Making Long-Term Decisions About Working from Home

It can be a tough scenario to confront: First you had your employees working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they want to stay there permanently.

Should you allow employees to continue working from home more than they have in the past? Or do you think “This just isn’t working” for one or more employees? There are numerous factors to consider.

What’s in it for employees?

It’s little wonder that employees want to stay roosted in their home offices. An employee who stays home typically spends less money on expenses such as commuting, a work wardrobe and going out for lunch. Also, work-life balance factors in: Depending on one’s home location, employees can save as much as four hours a day or more commutingtime they might prefer spending with their families or friends, or just for themselves.

Working remotely also tends to boost morale and job satisfaction, various surveys have shown. Employees who’ve once worked from home sometimes say they can’t imagine any other lifestyle.

What’s in it for employers?

The higher employee morale and job satisfaction from working from home can lead to reduced turnover. And the option to work remotely can be a selling point during the recruiting process.

Employee productivity may climb, too. Some employers worry about remote employees slacking off, but research suggests the opposite is true. One Gallup poll, for example, found that remote workers log an average of four more work hours every week than their in-office colleagues.

Additionally, there are cost factors to consider. Now more than ever, employersincluding nonprofitsare looking at ways to reduce costs. Those who have a portion of their workforce at home are likely to save money on big budget items, such as office leasing, and smaller ones, like supply costs.  

How’d the trial run go?

During the last couple of months, you’ve likely observed your at-home employees’ productivity and work quality. Here are some questions you can ask yourself (and your managers) when deciding whether to make working from home a long-term option:

  • Are employees logging in more work hours from their homes than they did in the office or, if you don’t measure this, does it appear that way?
  • Is the quality of individual employees’ work as good, less good or better than it was in the past?
  • Has there been pronounced difficulty communicating with employees — or with your employees communicating with your nonprofit’s audiences?
  • How is staff morale for example, are employees over the moon about the possibility of remote work becoming the new normal?

In some situations, with some employees, you may decide that the work-from-home option hasn’t really worked. Factors coming into play include employees’ work ethics and job responsibilities. For example, if an employee’s duties in the past have revolved around effective face-to-face communication with the people your organization serves, you may want to return to that practice in a post–COVID-19 world.

If you’re considering a policy that allows some employees to work from home and requires others to work in the office, you’ll have to carefully draft criteria and policies.

Other employersand your organization

Research firm Gartner in April released the result of a March 30 survey of more than 300 CFOs and business leaders. Of those responding, about one in four expected 10% of their workforce to remain remote after the pandemic. Those pro-work-from-home views, gathered early in the nation’s crisis, may have expanded, as many employees continued to work from home for safety reasons well past the survey date.

Whether you decide to allow your employees to permanently work remotely daily or on a limited basis is up to you and your leadership team. Customize your plan to your organization and the people who work for it.

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