For the Days When You Can’t Change the Weather

Snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or a flu epidemic—what do all these things have in common? The potential to stall your business for days or even weeks.

We’ve discussed at length the reasons why a remote work policy is a viable business strategy. Here’s a great article by Ron Thomas at TLNT.com with a refresher as it relates to the recent snowstorm in the Northeast. But what about the roadblocks that are preventing otherwise smart organizations from embracing work alternatives? I covered these points in a blog for Huffington Post, but here I want to focus on the idea of control and the role it plays in preventing us from embracing remote work options.

Having “control” over your employees isn’t a good thing. That is a word construed as demoralizing, uninspiring and dispiriting. Equipping them to do their best work is altogether different. Giving employees autonomy means relinquishing control over the minutiae of where, when and how they work. Here is a good piece from Entrepreneur about How to Give Employees Independence Without Losing Control.

As founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher states: “Be there when [employees are] having problems, and stay out of their way when things are going well.” He has a pretty good track record. Recognizing that professionals will likely behave accordingly when given the chance, we give them room to breathe … and succeed.

Personally, I struggled with the idea of how to “control” my team when I started Mom Corps. I assumed that is what I would need to do as head of an entirely remote workforce. I’m as big an advocate for flexibility as anyone, but I was still nervous. That was in 2005. What changed? Shifting my attitude of control to accountability. I can’t say it has worked all the time. Some hires didn’t function well in this environment, but in all, we’ve been highly successful and learned best practices along the way.

Understandably a 100% remote work environment isn’t possible or even right for most organizations. But the collective we don’t lose anything by introducing a policy that allows for the occasional remote workday. By having the infrastructure in place, the company isn’t completely immobilized when employees literally can’t dig their way out of their driveways to make it to the office thanks to a pop-up blizzard. Major weather events aren’t a regular occurrence? Agreed. But think about all the other life events that take place over the course of a week or month throughout your workforce and how productivity rates go up by making accommodations for working remotely sometimes.

A recent study showed that the average cost of absenteeism for a company of 150 employees is $208,000 per year. So if implementing a remote policy decreased absenteeism by as much as 17.5%, it could save a company $36,400 per year.

I can’t help but wonder—when will companies catch on? Allowing professionals to work remotely from time to time just makes sense. And sometimes, it’s our only option. Just remember, in the case of managing a smart workforce, you have to give up a little control to gain accountability.

Have stories to share about giving up control? I would love to hear them.

Tags: Flexible Work Data & Research, Benefits of a Flexible Workforce

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