Telecommuting has more than doubled in the U.S. since 2005. Whether you work from home full time or one day a week, or you work in an office with a team that’s partly remote, you’ve likely felt the effects of this trend.
If you’re involved in the flexible-work trend (or finding your own flexible gig), you’re probably familiar with FlexJobs, one of the best places to find telecommuting, flexible, part-time, and freelance jobs. Sara Sutton Fell is CEO and founder of FlexJobs and also the founder of remote-work resource site Remote.co. We asked her for tips for better productivity while working remotely, plus her perspective on how organizations’ approach to flexibility is changing.
With so many professionals now working from home, what new skills do we need to teach employees to help them stay productive, happy and balanced?
One of the most important skills is proactive communication. When you work from home, you can't catch someone in the hallway to ask them a question, or head over to someone's cubicle for an impromptu chat. You have to make the time for conversations and questions happen by being proactive. Whether it's regular meetings with your manager or co-workers or making an effort to have "water cooler" conversations with colleagues, asking them about their weekends, their hobbies, etc., you have to be more deliberate about having those conversations when you work from home.
Some of the other important skills for people who work from home are:
- The ability to focus yourself and your attention.
- The ability to draw a line between your work and personal life (people who work from home are actually more likely to overwork than those who work in an office).
What changes have you seen in how companies view and offer flexibility? What changes in company policies have surprised you?
Over the years we've definitely seen positive growth in terms of companies adopting flexible work options. More well-known companies than ever before are embracing flexible and remote work options, like Dell, Xerox, Aetna, Deloitte, and UnitedHealth Group, just to name a few. And they're not only allowing their team members to work that way, they're also openly discussing the benefits and ROI of such flexible work programs. I've had the pleasure of interviewing leaders at these companies to get their insights.
One of the things people might find surprising is the number of companies that are choosing to operate entirely remotely. While still relatively small compared to the overall remote-work trend, these companies offer a lot of valuable insight into how to succeed with remote and flexible work. At Remote.co, we've interviewed leaders from over 100 companies that operate mostly or entirely remotely, and by sharing their experiences, they are making it possible for more workers and companies to see flexible and remote work as a good option.
For leaders at traditional companies, change can be hard. Do you have any tips for creating a more flexible work environment, even at large/traditional companies?
There really needs to be support for flexible work from the top down. When senior managers and the C-suite show their support for flexible work options, it makes employees at all levels feel more comfortable making use of work flexibility. When a VP talks about how they work from home and encourage their teams to do so, or a senior manager discusses using flexible scheduling to find better work-life balance, it sends the signal that the company takes flexible work options seriously.