Most companies that use remote shared office spaces report that their employees love them.
But is “They love it!” a good enough reason to let your employees work off-site in shared work spaces? Unfortunately, it isn’t. Successful companies know that everything they do must help them reach desirable, measurable, sound business objectives. Those organizations also know that unless offsite working helps make more money, cuts costs, or hits other measurable goals that impact the bottom line, it could turn out to be a poor choice. And we also know that if allowing employees to work remotely turns out to be a bad decision, taking that option away is bound to damage morale.
So the net is, deciding whether or not to allow your employees to work in remote coworking locations requires some strategic thinking on the part of company leaders. It is important to ask fundamental questions like these:
· What will the ROI on your coworking investment be? Allowing your employees to work remotely both saves and costs money. So, what do you project the impact on your bottom line will be?
· What specific opportunities will coworking offer you, and what is their dollar value? It can be difficult to estimate, but try to place a finite value on the benefits you can receive through coworking. Can you open a new sales territory in a new city by using coworking locations there, for example? And if you can, what will your projected sales there be? We’re talking about dollars because as you know, your enterprise needs them.
· Are there potential hidden costs or losses? It is not pleasant to think about these considerations, but you need to. Will some of your employees work less hard and become less productive if you allow them the freedom to work off-site, for example? Will it become more expensive to bring your whole sales team from multiple locations to headquarters for quarterly meetings, if you need to? Everything you do costs something. How much?
So we are talking about a business decision, not an emotional one. But let’s take a look at some other questions – some measurable, others less so - that will come to bear on your decision too.
Which of Your Employees Work Remotely Already?
Because you are a modern company doing business today, chances are that some of your employees are already working remotely. Great, but who are they, where do they work, and for how much time every week? And what are they doing?
So do a location analysis for your employees that compares what they do to where they are doing it. Some possible scenarios could include these:
· 25% of your workforce logs up to two workdays working remotely from their homes. The majority of them are parents who value the flexibility to take their children to childcare or school. Plus, they occasionally need to be home over school holidays or when their children are ill. How well is that arrangement working for you?
· 10% of your salespeople work in work share locations because those locations make it easier (and more profitable) for them to call on prospects and clients. If they had to travel to and from company headquarters in between sales calls, that would waste time,close fewer sales, and impact on your bottom line.
· 5% of your employees work from headquarters because they have to. Maybe they are tied to certain internal computer systems that don’t “travel well” and they need to be there. Maybe they are part of your top executive team that meets three or four times a day, and they again need to be there.
It is hard to place a measurable dollar value on considerations like those, but think about them anyway. When you do this kind of location analysis, you develop a usable overview of where you are now, and where using remote work locations could potentially take you.
What Specific Remote Locations Are Your Employees Using Now?
This adds another dimension to your location analysis, because you are thinking not about how many of your employees are off-site, but about the advantages, disadvantages and costs of where your remote employees are spending their time.
Here are some of the off-site working locations you might be using now:
· At partner locations. Maybe a vendor, a client or another company is allowing your employees to have “desk time” or office space in their locations. That can be a cost-saving option, and it could make sense for you. Consider the advantages, cost savings, and disadvantages.
· From offices in their homes. Working from home is a broad category. Maybe some of your remote workers are working from their kitchen tables one or two days a week due to family responsibilities, or simply because doing so is something they view as a benefit of employment. Or maybe one of your employees works from home in a different city or state, because you need to have an employee located there. Remember that there are always costs, advantages and disadvantages. If your company is reimbursing those remote workers for the cost of office equipment, a phone line or other expenses, how do those costs compare to the expenses of letting those employees work from a shared coworking space? Are there increased security risks of letting certain employees use home offices, like the chance that their laptops could be stolen?
· In coffee shops, public libraries, the YMCA and other public locations. You see people working from these locations every day in most cities. On first look, these locations seem to be “free” and offer advantages. If you suddenly need to deploy a sales force in, say, Boston, why not hire salespeople there and let them work from anywhere they can find? Maybe so, but there are disadvantages, including employee stress and burnout, the complication of allowing those employees to file expense reports that list every cup of coffee and subway ride, possible risk to company data, and more. Using those “on the fly” locations is not necessarily a bad idea. But think about it, consider your employees and what they will be doing, and try to make a considered decision that balances their needs against those of your company.
