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If you love them, let them go…
Caged birds sing of freedom, free birds fly…
We could trawl Instagram quotes about freedom all day, but nobody wants to do that. We’re sure you’ve heard them all before when it comes to your personal life – but what about professional relationships? When running an agency, could giving your team more freedom improve their work and lives, and your agency as a whole?
Let’s take a little look at whether or not your agency should go free range by weighing up the pros and cons of letting your team work remotely.
It’s undeniable that remote work results in greater freedom for your employees, but it’s the benefits of this freedom we’re interested in. First, remote work can lead to a significant boost in productivity. An almost two-year study by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom in collaboration with Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency, found that telecommuting boosted productivity considerably since employees were no longer late in the mornings, nor did they leave early. Furthermore, the employees that were able to work remotely found it easier to work at home than the office due to fewer distractions. This led to shorter breaks, fewer sick days, and less time off, as well as a reduction in the attrition rate of almost 50%.
Productivity doesn’t just come from fewer distractions, though – it’s also rooted in general wellbeing. Remote working reduces stress while boosting morale and happiness by enabling better work/life balance, whether through an increase in family time or simply less time sitting in traffic. Speaking of which, remote work has the direct impact of fewer cars on the roads, which means less greenhouse gases, thus lowering your agency’s overall carbon footprint. Here’s lookin’ at you, eco-warrior.
Not having to commute also means employees won’t have to pay as much for car maintenance or public transport. This is a huge benefit to individual employees, and if your agency subsidizes travel, it could mean huge savings for you too! The real savings, however, come in reduced office space. A remote team means fewer people in the office, and fewer people in the office means less space needed. And what does space equal? Money! The same Stanford study by Bloom also found that Ctrip saved about $2,000 per employee who switched to remote working, just because of the high cost of office buildings in their city. If your team is predominantly or entirely remote working, the savings on space alone could be massive.
Improves work/life balance
Saves money on office space
Reduces commute costs
Helps to save the planet
Now we get to the “cons” part of the pros and cons of remote working employees. As with anything that looks great at first glance, there are some downsides too. First, remote work gives geographical freedom, but this can also mean some seriously funky work schedules. If your team leader is running on ET while half their team is on CET (and there’s that one guy who happens to be in Melbourne), scheduling a meeting or even a phone call can be hell.
Furthermore, a fully remote working team can potentially make project management slower and more difficult – work has to be overseen and monitored online, which can cause it to become confusing and disparate. But never fear! There are tools to solve this, such as project management software like Productive, which helps keep everything in one place and in order, and keeps workers on track through time management. The time-tracking capabilities of any software will become increasingly important if you plan on any remote workers, since this is one of the most reliable ways to keep everyone on task.
Another major issue with remote work is that after a short time, employees who are telecommuting can feel isolated, especially if they are used to a busy office environment. As an agency, you can try to combat these feelings of isolation by creating a company culture of inclusion, making time for virtual meetings, and trying to have in-person meetings whenever possible. A great way to keep virtual inclusion high is utilizing internal chat platforms so all employees can communicate just like they were in an office.
Project management can be harder
Time zones can cause problems
Can lead to feelings of isolation
A Note on Trust
A final point to consider is that remote work means having complete trust in your team. Now, this isn’t a con so much – and, really, you should only hire employees you can trust from the get go – but doing this remotely can be hard, and very rarely, people who apply for remote work may lack the scruples you look for. They may outsource their work to a cheaper country, for example. After all, free birds fly, but when they’re soaring above you, they can also… well, you know – get up to all kinds of mischief.
One of the best ways to make sure people are trustworthy is to trust them. It sounds kind of counterintuitive, and can be a bit hit-and-miss, but people often step up to their responsibilities. Furthermore, ensuring some real-world meetings, as mentioned earlier, can also help with trust; the remote workers will realize you are actually a proper, full-fledged human being rather than just a header on the emails they receive, and will be more inclined to treat you as such.
Remote work should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Weigh up the pros and cons of remote working we’ve laid out here, but also those that are specific to your agency or firm. Decide if it’s something you’d like to try and then go about figuring out how to make it a reality. Just think of some of the problems you may encounter beforehand and get the right tools to help smooth out the process, and your entire agency will be posting inspirational freedom quotes on Insta in no time.