Remote work has exploded in popularity over the past decade. The increase in technology and accessibility has made it a convenient choice for both companies and employees. In fact, remote work has grown 173% since 2005 as many businesses in all industries take advantage of its benefits.
The past year brought extraordinary changes to the working world as we know it. One of the biggest and most noticeable changes is the unprecedented new levels of remote work. At the height of COVID-19, approximately one-third of all Americans were working remotely.
However, working from home takes more consideration than simply making sure each worker has a laptop and Wi-Fi. It means adjusting teamwork, leadership, and support to address the opportunities and challenges inherent in working from home.
With the right tools and expectations in place, though, many organizations find that they can run a profitable business, lower overhead costs, and improve worker morale with remote work flexibility.
With that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind about remote work and how a home readiness survey can make it an effective option for your company.
Why You Should Consider Remote Work for Your Organization
The need for social distancing created an opportunity for many organizations to try out remote work for their non-essential workers on a temporary basis. Companies that were hesitant to allow their employees to work from home had no other choice than to put remote work practices in place.
While COVID forced companies to speed up the transition to working from home, many have found that it comes with distinct benefits. Leadership is also finding that there are advantages for their businesses as well.
Some key benefits for remote work are as follows:
- Increase in diversity. Remote work increases the diversity of a company's workforce by reducing barriers for disabilities, eliminating unconscious bias, and promoting safe communities for minorities. As companies strive to encourage diversity, remote work can be a powerful tool.
- Lower logistics costs. Companies saved about $5 billion in 2018 with remote work. In fact, this estimate only includes part-time workers, so full-time remote workers can help deliver even more significant savings. Working from home reduces the costs of working in an office, such as rent and utilities.
- Expanded talent pool. It can be challenging to find the best candidates to grow your business. That is why 62% of HR managers stated that talent shortages drove them to create a more flexible workforce. Not only is the talent pool larger, offering remote work also makes companies more competitive. In fact, two out of three workers would take a new job if the commute were better, and 36% would even take it over a pay raise.
- Improved retention. Remote work encourages employees to stay loyal to the organization. Almost 95% of companies reported that remote work had a positive effect on retention. Another survey found a correlation between remote work and retention rates.
Set your remote workers up for success with a Work from Home Readiness Survey
To ensure that the transition to remote work is successful, your employees' emotional support should be a top priority. Giving support will help workers feel more hopeful and productive about significant changes as they begin to work from home.
In addition to the emotional adjustments that come with working from home, there are practical considerations to keep in mind, too. Employees who are on the ground can spot holes in your remote work plans that leadership cannot.
An employee survey can help provide vital insights into the emotional and practical aspects of working from home. Before taking the plunge into remote work, a survey can help employees avoid many uncomfortable challenges that could otherwise arise. Also, regular surveys are also a healthy habit for teams already working remotely. Leaders can check in with their remote employees to assess and adapt to any changes.
With all this in mind, here’s a categorized question template that is proven to provide insights and help your team operate more effectively.
Employee Survey Questions to Assess Productivity
- Overall, I am able to work effectively from home. (1 being strongly disagree, 5 being strongly agree)
- I feel that I am as productive working from home as I am in my normal working environment. (1 being strongly disagree, 5 being strongly agree)
- Is there anything else we can do to help you be more productive at home?
Leaders have long been hesitant to take advantage of remote work because they worried it would harm productivity. However, research shows the opposite. Believe it or not, a comfortable environment (such as the home) allows employees to get more work done.
One survey found that remote employees were about 20% to 25% more productive than their in-office counterparts. The lower stress of working from home at least partially contributes to this increase in productivity. People who work from home at least once a month are 24% more likely to report feeling happier and more productive.
Encourage Productivity from Home
While it can typically improve productivity, working from home can also present different difficulties. Great management can help you and your team overcome them.
There are times when employees need space to get deep-thinking work done. In the office, they may invest in headphones that both drowns out noise and signals to coworkers their need for space. However, Slack notifications, management check-ins, and other online distractions make this more difficult at home.
To encourage productive deep work, institute "quiet hours" where communication is minimal to promote concentration. Instead of random check-ins, schedule recurring one-on-one time to keep communication as contained as possible.
Employee Survey Questions about the At-Home Environment
- I have a dedicated desk in my home. (Yes/No)
- I have a comfortable chair to use at home. (1 being strongly disagree, 5 being strongly agree)
- I have a private working area in my home. (1 being strongly disagree, 5 being strongly agree)
It can be tempting for your team to roll out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, and get to work on the couch. However, the right set-up is vital to your employee’s productivity and well-being. It helps create a separation between work and free time, and provides an optimal work environment so they can be as productive and engaged as possible.