· While on vacations or traveling. “Working vacations” have become part of working today for many people. Do you encourage, or discourage, your employees from taking them? There are many considerations, sometimes hard to measure. Some of your employees probably feel better knowing they can log in and maintain control of their work while they are off skiing or snorkeling. Other employees might resent the idea that their company expects them to work while they are getting away. Do you know how your employees feel about this issue? (If not, perhaps you should ask them.) Another option is to allow employees to work from shared commercial work spaces while they are traveling. (They don’t really have to work from a corner of their hotel room while their kids play video games, do they, if a pleasant coworking facility is nearby?) Also think about any possible risks to company data, which could be greater in off-site locations or airports.
· From flexible work locations like KettleSpace. Here at KettleSpace, we are not too objective about them, because we are working hard to build every possible advantage into our locations. But because we want you to make the best possible business decision, we urge you to think about the specific advantages to your company. (If you start to use us and it turns out to be the wrong business decision for you, you won’t remain one of our clients for very long.)
Who Are You Going to Allow to Work Offsite in Shared Working Spaces?
As we stated at the start of this article, everybody seems to love the option of working remotely from shared work spaces. But does that mean that you should allow everyone to do so? Not necessarily. As we have stressed throughout this article, you are making a business decision, not an emotional one.
So,which of your employees will you allow and encourage to work offsite in shared work settings? The simplest two answers to that question are:
· “We will offer the offsite coworking option to the people who need it.”
· “We will offer the offsite coworking option when doing so helps us reach specific, desirable goals.”
Both those answers represent sound business thinking. But even within the framework they represent, companies are making the “who gets to work remotely” decision in different ways. They are offering the opportunity to work offsite in shared working spaces to:
· All employees, because it is a core benefit of working for the company.
· Employees who have special needs for it due to family, personal or commuting reasons.
· Employees who work only in certain functions, such as salespeople who are on the road seeing clients and prospects.
· Employees who have “earned it” after a certain period of service to the company, or after reaching a certain sales incentive or closing a certain number of sales.
Because you are a modern, enlightened employer, think about this issue carefully. After all, you don’t want employees who you require to work in-house to feel they are being punished or denied something they would genuinely enjoy. Part of your job should be to avoid making decisions behind closed doors, then simply announcing them to your employees.
How can you thread the needle and offer a remote work program in a way that motivates, not discourages, people? One way is to communicate with them and let them help make the decisions about who will continue to work in company headquarters full-time, and who should work off-site. It could surprise you when some employees say, “I can’t work off-site for more than maybe one day a week” or arrive at the same decision that the company feels makes the most sense. If you trust your people, chances are they will trust you too and help support your business objectives.
Is Remote Work and Coworking A Fad?
If you are already using coworking spaces, you know that remote working programs are not a fad. You know because you have seen that:
· Your employees are happier
· Your employees are more productive
· Employee retention has improved
· Your profits have grown
· Expenses like overhead and T&E have been reduced
· You are having more success attracting good new employees, because they want to work for you
· Your company leaders have gained the respect of more of your employees
· Teamwork has improved in your company
· More of your employees are enjoying their work more and finding it less stressful
· Your employees are enjoying special events and opportunities that you are offering in your remote working locations
So is it a fad? It seems unlikely, given those benefits. And here is something else that strongly indicates that coworking in off-site locations is not about to go away:
42%of remote workers plan to work remotely more frequently than they currently do in the next five years, and more than half of on-site workers want to start working remotely.
- Source: 2019 State of Remote Work report
Keep This in Mind . . .
The fact that a lot of other companies are starting to use shared working spaces doesn’t mean they are the best option for your organization. If you ask the right questions –and a coworking company gives you the right answers – then coworking could be a great opportunity for you.
To make the right decision for your company, contact KettleSpace today.