Companies recognise benefits but find management of remote workers challenging. October 21, 2012
Employers understand that allowing employees to work more flexible hours or even telecommute is a good way to improve staff morale and productivity, and win a reputation as a great place to work. In reality, however, issues of trust, security and technology are causing companies to look twice at implementing flexible or remote work policies, according to research released today by specialist finance, accounting and technology recruitment firm, Robert Half.
In a survey of 201 human resources directors across a broad range of industries in Australia, 85 percent agreed that non-financial benefits, including flexible time, have a positive impact on staff retention. However, while almost one in three (30 percent) of HR decision-makers surveyed said they are actively planning to implement a flexible work scheme to improve staff engagement in the next twelve months, currently 84 percent of companies either never let employees work from home at all (16 percent) or do so only on an individual basis (67 percent).
“As technology improves and attitudes toward work-life balance evolve, more and more employees are looking for opportunities to use their commuting time more effectively, either by working remotely or by choosing the times when they will be in the office,” said Andrew Morris, Director at Robert Half. “Companies are recognising the trend, but management norms have not yet adapted.”
Asked their reasons for not allowing employees to work remotely, 30 percent of HR directors cited security concerns and 29 percent said lack of supervision was the issue. An additional issue for companies is the management challenge represented by a dispersed workforce. HR leaders said that they find it more challenging to manage remote workers compared to workers on site and only 58 percent said that remote working policies were in place.
“Managing remote workers poses a different set of challenges from managing workers on site,” said Morris. “Companies can address these challenges in part by maintaining open channels of communication and being very clear about what is expected of employees and by when. But it is also essential to have the appropriate technologies and policies in place to ensure that employees are able to access company networks without compromising the security of confidential data.”
“Companies are right to have a certain healthy paranoia about remote working, but that paranoia is best addressed through good technology and tight internal policies,” concluded Morris. “Flexible time and remote work can be powerful motivators and may result in significant morale, retention and productivity improvements. But a flexible work policy needs careful implementation and close supervision to be effective.”
Robert Half offers the following advice to companies for implementing an effective remote working policy:
Set and manage expectations: Employees who choose to work remotely need to understand that the work still needs to be done to an appropriate level of quality and on deadline. Be sure that these expectations are clear and that there are consequences for non-compliance.
Keep channels of communication open: Don’t rely solely on email, schedule regular calls and consider solutions such as web conferencing to give you more “face time” when employees work remotely. Online collaborative work tools can also allow staff, no matter where they are, to contribute to projects. Internal use of social media, properly managed, can also help dispersed teams work effectively.
Implement clear policies: Create a set of policies that outline specifically the conditions and circumstances under which employees are allowed to work remotely. Include regulations on data transfer and security as well as job performance and use of social media tools. Work with your information technology personnel to set up and manage the requisite security protocols.
Manage devices appropriately: As more employees seek to use their own devices for work-related tasks, companies need to have in place policies relating to management and, where necessary, remote deletion of data. Give serious consideration as to whether you want to provide devices to employees or let them use their own.
Monitor data access: Use technology effectively to provide employees with an appropriate level of remote access to corporate networks but be sure that access is tracked and logged. Use encryption and data security methods to monitor usage and prevent misappropriation.
Robert Half Australia is the world's leading specialised recruitment firm and the first to provide placement services for accounting, finance and information technology professionals. We also provide hiring and management advice.
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