Work From Home (WFH) became standard for many employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the challenges of working from home combined with the challenges of a global pandemic have given remote work a bad reputation. Enter Work From Anywhere (WFA).
The Difference Between WFA and WFH
WFH may be seen by some as a form of confinement, but that was not the intention behind its development. It was intended to provide employees with freedom and flexibility, but it falls short for what many employees need and crave.
While the WFH movement began far before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, that reality is how many people view working from home. Unlike WFH during the coronavirus pandemic, when many states were locked down and remote work policies were created overnight, Work From Anywhere is about empowering employees to think and work in the ways where they are most productive. It’s about providing employees with flexibility so they can live and work in ways that benefit their physical and mental health, as well as their careers and families.
One big difference between WFH and WFA, although created with the same principle, is the difference in flexibility. WFH usually means just that – working from home and possibly working in the office. But WFA gives the opportunity for employees to work from home, the office, a coffee shop, a co-working space, on the road, another country, and more. WFA allows employees to keep working when they experience big life changes; this provides them with financial stability and support during those challenging times.
TechCrunch sums this up very well:
Many of us will choose to work from home, and many of us will habitually return to the same working environment each day even if it isn’t our home. That’s fine. Flexibility doesn’t mean constantly changing everything up – it means we can change things when we want and need to.
In this working paper, it shows that remote workers who are allowed more autonomy in their work perform better than employees who work in an office environment.
Not only is the flexible WFA environment critical to see increased productivity, but so is the autonomy. Companies can only see this benefit when implementing a WFA policy if they ensure leaders and managers give their direct reports room to breathe and work.
Increased Real Salary
When employees can work from anywhere, many choose to move to places that have lower costs of living. This increases their real salary without the company needing to pay them more.
Expanded Talent Pool
When companies implement WFA policies, they no longer need to hire based on location or proximity. You can then hire from around the entire globe without being concerned about moving expenses.
Improved Employee Retention
Many employees would accept a WFA job that pays a little less than an in-office job that pays more. After employees WFA, many of them will stay with your company because they prefer the flexibility.
WFA can also help senior employees extend their careers. This study found that senior employees who were offered WFA opportunities took advantage of them and moved to their retirement location, such as Florida, while continuing to work. These employees often provide such in-depth knowledge to companies, especially for newer employees, and being able to work with these senior employees for a longer period of time benefits companies long-term.
Consolidate Technology and Tools
When you transition to a WFA environment, you may realize that you have many technologies and tools that perform the same tasks. Consolidate them and then mandate the use of common tools for everyone. This will help ensure no messages or work gets lost in an old or insecure tool.
You will also want to determine your device policy. Do you purchase devices – including laptops, mobile phones, and VPNs – for your employees? Do you provide them with company tools? Or do you offer partial reimbursements for personal devices?
Implement In-Person Meet-Ups
If you have employees who work near one another geographically, then consider implementing in-person meet-ups. This is especially beneficial for those who do similar types of work. This small investment in time and money helps employees make connections and spurs learning.
Start with Trust
Trust must be at the core of all remote work or it will fail. This Inc. article says if remote work turns into distanced micromanaging, WFA may not see any benefits.
Before implementing a WFA policy, get feedback from employees. Ask employees if their managers micromanage them already. Ask managers how they will manage from afar. Then consider offering training for all employees to help everyone transition to the WFA environment.
If your company lacks trust between employees, it may be best to pause the WFA initiative.
Start with Independent, Experienced Employees
Employees who work fairly independently and know how to do their jobs well are more likely to excel in a WFA environment. This means that new employees who are learning on the job may not be ready to WFA.
It also means that not all roles are suited for WFA. Some jobs require a lot of collaboration that isn’t ideal for remote operations. Still, other jobs require specific equipment and technology that isn’t readily available or feasible for home use.
However, it is important to note that some companies that operate 100% remotely have all staff members who work remotely, whether they are new or experienced, so there must be more research on this topic.
In the end, be careful about who you allow to WFA. Some employees may need additional support than others, so you will also need to anticipate how you will support remote employees, especially if they are transitioning from an office environment.
Develop Cost Allocation Decisions
In addition to making technology decisions (and who is paying for what tools, devices, and software), you also need to decide what other items you will cover for WFA employees that you would typically cover in the office.
- Do you cover internet expenses? If yes, do you cover this even if some employees work in public areas, such as coffee shops and libraries?
- Do you reimburse employees for coffee and snacks, whether they make it at home or purchase them at coffee shops and stores?
- Do you cover co-working expenses? If so, how do you reimburse those who opt not to use co-working spaces?
Concentrate on Outcomes
Typically in an office environment, employees focus on how many hours they work. They clock in and they clock out. In-between those times, they work. In WFA environments, the focus switches from getting hours into achieving certain outcomes.
This is hard for many leaders and managers. This principle goes back to trusting your employees. Managers are tempted to monitor their remote teams, but this often does more harm than good. Instead, managers and leaders should focus on how employees are pursuing and achieving outcomes. This means ensuring employees maintain quality work and fulfill deadlines, not that they promptly reply to emails and Slack messages.
According to this Forbes article, WFA calls for greater trust, not more surveillance. The article goes on to say “it’s far better to establish clearly defined outcomes and then trust people to achieve those objectives in whatever ways they deem best.”
Are employees more productive when they can work from anywhere? Yes! Just as employees are more productive when they work from home versus the office, they are even more productive when they can work from anywhere, whether that’s from home, the office, or somewhere else.
If you’re transitioning to a WFA environment, we can help you migrate your people and technology onto a unified suite of collaboration services. Learn more about our professional migration services at this link.