Our remote working and flextime benefit is one of my favorites. Being a new mom (to a chocolate Lab), it is very easy for me to care for him properly while working from home. We’re able to take long walks at lunch, have belly rubs on breaks and get extra treats throughout the day.
But seriously, being able to take a workout class during the day, go for a quick run outside or meet a friend for lunch is life-changing and gives me the opportunity to recharge and focus, so I can be more productive at work.
As communications and technology professionals, the Metis team is always striving to be ahead of the curve. In 2014, the industry was trending in the way of remote work, and industry professionals were saying it was the wave of the future. Here we are now approaching 2018 and it is becoming the way of the workforce. Cathy Atkins, one of our co-founders, has been remote since day 1 of Metis back in 2005 – and she’s proud of it.
So, in 2014, with the remote workforce up and coming and Metis striving to keep our team members happy, we came up with work-from-home Fridays as one of our perks. We also extended the benefit for our upper management, requiring only that they come into the office two days a week. Our flexible work model enabled employees in our company with children to be more present as parents, while still working full days. It allowed people who were traveling on long weekends to leave Thursday night and work wherever they wanted (with, of course, some restrictions for security purposes).
Fast forward to 2016, and we conducted an experiment. We wanted to see if our team could walk the walk before we talked the talk. We called it the Q4 Remote Experiment. (Creative, I know.) With advances in cloud services and video conferencing technologies, and the trust the team had gained working from home on Fridays, we gave the team the option to telecommute 100 percent of the time, if they felt that option was better for their productivity and their lifestyle.
From October 2016 to December 2016, we told our team to work outside of the office whenever they wanted and also gave them the option of flextime. Flextime gave our team the ability to take up to two hours off in a day to run a personal errand, go to a doctor’s appointment, pick up a child, or do something else, without it deducting from their bank of paid time off. As long as everyone gave their teams the heads up and their work was covered, they were welcome to come and go as they pleased.
How to write remote work policies that work for everyone
In order to run an effective experiment, we set some parameters, which are helpful reminders for any company planning to implement remote work:
Security matters: Create a data and document management policy. We created one to protect the integrity and security of our data and infrastructure, as well as maintain total data confidentiality on behalf of our clients.
Time is money, peeps: Should team members be out of the office more than two hours, deduct time out of their PTO banks.
Take a team-first approach: Advise team members to check in with each other and make sure things are covered when someone is out. Flexibility should not mean the group picks up the work of the individual.
No surprises: Advise team members not to ask colleagues to cover calls for them when they are on the quiet car on the train, stuck in transit or otherwise ill-prepared. Remote status should not affect reliability.
Make smart decisions about where you work: Consistent, solid mobile and internet service is a MUST. If things are wonky on the team member’s end, ask them to change their service or workspace. They need to be able to talk safely and securely in whatever location they’re working.
Being offline is majestical: If a team member is offline, they are off. They should just note it in their calendar that they are unavailable.
Video killed the telephone star: Make video chat mandatory if a team member is talking with others who are not in the same room. Tuning in via Skype video, for example, can help retain personal connections and curb isolation.
Appoint a person to answer questions that might come up: Identify a go-to person who can answer questions about the hows, whys and whens surrounding remote and flextime policies.
Shit happens: Emergencies and crises happen, but are rare occurrences. Let team members know that you expect they be available during flextime or outside of work hours when the company has an URGENT need.
Q4 came and went, and we implemented remote work and flextime as a full-time employee perk. Not only did this help with team member’s work/life balance, but this also allowed us to cast a wider net for talent, reaching prospective employees who may live across the country rather than commuting distance of our Boston headquarters.
Giving our team members the opportunity to choose where and when they work empowers them to be more productive, more engaged and more balanced in every aspect of their lives, and we pride ourselves on that.
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