Remote Working Policies Can Benefit Small Business

Working RemotelyRemote working is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. First, because of a project I’ve been working on with Microsoft to develop an e-book, “Work Without Walls,” that examines the best practices of small and midsized businesses with remote-working policies. A survey conducted by 7th Sense Research that we used in preparing the e-book had some interesting results.

Among the small businesses surveyed:

  • 60 % of employees said they could do their jobs remotely, and 72 percent prefer to work at home;
  • 73 % of companies surveyed didn’t have a formal policy allowing employees to work remotely;
  • just 14 % of employees said their employers were “fully supportive” of remote working.

By comparison, more than 50 percent of big companies in the survey had formal remote-working policies in place.
Remote working has been on President Obama’s mind too. On March 31, the White House hosted a Forum on Workplace Flexibility where government officials, CEOs and others discussed ways technology can enable remote working. The Washington Post says the president used the example of the storms that closed down Washington this winter to show why remote working is so necessary.

A report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, released at the forum, highlighted benefits of remote working including “reducing absenteeism, lowering turnover, improving the health of workers, and increasing productivity.”

The same benefits are borne out by the results of a report by The Telework Coalition, “Wired Working as a Lifestyle,” that found:

  • businesses save an average of $20,000 a year for each full-time employee who works remotely;
  • employee productivity increased by an average of 22 % when remote working was allowed;
  • remote working reduced employee turnover by 50 %.

One entrepreneur I talked to while working on the “Work Without Walls” project says his 64-person business went completely virtual a year ago. The move saved him $1 million on rent and overhead-and made his staff more motivated and productive.

My partners and I work virtually all the time. We couldn’t run our business without it. As I write this column, I’m working from home-and when my home’s Internet service went out temporarily, no worries because I was able to drive a few miles to one of my partners’ homes where she, too, was working remotely and hop on her wireless.

The world of work has changed with the recession, and chances are you’ve already made some adjustments to your work force. As you ramp up for the recovery, you may want to use more flexible work options – part-timers, outsourcing and flextime – to get the most from your employees. Enabling remote work is a necessity for this to happen, so if it’s at all possible for your business, I strongly suggest you investigate the options. Technological innovations have given us so many more solutions now, such as storing your company data “in the cloud”, which also protects your data in case of disaster and saves space, energy and storage costs.

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.