Remote Work: Flexibility Equals Happy & Productive Employees

by Jobbatical September 14, 2017

Today’s post is brought to you by Melissa Doman, M.A., a consultant who increases employee happiness and productivity.

“I hate being in this cubicle every day like a caged animal. If this printer doesn’t work, I swear I’m gonna Office Space it.”

“I wish I could go off backpacking for a year and work remotely. I feel like people would just judge me say I’m running away from life.”

Photo by siam.pukkato / Shutterstock.

Two months later, your Director-level star employee quits. Feel like that came out of nowhere? Sorry to break it to you — it didn’t.

Have you heard employees around your office mutter similar statements? These aren’t just your typical, “a job is a job, you’re don’t need to like it” woes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had individual coaching clients come to me who are close to quitting their jobs or have already quit. They’re totally down in the dumps, saying, “I love my work, I just couldn’t take that office,” or, “I just can’t seem to find good opportunities in my town, I want more.”

The discussion I have about remote work with these people is like giving oxygen to someone who’s been under water. They get wide-eyed and say in a tone of relief, “I had no idea I could do that — this changes everything.”

For these weary souls, time and time again, it’s been a case of them ignoring the fact that they aren’t traditional office workers and see office buildings as a corporate fortress of doom because they need the freedom to work remotely to be productive and feel balanced.

There has been an amazing shift happening in the world of work these past few years.

Photo by Natalie magic / Shutterstock.

There has been more of a focus on work-life balance, accessibility through technology, working smarter not harder, and changing how & where we work.

Organizations are slowly coming to realize that having a one-size-fits-all approach to work- force design, particularly around having all workers in an office space, is a notion of the past.

Look at it this way.

A company is like an ecosystem. There are many different components that are a part of it that are each responsible for their own portion to maintain the overall system.

Each of these elements have their own set up of how they survive and thrive, but at the end of the day, they all work together to keep everything sustained and functioning. This is exactly how employers should be looking at the conditions under which they allow employees to work.

Some people find comfort in doing their work in an office with tangible office items they can touch, employees they can be around, and the routine of their commute.

Other employees feel these things would stifle them to death and are way more effective in their job, churning out work like a mill, if they can work in solitude on a balcony with great wifi from their cabin in the woods.

Photo by Rock and Wasp / Shutterstock.

Neither of these approaches are better than the other as they both have their place and pros & cons.

The key is giving employees the option of which they should use so they can work better, feel happier in their environment, contribute more to the company mission, and most importantly, want to stick around.

In the last couple of decades, studies have shown that the environment in which employees do their work has just as big of an impact on employee happiness, productivity, and well-being as the work itself.

At this stage of the game, ignoring this undeniable information is ultimately what leaves some employers back in the dust while their competition beats them out with higher levels of productivity, better employee communication, heightened employee morale, and low turn-over rates.

Companies which demand that employees must be in one location, for very strict hours, and no variability is not only a sentiment of a time gone past, but it also sets a tone of distrust in employees to get the job done effectively on their own watch as adults.

Believe me, employees feel that, and they won’t hesitate to go off to greener pastures to employers that welcome them with a culture of trust and flexibility.

This is not to say that you should let employees run wild with no sense of accountability. There’s something to be said for still creating a culture of accountability and telling your workforce that no matter where they work from, you want them work hard, be a part of the mission, and deliver like they’re meant to.

I’ve consulted for numerous employers, having to drill them with data and employee reports showing that their workforce was begging for more flexibility. The employers who listened saw a dramatic improvement in employee overall productivity, well-being, and overall improvement in communication throughout the company. The employers who disagreed and didn’t listen? Well, let’s just say they have trouble holding on to good talent these days.

That’s not to say that having a brick and mortar office is bad. Having a hub, the centralized loca- tion where a company sits, absolutely has its advantages. However, companies must remember that just because you have a foundation and template where your company sits does not mean that all employees fit that mold, from both a geographic location and work style perspective.

To this day, my heart sinks for those people who feel they need to live by a ‘prescribed’ way of carrying out their career. These folks will go to great lengths by doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result (i.e. working in traditional 9–5 office jobs, hating it, and repeatedly quitting).

How does this turn out for the employee? Usually anxiety, depression, career dissatisfaction, IBS, chronic stress, migraines, or a general overall sense of, “Cross me in the slightest way and I’ll cut you.”

How does this turn out for the employer? Companies that have spent valuable time and money training up these people, are left up **** creek without a paddle and having to start the recruitment process all over again. Expensive and irritating, no?

The way to avoid this issue is simply this: expand your sourced talent pool and invest in providing your workforce with the technology they need to be successful and stay in constant contact with one another from anywhere across the globe.

This means (if you don’t already have it) purchasing required platforms that will facilitate efficient digital meetings. Whether it’s GoToMeeting, Zoom, or Slack — there are so many options out there. This also means creating accountability and timing check-points so employees know to check in with one another come hell or high water to make sure everyone is on the same page.

People are willing to work hard for something they believe in, but for you the employer, it’s up to you to create the environment in which they can thrive to do that work.

Whether that’s in your 2,000 square foot open concept office space in Silicon Valley, or letting them work from their apartment Barcelona, there are so many combinations available to make it work.

So are you going to keep with the pack and stay with the times or dig your feet into the past? The choice is yours.

Melissa Doman is a master’s level coach, consultant, psychology expert, and globetrotter (35 countries and going strong). Melissa has over 8 years of experience in helping hundreds of young professionals and small businesses get from where they are to where they’d like to go. Melissa’s business is remote and has coaching & consulting clients around the globe. Caution — the side effects of working with Melissa are: clarity, a sense of purpose, and caffeine-like levels of motivation. If you’d like to get in touch with Melissa about services, please visit her website at or email her at [email protected].

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