life. Everyone knows their responsibilities and the timelines to finish their projects. This will make businesses more agile as they can focus on the deliverables and nothing else.
It’s difficult to monitor your employees when they are spread across various locations. While employees may love the flexibility, it may lead to competing styles of work which may actually slow down the progress of projects.
A business isn’t defined by its building or infrastructure. It is defined by the shared experiences of its employees, and their camaraderie, which can only happen in a physical office. Working from several locations denies employees the opportunity to have more meaningful interactions with each other.
Work can turn out to be monotonous when it’s purely functional and devoid of face-to-face interactions. When employees are evaluated solely by their work and not by their levels of engagement or attitudes, it can result in a drop in morale. One of the biggest problems with WFH is that it makes work transactional.
Customer-facing businesses: If you have a retail business, it will be difficult to have a WFH policy for most of your employees. You may be able to let your accounting team work from home but your customer-facing workers would need to be at your outlet.
On-site service businesses: If you offer a service for which the customer has to be at your location, like an automobile service or dog grooming, it would be difficult to transition your staff to WFH. But you may be able to take care of reservations from home.
Off-site service businesses: If you can offer your services at the client’s location, it should be easy to have a WFH model. This includes IT maintenance, spa services, electrical repair etc.
B2B/finance/software businesses: If you primarily cater to businesses or if you offer location-independent services life finance or software, you should be able to shift to a complete WFH model with ease.
When you’re transitioning to WFH, it’s important to set it up to empower your employees. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Start on a trial basis: You can begin by offering WFH to some employees or by offering limited WFH to all your workers. For example, they could work from home for two days a week in the beginning.
Make it flexible: You can also offer the option of working from the office or WFH to employees to give them a say in the matter.
Emphasise work-life balance: You should limit your working hours and keep your employees free on weekends, if appropriate for your business model. One way to optimise business communication is through a second phone line for business which will also help your employees have a better work-life balance.
Working from home isn’t for all businesses across all sectors. It depends on your business needs and whether your services are tied to your office. But it’s good to have a phased migration to make it easy for both businesses and their workers.
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