Remote work is on the rise. 43% of employees now work remotely at least part of the time, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace. Buffer reports in its State of Remote Work that 66% of companies allow remote work, and 16% have a fully remote workforce.
These numbers are encouraging to employees who have yet to convince their employers of the benefits of remote working. Nowadays, people expect employers to have some flexibility when it comes to telecommuting or remote work. In fact, 68% of all U.S. workers believe they will work remotely at some point in their careers.
Why remote work is on the rise and here to stay
Why is remote working so popular? The obvious answer is the technology that makes it possible for people to work together while apart. But the remote working trend is also driven by company finances and employee preferences for a more flexible work/life mix. In the competitive talent marketplace, remote working is a desirable benefit.
Employees who work from home spend less time commuting and less money on transportation and clothing. People who work from home at least once a month are 24% more likely to report feeling happier and more productive at their jobs.
Research has also proven that remote employees are more productive. A Stanford University study found a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home. They also saw a 50% drop in resignations when employees could work from home.
Remote workers miss fewer miss workdays. They don’t come into the office spreading their new cold around. Remote working lowers overhead expenses. Some associations even end up selling a large HQ building and moving to a smaller space.
Since remote working doesn’t limit you to local applicants, you can cast a wider net and have access to a larger and more diverse pool of talent.
What’s the state of remote working in your industry?
Your association can help individual and company members adapt to the challenges introduced by this new way of work by providing professional development programs and other products/services related to remote working.
But first, you need to find out about the state of remote working in your industry or profession. Don’t reinvent the wheel if someone else has already done the work. Search for industry-specific research reports. Talk to the HR teams of large employers who may have done this work already or know someone who has.
Or, do your own research with polls, surveys, and discussions with a diverse selection of employers.
Provide education to help members adapt to remote work
A recent study found that remote workers and their managers say insufficient training is a big challenge. Employers are concerned about employee productivity, focus, and engagement. Managers need help with expectation management and performance evaluation of remote workers.
For-profits have discovered the growing market for remote work education and resources. In fact, Workplaceness even has a Remote Work Certification program. But your members would do better by having industry-specific education on the topic of remote working, both for managers/employers and individuals/remote workers.
Remote work education for employers
Employers need help preparing to go remote and supporting both remote and office employees. Become their preferred educational provider before someone else does. You could supplement online courses, stand-alone modules, and webinars with virtual monthly or bimonthly roundtables for C-suite executives, HR teams, and supervisors of remote workers.
Program topics could include:
• Making the decision to offer remote working and how to do a cost-benefit analysis
• Compliance issues
• New processes and procedures
• Cultural changes
• Data security
• Reimbursement policies
• Virtual teambuilding
• Communication and feedback
Remote work education for employees
Provide the same mix of content—online courses, stand-alone modules, and webinars—to address the four biggest remote work challenges for employees:
• Unplugging or switching off after work
• Isolation and loneliness
• Collaboration and communication
Remote workers also need help dealing with the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Many of them report a lack of trust, feelings of being an outsider, and lack of social support.
Host virtual roundtables where participants can share advice and resources related to a monthly topic. Offer informal virtual coffee chats where conversation can be prompted by a participant’s question or a posted article everyone reads ahead of time. In these more free-wheeling conversations, participants can share tips and experiences while developing a support network.
The impact of remote work on your association
Take advantage of this new opportunity to provide professional development to the individuals and companies in your industry. At software company Bynder, they lock everyone out of the office during their Remote Week. The COO said many employees dedicate the time they would have spent commuting on professional development instead.
If many of your members are remote workers, suggest they put commuting time saved to use with your online educational programs. But, beyond education, how might remote working affect a member’s interaction with your association or chapters?
Is there a need for a special interest group (SIG) or online community group for remote workers, or for the HR teams and virtual team leaders at member companies? What about a virtual chapter?
Remote workers theoretically have more time for volunteering. Do you post a list on your website of microvolunteering jobs they can do from home?
Remote workers may more intensely crave the company of fellow professionals since they don’t have the daily watercooler interactions of their office-bound peers. Think of ways you can add more discussion, networking, and relationship-building opportunities to your association’s existing programs.
Check out these resources if you’d like to further explore the benefits and challenges of remote working:
• Achurch Consulting’s blog takes an association slant on remote working.
• The website Remote.co is “for all things remote work.”
• Follow the Twitter hashtag #remotework for current articles and resources.
Remote working is here to stay. In pursuit of your association’s mission to help your members thrive, you can become a valuable resource for education and conversations on remote working.