This past June, FlexJobs hosted the TRaD* Works (*Telecommuting, Remote, and Distributed) forum on remote work. Major brands gathered to discuss how to maximize remote work programs, covering topics such as recruitment, management, communication tools, branding, culture, challenges/benefits and ROI. Not surprisingly, we learned that more professionals and companies utilize remote work than ever before. The newest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data just reported that in 2015, 38% of workers in management, business, and finance did some or all of their work from home. And, many companies are realizing that in order to attract, engage and retain talent, most notably millennials, flexible work arrangements have to be a priority. Plus, it’s known that the more flexibility we give workers, the happier, the less stressed and more productive they will be - which will ultimately benefit the worker and company. That being said, there is a lot of pressure for companies to change their policies and keep up as fast as the rate technology is changing.

So, how can offering remote work help your employer brand? Providing the option to work remotely signals flexibility, which appeals to a certain type of talent. Many people now expect to at least have the ability to work away from the office, and place high value on this type of flexibility. To this audience, increased flexibility and not dealing with commuter traffic  every day could ultimately improve employee happiness. Increased employee wellbeing benefits the business through productivity, employee engagement and reduced turnover. Happy employees are more likely to sing your brand’s praises to friends and on social media, further increasing positive sentiment around your brand.

While remote work is becoming more expected and acceptable, can every company successfully embrace it? The answer is, it depends. It’s really not about whether you should or shouldn’t do it. But rather, it’s about making sure it fits within your culture. Culture is a shared set of customs and values that foster trust and engagement. Put simply, culture is about how you work. If the values of your company can be lived out through remote work, then it may be for you. Additionally, there may be circumstances where remote work is just not possible - employees are handling sensitive data, the good or service you provide requires face-to-face interaction with the customer, the job requires manual labor, etc. In these circumstances, transparency is key. Let employees know why remote work is not an option to dispel any stories or myths that might hurt your employer brand. If your company does not allow remote work, it’s important to weed out those who place a high value on this type of flexibility.

Can a remote friendly company have a healthy culture? Absolutely. Although, it takes a lot of hard work and conscious effort. In order for remote work to be successful, companies (and teams within them) must create clear processes and policies that support the culture. The true culture of a company is woven into the fabric of the business model, the structure and organization, and the leadership. Programs and initiatives can be built that support and extend that culture out to a remote workforce. You simply have to be honest about the challenges of working remotely, actively look for ways to mitigate their impact, and consciously set good examples  so that everyone in the company (including new hires) know that it’s acceptable to call misbehaviors out and question them. At the end of the day, the policy puts it in place and the culture allows it to happen. Plus, company culture evolves over time, and the way remote work fits into that needs to evolve too, so you need to view it as a continual investment and a constant work-in-progress.

For us at exaqueo, we live out our company values through the way we work.  We're a virtual, flexible company headquartered in Charleston, SC but many of our consultants work from other locations. We get our work done when our clients need it, but we’re flexible on how, when and where. This allows us to deliver great work with expert, practiced consultants that is more cost efficient - another important value to us. It offers our team the opportunity to do great work but have the flexibility and balance to enable them to be their whole selves in work and life.

Kathleen O'Brien (@kathleen_eliz) is a Lead Consultant & Project Manager for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps organizations build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research, and recruiting strategy offerings.

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