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Contrary to public opinion, remote working did not begin after the lockdown caused by COVID-19 in 2020. Remote working has existed for decades before that. With the creation of advanced computers came remote working. The IT firm, IBM has been determined the first company to begin the work-from-home experiment in 1979 with five employees to ease the logjam at its office. This number grew to about 2,000 by 1983. Thus, the concept of working remotely in a formal setting officially became a thing - although in small spheres. Of course, the idea significantly advanced when COVID-19 hit. As of 2023, 12.7% of employees work remotely, while about 28.2% opt for working from home and going into the office at intervals. This number is expected to grow exponentially with increased employee remote work requests. Before we delve into how to handle such requests, let us consider the concept of remote work requests.
Remote work requests are official applications made to employers by workers for permission to work from a location other than where the company's office is located. Unsurprisingly, with technological advancements, many agile teams have resorted to remote working practices. Other IT outsourcing firms and teams operate remotely without a physical location or office. While this is all good, the problem arises when the company's services require the physical presence of employees. Other situations where things may get sticky are instances where there are no provisions for remote working in the employment contract or employees' guide, or where the employer has reservations about employees working from home.
Remote work requests have increased in the last three years, but their frequency is still very dependent on the nature of the job, the company's policies, and the office's location. A technology or engineering-based role can be open to a remote working company in a metropolitan area with employees scattered far away and can also consider remote work requests. Additionally, IT outsourcing services are increasing, and to get the best hands on the team, one may need to look into other continents. Allowing remote work will save costs for the company and employees rather than moving these persons from one continent down to the company's physical location. Regardless, your company must address each request individually and considerately without shooting down these requests indiscriminately, or the company's productivity may take a hit.
Remote work can be as practical and effective as physically reporting to a company's office. However, it is crucial to exercise some tact in handling remote work requests based on the company's policies and presumed productivity history.
A defined workplace policy is the handbook of every company. It is a bad idea to begin employing workers without giving a set of procedures to outline basic things like workplace conditions, requirements, remote work applications, and criteria for other workplace activities. This policy will be the employee's go-to source before and after requesting remote work. However, a workplace policy must consider the best options for all employees. As such, a policy should have specifications for remote work and not only physical working culture. Especially seeing as the former is inevitable in our world today. If you do not have one currently, there is still time to draft one; you can contact a solicitor or get an online model and adjust as you see fit.
This second tip is essential for companies without a well-defined work policy. In many instances, requests for remote work will be directed to the human resources team. To improve the company's image and maintain a good reputation, the HR team must be available to take and respond to requests as appropriate. Flexibility will also mean that the company must always be open to occasional remote work requests where it has a strict physical work culture or policy. The idea is that this flexibility can boost employees' productivity and morale.
It is always advisable for every IT firm to handle remote work requests from their employees immediately after such bids are made. Companies executing a remote work policy or making some changes to such policy may be hesitant to respond to any request in the interval. Still, it is best to handle those requests as individually as they come. Sometimes, a remote work request may be emergent and require immediate attention; that way, employees stay in the company and do their tasks well.
Communication lines are essential for every company, but they become even more indispensable for those employees' remote work requests. Every employee and employer, particularly those who deal with agile teams, would need clear communication lines to understand the details of remote work and all other accompanying conditions. It also makes for a solid transparency policy if the request is approved. Of course, issues like accountability and employee productivity can only be present and effective when due communication is done. Hence, the need to handle these requests by establishing clear lines of communication.
One can argue that in light of recent trends, requests for remote work are bound to come in and you must be adequately prepared to handle them. The few tips above should give you an inclination on how to handle remote requests in a way that results in a win-win for all parties.
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