Organizations that do not allow employees to work from home are missing out on a strategic business advantage. A research study by Stanford shows that employees who work from home have 50 percent less turnover and are 17 percent more productive (almost a full day per week).
The study shows that instead of employees slacking off their responsibilities, they actually worked harder and were happier overall.
Ctrip, the largest Chinese travel agency, had a 50 percent turnover rate. Allowing their employees to work from home four days per week cut their turnover rate in half. The study also showed they took fewer breaks and sick days and were more productive per minute.
Most employees I speak with who work from home validate this study. They consistently work longer hours and are more productive because they have fewer interruptions. In fact, some employees even save their toughest work for their work-from-home days, because that is their most focused time of the week.
Even if you are starting from scratch or a little skeptical on designing a work-from-home program for your organization, you can begin to reap the benefits by considering these five success factors:
1. Decide what measurable outcome the company wants before you make a change.
What is the outcome you are planning to achieve? Want to reduce employee turnover or increase productivity? Then consider a more flexible work-from-home program. If you are facing a collaboration or innovation issue, it may be better to stay the course with bringing people into the office and make a different change.
Regardless of the challenge you face, make sure you measure the results of the change to ensure you get the intended result.
2. Clarify expectations to your employees.
In making any big change, it is important to clarify expectations. Clorox Corporation makes this crystal clear; they know if you're working when you work from home based on your results.
The top-rated CEO in America, according to Glassdoor, Benno Dorer at Clorox, leads with this philosophy, which he told to CNBC: "What I care about is results, versus how many hours you put in." He went on to explain, "I think all of our employees take great ownership of the work and the results. But I don't care if you achieve those results working from home, or working in the office, or if you sent an email at 11 p.m. or 11 a.m.--that is up to you."
It's also important to clarify expectations for working hours, availability, and communication.
3. Experiment when it makes the most sense.
Your company does not have to go all-in on work from home. Try it one day when there is inclement weather, a day before a holiday, or a major traffic disruption--like the president is visiting town. Notice the impact on productivity on those days.
You can make this day even more productive by helping your team brainstorm a list of ideal work activities for their work from home.
4. Be flexible.
Try one of these smaller scale work from home versions first, and measure the results before you go all-in.
- One day per week. Allow employees to select one day per week and then coordinate with the rest of the team.
- Half-days. Only a portion of work activities truly need to be done at the office.
- Fridays. Pick the slowest office day of the week.
- Seasonal. Review your calendar for the least busy season for your organization. Implement a modified work-from-home schedule during for that period.
5. Allow flexibility with the flexible work arrangement
When you're striving to reduce turnover and increase productivity, it is important to consider employee preferences and how their preferences may shift after the newness of working from home wears off--otherwise, your efforts may be counterproductive. After the Stanford study was completed, half the employees who worked from home decided to come back to the office because they felt "lonely."
Now it's time to give your organization a productivity boost by considering how a work-from-home initiative can fit with your organization.