As originally seen here. Became a trending topic on LinkedIn!

Companies of all sizes are looking for ways to reduce costs, and employees make up the biggest expense. How can employees stay happy and productive while employers lower their biggest cost? There's one big way, and it will help in a variety of areas: allowing more employees to work remotely.

Depending on your organization, likely many employees are sharing the same space. This leads to distractions and loss of productivity. As we covered before, this cost companies billions of dollars each year. Allowing someone to work remotely removes those distractions and allows them to work in an atmosphere where they are most comfortable and when they are most productive.

For some of us, mornings are less than ideal. We don't start really being productive until afternoon or even late evening. Allowing an employee to work when they're at their best instead of pigeon-holing them into a 9-5 office grind benefits the employee and the company.

So how will it lower costs? Allowing an employee to work from home will reduce sickness in the office and encourage employees to stay home when they feel sick, instead of coming to work and sharing whatever they caught. Each year, poor health has hurt this country, costing roughly half a trillion dollars each year. 39% of that amount is due to the loss in productivity that occurs from an employee being sick, whether they are recuperating at home or trying to work but not functioning well.

Employees with children will work better from home instead of calling out whenever a child is sick. Parents with young children can stay at home longer, resulting in stronger company loyalty. Since they are at home with their children and not in a rush to get back to work, children can stay at home, too, lowering the amount of sickness that spreads.

Allowing employees to work remotely is especially beneficial to those with certain disabilities. Someone I know has to have someone come help him get up and dressed every day to go to work, then again when he gets home to undress and get back into bed. When he's at work, his sole job is sitting at a desk. Why is this not something he could do at home, without having to have someone come help him? Those with chronic fatigue issues -- such as hypothyroidism -- will be able to take a nap in the middle of the day and wake up refreshed and ready to work, instead of trying to push through the day.

As the costs of traveling to work diminish, employees have more money to spend elsewhere. As one car company discovered, employees were more likely to purchase a car from their employer. They lowered costs while increasing productivity, profits, and brand loyalty.

Obviously, the downside of this is being unsure if your employee is actually working or if they're playing Angry Birds. There are programs out there, though, that monitor work from home. An employee starts up the program, which marks the time, and begins working. The program will take screenshots at irregular intervals, so the employee never knows when it's going to happen, and they don't have access to those screenshots, so there is no concern over editing or deleting. There are some programs that go so far as to log keystrokes, but this is an area to be careful in. It's one thing if an employee is goofing off; it's another if they check their bank account real quick. These programs also allow for a camera feature for employees who don't spend a lot of time at the computer.

If you choose to monitor an employee, state guidelines vary but it's a good idea to let the employee know in advance, and not monitor personal areas, such as a bathroom or bedroom.

Another potential downside is security. While your company may be secure, John Doe's laptop from home isn't likely to be. If you provide the computer, there are apps you can install that allow you to remote wipe if an employee goes MIA. If this is not the case, there are virtual private networks you can look into that extend your company's secure network.

Here's what one remote employee had to say about it. "[O]ne of the advantages for the company in hiring remote employees is the ability to pay at the level where the employee lives. I am paid 10% less than I would be paid if I worked at the office due to locality. I also miss out on office politics, the occasional luncheon with the crew, going home early when the boss gets a particularly nice feeling, and all of the great access to on-site facilities. OTOH, [On The Other Hand] I don't have to pay (in money or time) for an expensive wardrobe, transportation, eating lunch out, saying "good morning" to everyone, being stopped on the way to the bathroom for "one quick question," etc."

Not every employee will work best remotely, but for those that do, it is something more companies need to be considering.

Prime Financial Recruiting is a recruiting agency specializing in the asset-based lending, factoring, and purchase order finance fields. 

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