By making all staff work remotely for an entire week, this organisation gathered data about what did and didn’t work.
You might have arrangements with a few of your staff who choose to work from home a few days each week, but would you ever consider forcing your entire workforce to work from home for an entire week? Bynder, a digital file management platform based in the Netherlands, has been doing this for three years.
The company’s 320 workers – operating across 7 global offices – are asked to log in from wherever they like for a whole week, no questions asked. They can work from the comfort of their bed; they can spend the day in a local library; or they could set up their ‘home office’ on a hammock in between two palm trees. The only proviso is that they can’t come into the office.
In an article for Fast Company, the organisation’s chief operating officer Bob Hickey explained the rationale.
“We wanted to prove how trust and flexibility are more important than an employee’s physical location to yield results,” he says.
Employees fill out a survey at the end of the week. The results were impressive, but not overwhelmingly so. In 2018, 70 per cent of staff reported feeling happier during the Remote Work week, but only 39 per cent reported feeling more productive.
But it’s not just about productivity – or even a retention play – the company uses these results to hone and shape its existing flexible work policies and improve for the year ahead.
Why implement something like this?
We’ve known for a long time now that modern office designs aren’t always conducive to a productive work day. Open plan workspaces are too noisy and hot-desking is annoying. By trialling a remote work week, Bynder believes it shows staff that it’s serious about offering an alternative to those who find its offices distracting. Hickey says that during the most recent Remote Work Week, more than 50 per cent of staff reported feeling more focussed.
“For some employees, the buzz of the office is distracting, and working in a location of their choice allows them to focus and dedicate their full attention to their most complex work.”
On its website, Bynder’s CEO Chris Hall reflects on the genesis of the idea. Having already tried and tested other progressive policies, like unlimited annual leave, he says this felt like the natural next step.
He went into it with two burning questions:
- Is our workplace as future-proof as we like to think it is?
- Does our tech stack up?
These are questions that HR leaders should be asking. Putting both to the test with a trial remote work week might be a great way to find out the answers.
Skipping the commute is good for business
An interesting finding to come from Bynder’s employee feedback was how staff used the extra hours in the day created by cutting out their commute.
We know from recent research from the 2019 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey that commute times have drastically increased over the last decade, with the average Australian now spending 4.5 hours commuting to and from work each week.
You might assume staff made the most of the extra time by having a sleep in. It’s likely some did, but professional development was also on their agenda.
According to Hickey, during the remote work week, staff viewed a total of 311 hours of professional development videos “that covered everything from information security, content marketing, and project management training, to effective listening.”
Regardless of short-term outcomes, the value of implementing a work week like this is in analysis and data collection. You could ask questions like, whose output is increased when at home versus in the office?
But week long trials like this don’t have to be limited to flexible work. You could trial… anything really! A week of afternoon meditation or fitness classes; or a week of allowing for staff to work on their side projects for a portion of the day. It’s a good way to gather data before committing to making large scale changes.
What would you like to spend a week trailing in your workplace? Let us know in the comment section below.
If you want to learn how to create a new policy for your workplace, AHRI’s short course Develop and implement HR policies will show you how to introduce relevant changes into your workplace in a seamless manner.