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Why A Work From Home Policy Benefits Employees And Employers

I’ve had the pleasure of being the Senior Director of Human Resources at Clarus Commerce for five years now, and one of the many things that I love about working here is the culture.

Although culture has become a bit of a buzz word these days, at Clarus, we continually talk about it, look at it, and strive to find ways to improve it.

We’re one of those rare companies that truly “gets” the crucial connection between a strong, employee-friendly, progressive culture and attracting and retaining the best people.

One of the components of that culture is our work from home policy.

Working from home sounds great from the perspective of employees, but it benefits employers in many ways too.

Why Is Working From Home Good For Everyone?

Overall, work from home policies are a great way to offer extended work/life balance at no cost to the company. Here are some interesting statistics surrounding working from home and success.

  • Fewer distractions (for the disciplined remote worker) can lead to higher efficiency, a report from ConnectSolutions concluded. Some 30% said that telecommuting allowed them to accomplish more in less time, while 24% of those surveyed said they were able to accomplish more in about the same amount of time.
  • Stats about remote work show that 82% of telecommuters reported lower stress levels, according to one study, and that’s a good thing not only for remote workers, but for the companies that employ them. The study by PGI, a leading provider of software services, found that 80% of workers reported higher morale when working from home, while 69% reported lower absenteeism.
  • Offering remote work options reduced employee turnover, and job attrition rates fell by over 50%, according to a study published by Stanford University.
  • Companies of all sizes report significant decreases in operating costs, remote work stats show. Here are two examples from big companies, according to a Forbes magazine report. Aetna (where some 14,500 of 35,000 employees don’t have an “in-office” desk) shed 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving $78 million. American Express reported annual savings of $10 million to $15 million thanks to its remote work options.
  • For many employers, going green is a big incentive in the shift toward remote work. In fact, studies show that employers who have embraced telecommuting have helped reduce their carbon footprint. In 2013, annual fuel consumption decreased by 680 million gallons, about 0.5 percent of the nation’s gas consumption, one study found.

While those stats certainly show that working from home is beneficial for all parties, we didn’t always have that policy in place.

How Clarus Put A Work From Home Policy Into Effect

When I first came on board, I had the exciting challenge of making some changes, building some things from scratch, and working with our senior leadership team to really put a strong emphasis on culture.

I noticed that quite a few employees were working remotely from time to time already as “one-off” days.

For example, the plumber may give you a 5-hour window, which makes it impossible to come in, but while you wait, why not work? Others were doing it as part of a more permanent schedule.

We all knew it was happening, but it didn’t feel like there was a lot of structure or guidance around it, and employees didn’t know whether working from home was a benefit officially supported by Clarus. So I sat down with Tom, our CEO, to talk about writing an official policy around it.

Normally, my experience thus far had been that Tom was not only open to new ideas and new policies, but was very excited about things that could further shape the already amazing culture we had.

It was the first time I heard some hesitancy in his voice, so I asked him to tell me what he was thinking.

He said “I have two concerns. The first is, how do we ensure we don’t discriminate when we decide whose reason for wanting to work remotely is more valid than someone else’s? What’s the criteria? And second, what is our plan if some employees don’t seem to work remotely successfully?”.

As an HR professional, this made me even more excited as I knew this meant Tom was invested in what people thought, and how we’d execute it. We talked through it and came up with a couple of guidelines.

  1. We simply wouldn’t ask for a reason. If an employee was considered to be in good standing, he/she occupied a position where the work was conducive to working remotely, and they were just as accessible as if they were in the office, why not give it a shot?
  2. We would take issues on a case-by-case basis. If we had a few folks who didn’t seem as productive or accessible, we’d give them that feedback and give them the chance to correct it. If it still wasn’t working out, then we’d simply tell them it might work better if they came back into the office.

So, after hammering out the details, we rolled out the program and watched.

How Did The Work From Policy Work Out For Clarus?

I’m thrilled to say that it’s been a wild success.

We currently have several employees who have made it part of their permanent schedule, including days from home, alternate work hours, etc. We also have two “full-time remotes” who are working completely remotely, with one of them traveling into the office every few weeks.

So far, we haven’t any issues with it. All we’ve had is positive feedback.

Productivity seems to be just as high, and it has become a huge recruitment tool for prospective job candidates.  Candidates even call it out in interviews.

Ten years ago, many candidates were just looking for opportunity, a great title/resume builder, salary, etc. These days, we almost always hear things like work/life balance, training opportunities, feeling like you’re part of a team, collaboration, a great culture, etc.

This policy has been just one step in the direction of trying to meet those needs so that we can continue to build on the rock star team we currently have.

Be Sure To Keep It Balanced

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about this policy without citing any “struggles” that some have experienced. The toughest part seems to be losing some of the face to face interaction.

I will put myself in this category, as I only work from home on rare occasion, and when I do, it works nicely. However, personally, I know I would not love doing it as a full-time remote worker.

Clarus was very kind in allowing me to work from home for two weeks following surgery I had, as I was ready to work, but couldn’t yet drive to get here. The first week was great! I was popping into meetings and interviews via video while keeping up on IM’s and emails.

However, in the second week, I missed the human interaction that I love as part of my role here. I also found myself obsessively worrying about being available every second which was silly as I look back on it.

The key to a successful work from home scenario is balance, in my opinion. You should be just as accessible as you are in the office, but you’re also allowed to eat lunch and take breaks.

Obviously, Clarus did not expect me to deviate from that, but I felt I was putting this pressure on myself. Personally, I prefer to be in the office, but I love the flexibility of having the option to work from home when I need to.

All in all, the policy has been a great success, and we’ve received tons positive feedback from candidates and employees in general.

Clarus will, of course, continue to evaluate it as we do with all policies, but I look forward to continuing to add policies and benefits that fit into our goal of having the best culture in our industry and area!

Interested in working for a company that earned a spot on Entrepreneur’s 2017 Top Company Cultures List? Want to work with people who care about work/life balance just as much as you do? Check out our job openings here.

Jennifer Bittar

Jennifer Bittar is our VP, People Operations. She has over 20 years of experience in the HR arena, including four years in the subscription e-commerce world before coming here. She has administered and managed every area of Human Resources at companies like Webloyalty, UBS Investment Bank, and Prudential. When she's not doing her HR thing, Jennifer enjoys movies, concerts, stand-up comedy, cooking, and socializing with friends.

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