Make sure that your employees have thought through the practical plans of working from home. The right home work environment ensures that they can get into the right work mindset when they sit down at their computer and engage fully with the work they need to do.
Encourage a Successful Work-from-Home Environment
Depending on your employees’ home life and environment, they may need to be intentional in creating a home environment. If they live in a small apartment with roommates or have children schooling remotely, for example, they will need to be creative in their setup.
Encourage all of your employees to think through their plans to work from home. Explain to them the need to create a separate space for both their engagement at work and their well-being in their time off. Some advice to give includes:
- Have a space dedicated to work. This can be as elaborate as a home office or as simple as a spot at the kitchen table.
- Keep set hours. A lack of consistency in hours can make employees feel like they’re working around the clock and never get to escape. Encourage set work hours so they have time to be engaged and relaxed.
- Get ready for the day. Take some time to put on work clothes, have breakfast, and brush your teeth. These kinds of rituals put your mind in the right place to begin working. Never work from your bed.
- Switch it up. If it’s a particularly tough day to get motivated or it’s been a long week, get out of the house. If it’s possible, take your work to the park or a local coffee shop. Make sure to stay safe in a public environment, however, by using a company VPN for privacy and following security protocols.
Employee Survey Questions about Cybersecurity and Technical Set-Up
- I have or one or more monitors set up in my home. (Yes/No)
- I have a strong internet connection in my home. (1 being strongly disagree, 5 being strongly agree)
Remote work involves relying on technology at an even higher level than working in an office. Any lapse in technology can result in missing or delayed work. It also leaves companies more vulnerable to a data breach, especially if employees do not abide by established security practices.
If your employees lack the proper technical set up, it could result in serious security concerns for your company. Having their own dedicated computer helps ensure that their information will not be compromised.
Also, take the time to understand their internet situation. According to Broadband Now, almost 42 million Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet. Not only does this prevent them from working efficiently, it can cause cybersecurity concerns. Workers can be forced to use unsafe internet connections, such as a public Wi-Fi, and potentially compromise your data because of it.
Provide the Right Tech for Success
Providing your employees with the right technical equipment should be your top priority. Ensure they have a monitor at home and provide them with one if they do not. Also, many companies source legitimate hotspot areas if they lack the proper internet.
Companies need to make sure that they establish smart technical practices before they begin remote work. Teach employees and enforce smart password safety practices to discourage hackers. Reduce vulnerability with VPN networks to guard against data breaches.
Employee Survey Questions about Workers’ Preferences
- Do you prefer working from home or working from the office? (Home, Office, Mix of the Two)
Your employee’s preferences will have a large impact on how they approach remote work. However, most employees will likely be excited by the changes. In fact, one study found that three in five remote workers surveyed said that they would like to continue working remotely.
There are challenges to remote work, though. Remote work can run the risk of isolating employees and weakening company culture. A lack of camaraderie between colleagues and less visibility overall could result in feelings of isolation and loneliness.
This question gives employees a chance to express their preferences. A flexible work environment, where employees can work in the office or home as needed, is the future.
Get a pulse on their preference to help direct how you approach a flexible work environment moving forward.
Create a Supportive Work-from-Home Culture
Some people on your team might prefer working in an office. But there are ways you can support them while they’re forced to work remotely.
For example, organizing team-building activities can give employees the chance to bond even if they can't see each other every day. You can also promote collaboration and teamwork to problem solve and encourage communication. Beyond that, you can find ways to bring all employees together online from time to time to build relationships and encourage team work.
Once you understand your employees' general situation, you can come up with practical solutions to make sure they can work as productively as possible. Plus, you can make plans for the future when there is more flexibility.
Create a Strong Culture Remotely
For most companies, in-office only is no longer an option. Whether hybrid or totally remote, a flexible workforce can cut down on costs and entice top talent.
Working from home can be incredibly effective with the right planning, support, and flexibility. Start by asking your employees the right questions to understand their work-at-home situation and how you can best help them.
From there, you can create suitable schedules and policies to make sure they are as productive, efficient, and happy as possible. Build team morale with virtual team-building activities and look for ways to give recognition for employees that go above and beyond.
An increase in communication, transparency, and recognition will make remote work for your company. As a result, your workforce will be more productive and happier, and your company will be more profitable. What’s not to like?