It’s a safe bet that in many businesses there’s a big disconnect between management and staff. Official company policies may exist that most employees aren’t aware of while other rules might simply be routinely ignored. Then there may be common company practices that aren’t codified but should be. Business owners complain about employees who are unproductive or disorganized, but all too often ignore the obvious causes. Confused? Who wouldn’t be?
This lack of coherence was made apparent to me while I was working on a project with Microsoft. The resulting eBook, Work Without Walls, examines the best practices of small and mid-sized businesses that have remote-working policies. [FREE registration required to download eBook.]
Before you say your business is too small or too interconnected to have a remote-working policy, think again. Obviously, there are certain kinds of businesses, such as retail stores or restaurants, that can’t support remote workers. But for most other businesses, allowing employees to work remotely can result in a happier, more productive workforce, not to mention a significant savings in operational costs.
A recent Microsoft-sponsored survey conducted by 7th Sense Research, Microsoft’s Best Midsize Cities for Remote Workers, yielded some intriguing responses:
- 60 percent of employees reported they could do their jobs remotely.
- 73 percent of the companies surveyed didn’t have a formal policy in place that allowed employees to work remotely.
- Only 14 percent of staffers said their companies were “fully supportive” of remote working.
Comparatively, over half of the large businesses surveyed reported having formal remote-working policies in place.
Christoph Wilfert, the general manager of Microsoft’s Small and Midmarket Business Solutions group in the U.S., says he too was surprised by the disconnect between employees and employers. Wilfert believes that businesses of any size can benefit from implementing remote-working policies. “Supporting a remote workforce through a combination of a smart policy and the right technology reduces the need for expensive real estate and overhead costs, offers workers flexibility, and increases job satisfaction,” says Wilfert.
James Sinclair, CEO of OnSite Consulting, a six-year old, 64-employee business in Los Angeles, agrees. After instituting a remote-working policy, OnSite went 100 percent virtual last year, saving $1 million on rent and other overhead costs. Sinclair himself was the guinea pig for testing OnSite’s policy. “It was primarily me that started the process, evaluated the technologies, and encountered or had to overcome the obstacles,” says Sinclair. “Once the tech was in place, we started the rollout.”
Sinclair says his staff became more motivated once the policy was enacted. He says that some staffers “had the opportunity to learn new talents, grow within the company, and become income generators.” This mirrors the findings of the Microsoft survey:
- 72 percent of employees said they prefer to work at home.
- 52 percent said they were more productive when working remotely.
- 44 percent claimed there were less distractions when working away from the office.
Microsoft’s Wilfert says if business owners use the right technology, they can “save money, drive profitability, increase collaboration, and empower employees.” Sinclair agrees. When his company went virtual, it switched from physical servers (which can be space hogs) to online, Web-enabled, cloud-based servers. (OnSite uses the Microsoft Exchange Server Online and SharePoint Online.)