How many of your organization’s employees are working at home? Nationwide, it’s estimated that before the coronavirus outbreak, more than 40 percent of U.S. office employees worked remotely at least part of the time. That percentage has of course skyrocketed with the advent of social distancing.
Telecommuting has numerous benefits to employers (such as more productive and engaged workers) and employees (less time and cost involved in commuting and greater work-life balance).
Yet Gallup research suggests that telecommuting yields the most benefits to employees and employers when workers do not spend 100 percent of their time at home. According to Gallup, workers are more engaged when they spend some of the workweek working remotely and the other part working in a location with their coworkers. Any amount of time the employee spends at the office helps, even if it’s minimal. The optimal engagement boost, according to Gallup, occurs when employees spend between 60-80 percent of their workweek working off-site and 20-40 percent at the office. Something to keep in mind after the COVID-19 outbreak ends.
Why does Gallup recommend employees spend some amount of time at the office? Numerous factors come into play. One important one is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind issue. Telecommuting workers on average are as productive or even more productive than employees who work in the office and who have long commutes and greater distractions to deal with. But when an employee is in the same office as their manager, it’s easier for the manager to see and recognize achievements and for employees to engage with their colleagues. When the manager and employees are in different locations, there are fewer opportunities for this to occur. That can leave telecommuting workers feeling undervalued and less engaged. Managers need to make sure they are celebrating the successes of — and offering advancement opportunities to — both in-office workers and telecommuters.
Another reason why a 100 percent telecommuting plan is not always ideal is that fully remote workers do not get that opportunity to connect with their co-workers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Human beings crave connection with others. Employees form bonds with other employees in office break rooms, lunchrooms and at the water cooler and coffee pot. Even small amounts of face time with co-workers and managers can help increase the odds that an employee’s telecommuting efforts are successful for everyone involved.