The COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of companies to shift millions of employees to remote work across the country. Many employees love the greater independence and flexibility working from home offers. Some of those employees may be anxious to take things a step further and work not just from home but also from a fun, exotic, or relaxing location out of town.
Whether it’s a cabin in the woods or the heart of a European cultural center, the ability to work from vacation-style destinations is attractive for employees but may cause some concerns for employers. In this feature, we look at some of the benefits to this arrangement, as well as some of the potential issues.
Morale Benefits of Remote Working
“We belong to the group of companies that see remote work as a cost-efficient benefit for both employees and employers,” says legaljobsite.net founder Branka Vuleta. Vuleta believes remote work should be offered with no restraint in physical space.
“Our employees frequently use the option they call ‘workcation’—working while in a place they’d vacation at. We wholeheartedly encourage it because it’s evident that the pandemic we’re in takes a toll on mental health, and any opportunity to make everyone’s life better should be taken,” Vuleta says. “We’re focused on the outcome and ways to improve the processes and virtual collaboration, rather than fitting people into a box and limiting their freedom to enjoy life to the fullest.”
Flexible remote work policies can also provide a low-cost perk that helps attract and retain top talent without necessarily paying top dollar—or pound.
“We can offer a salary that would be considered low/average in the UK. However, by taking advantage of ‘location arbitrage’ our employees still have a better standard of living and save more money, so they are happy to take a lower salary if they can have the benefit of working strictly online,” says Jamie Skinner, HR director at Jungle Culture.
At a very basic level, employers allowing staff to work remotely from just about anywhere need to ensure their staff members have access to appropriate infrastructure to do their jobs effectively.
By infrastructure, we mean equipment, work space, and connectivity. It probably won’t work for a software developer to work remotely from a bungalow on a remote beach with no Internet access.
Any company that allows employees to work remotely, whether on the other side of the street or the other side of the world, should have a policy defining required infrastructure to be in place at the remote work location.
Need to Get to the Physical Office
Just because everybody can’t be in the office together all the time doesn’t mean nobody can be (or needs to be) in the office at all. Many companies, even those that have shifted to complete remote work, have the occasional need for staff to be on-site and can do so safely in small numbers.
Before giving the OK for staff to temporarily relocate several hours or more away from the office, consider whether there might be a need to get them on-site on relatively short notice.
Perhaps the biggest concern an employer would have with allowing staff to work remotely from a vacation-type destination is productivity. Employers want to know their staff isn’t simply trying to get paid to take a long sabbatical. That is a valid concern, and employers shouldn’t necessarily grant such requests if they don’t feel confident their staff will work diligently from the requested location.
Ultimately, employers need to be able to trust staff. Make sure they know that working remotely is not the same as vacation time. It doesn’t mean checking e-mail in the morning and then heading to the beach for the afternoon.
Remote staff need to be able to perform the essential functions of their job and be accessible to managers, other staff, and direct reports. This means working during normal working hours (if that is key to the position) and avoiding excessive distractions.