Since the lock down in March 2020, many of us have been adjusting to working from home full-time. As such, lots of people predict that working from home will become a more commonplace in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, with full-time office work beginning to go ‘out of fashion.’
However, we predict that working practices will go one step further as they change and evolve. Evidence suggests that businesses will instead begin to adopt work from anywhere (WFA) policies, rather than work from home (WFH) policies. This would considerably increase flexibility, productivity and employee satisfaction, when compared to WFH practices and office-based work.
WFH vs WFA, what’s the difference?
Working from home is exactly that, working from a bedroom, kitchen, living room or study in your own home. For many people this means having a desktop and traditional office-style set-up from the comfort of your own home, similarly to how most people are working during lockdown.
Working from anywhere, however, is far more flexible and can cater perfectly to the needs of the business and the employee. As long as you have the right technology, cybersecurity best practices, a strong WiFi connection, and an appropriate job role, you can work from anywhere. We’ve listed below some appropriate examples of places to work under a WFA policy:
- In a designated co-working space
- In a quiet café with a strong WiFi connection
- In the office
- In a library
- At home
- On the train
- At a vacation home
What are the benefits of working from anywhere?
Ultimately, WFA provides employees with more flexibility and freedom to ‘get the job done’. Many people struggle with having an abundance of commitments that must work around an office-based eight to five. For example, employees may unnecessarily use up annual leave to attend appointments at the hospital, doctors, or dentist. Additionally, for professionals with children, it’s common to have to leave work early to attend a parents’ teacher conference, watch a performance, or pick up an unwell child from school. These unavoidable activities tend to disrupt the working day and can cause anxiety for both the employer and the employee.
However, if employees are enrolled on a WFA policy, this problem is almost entirely mitigated. Instead, workers would have the right equipment and capability to work somewhere closer to where they need to be. They could also work on public transport and work from home later in the evening to make up for time lost during the day. Wherever they choose to work, employees would be given the flexibility to schedule their day in a way that works best, for both them and the business.
There are numerous surveys and statistics to prove that flexible working would benefit employee well-being and satisfaction. Reports show that 29% of flexible workers experience excessive pressure and stress at work compared to 42% of non-flexible workers. Furthermore, they also found that flexible workers were significantly more satisfied with their work-life balance (65%) than non-flexible workers (47%).
Moreover, WFA opens more substantial doors for employees when considering their future. Whereas a WFH employee can swing by the office on their lunch break, a WFA employee can consider relocating closer to elderly parents without worrying about job security (provided that their specific policy allows them to do so). Ultimately, WFA policies are the prime option for attracting and retaining talent.
Allowing employees to work from anywhere will inevitably cut down on commuting time, which will reduce instances where employees are late because of scenarios that are out of their control, such as traffic accidents.
Furthermore, flexible working would allow for employees to tailor their day around client meetings. For example, if a worker has an off-site meeting in the afternoon, they could choose to work from a location near to the meeting in the morning, meaning that there is no need to commute from the office to the meeting later on, freeing up time for other things.
Reduced productivity tends to be a major concern for employers when considering flexible working. However, in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have had the opportunity to discover that their workforce can and do function just as effectively when working remotely.
Moreover, there is a plethora of evidence to suggest that flexible working actually increases productivity. Prior to COVID-19, Chinese travel agency Ctrip, carried out a flexible working experiment whereby they suspended all office-working for nine months. During this period they actually saw a 13% increase in productivity which they attributed to a reduction in sick days and break time, as well as a more comfortable working environment.
Additionally, the ability to WFA means that employees can choose a working environment that is best suited to the tasks ahead of them for that day. If an employee is working on a team project that involves a lot of collaboration with colleagues, it makes sense for them to work from the office that day. But, if an employee is working on an individual writing project, they could benefit more from working in a public library, where there is guaranteed silence and less distractions.
Building your team
Another benefit of implementing a WFA scheme is the opportunity to rethink recruitment tactics. Allowing employees to work from anywhere massively increases the talent pool that is available. For employees that are invited to work from anywhere full-time, location is no longer a limitation. In fact, employees could be hired from across the globe, depending on what’s best for the business. Opportunity is also broadened for candidates who are employed to WFA on a part-time basis, with the rest of the week spent in the office. It’s likely that job applicants that live further would be happy to commute the extra distance to the office for a few days a week, provided they are given flexibility with the remaining days. Ultimately, giving employees the opportunity to WFA removes the limitation of physical location. Instead, your business would be exposed to the very best talent in the job market.
Additionally, if fewer employees are office-based, there is less need for businesses to invest in bigger offices. Even if employees do work in the office part-time, they could share desks with colleagues or use communal working spaces, helping to cut unnecessary business expenses.
Things that must be considered for an effective WFA policy:
- Leadership and communication – a clear message must be sent out to all employees and communication must be first class, make sure to ask for feedback and ensure that employees are happy too
- Technology – all employees must have access to the right technology to be able to work effectively from anywhere
- Company culture – collaboration tools, like Microsoft Teams, must be implemented properly and utilized fully to ensure employees stay connected and company culture is maintained
- A coherent WFA policy – this must be thorough, relevant and accessible to ensure that working remains effective and that employees are clear about what is expected of them
Prior to implementing a WFA policy, we suggest…
Getting employee feedback
It’s a good idea to directly ask your employees what they think about working from anywhere. Although studies suggest that the majority of workers would prefer to work from anywhere, make sure to check in with your team, as this may not be the case for everyone.
It’s advisable to send out an employee survey and encourage all workers to give full and detailed answers, outlining their preferences, concerns and questions. That way, when you’re compiling your WFA policy, you can make sure to address each of these factors and tailor the policy to the needs of your team.
Surveys can be carried out manually or by using employee satisfaction software like TINYpulse. TINYpulse also allows you to continuously ask questions to your team in the style of mini anonymous questionnaires. Thus, you can quickly and easily gain employee feedback before and during the process of implementing a WFA policy.
Communicating with internal teams
As well as gaining feedback across the board, listen to what your specific teams have to say. It might be a good idea to start by talking to your HR department as they may already have some insight into employee preferences. It’s also advisable to discuss policy specifics with your legal and financial teams to identify any potential logistical issues when it comes to working from anywhere.
Adapting policies for different job roles
You should create different WFA policies for different job roles/teams/individuals (depending on what works best for you). It’s best to make your policies as specific as possible; some criteria may be relevant for some employees and not others. The key is to be as clear as possible, employees will want to know what is expected of them and how to carry this out effectively.