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Top 5 reasons you should let employees work from home

Did I write this column from the dock or my office? You can't tell – and that's the point
Remote workers
If you believe in the merits of solid HR, you can’t ignore the option to let employees work remotely when possible. Shutterstock

By Todd Humber

Did I write this column while sitting on the dock at the cottage? Or did I write it from my office at Thomson Reuters?

You can’t tell, and it doesn’t really matter. But I can — and it can make a big difference in the quality of my life and the pursuit of work-life balance.

For the record, I am firmly ensconced in my adjustable, standard issue office chair in a climate controlled environment and not basking in the dockside sun. (Sad, given the all-too short Canadian summer.)

But I am a big proponent of working remotely where circumstances and technology allow. Additional pay, benefits or vacation time can be a tough sell to management — but giving employees the freedom to work remotely is a powerful low-cost perk.

Plus, you’d be hard pressed to find a more appreciated benefit anywhere in the HR toolbox. With that in mind, here are the top 5 reasons you should let your staff work from home:

1. No commute. Sure, I can only blame myself for my long commute — but I spend one hour each way driving from my home to the office. That means, in any given month, I’m spending a full 40 hours behind the wheel. If I work from home just one day a week, that’s 10 hours a month — or 120 hours a year — that I’m getting back.

Plus, how many times have you faced a clogged drive only to feel like a zombie when you finally make it to the office. A stress-free stroll from the bedroom to the home office is the best cure for the commuting blues.

2. Child, elder care. There is a 100 per cent chance you have people on your team who are either caring for young children or elderly parents. (Or both.) Giving employees the flexibility to help cope with things like child care or the peace of mind that comes with accompanying dad to his specialist’s appointment pays off in spades.

3. Productivity. Most employees are far more productive when they work from home. They tend to start working earlier and stop working later — plus, there are usually fewer distractions away from the office. Nobody barging into your office, no lineup of employees at your door.

4. Retention. Everybody I know who can work from home talks about “how hard it would be to leave.” One study by Fidelity Investments in the U.S. found 38 per cent of millennial and gen-X workers would be willing to take an average pay cut of $7,600 US ($10,000 Cdn) for improved “quality of work life.”

As the workforce ages, key employees will be more likely to stay on as they approach retirement age — even in a transitionary period — if they can work regularly from the cottage. Or even for months on end from a winter home in sunnier climates.

I’ve heard stories of employees renting a beach house for two months, but only taking two weeks’ actual vacation. The rest of the time, they’re working full-time from the vacation spot — and enjoying evenings and weekends with family in the resort town.

5. Did I mention it was free? I did? Ok. But, frankly, it’s the best selling point about working from home so it’s worth repeating: It doesn’t really hit your budget. Many office workers already have all the equipment they need — a laptop, smartphone and Wifi is all it takes. That, and a healthy dose of trust from management.

If you’re remotely (no pun intended) concerned about whether your employees are truly working when you can’t see them chained to a desk, you probably have the wrong staff. Or a misguided — and I’ll say antiquated — view of leadership.

It’s a simple reality – in many modern occupations and workplaces, it doesn’t matter one iota where the work gets done. Companies that embrace that will have lower turnover, higher productivity and higher engagement scores.

If you believe in the merits of solid HR, you can’t ignore the option to let employees work remotely when possible.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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