The widespread adoption of remote work policies has the potential to give HR professionals the flexibility they need to attract, hire and retain talent at a time when they need every possible advantage. But new data shows current policies may be at odds with what employees actually want.
According to Topia's 2022 Adapt Survey, 82% of companies have a remote work policy in place, and on the surface, this sounds encouraging. It could mean companies are recognizing that flexibility is vitally important to the employee experience and are therefore giving employees the freedom to work from anywhere.
However, reality paints a much different—and much less encouraging—picture. Nearly half of employees say their company's remote work policy is designed to make it easy for the business and HR to say "no" to remote work requests. And 2 out of 5 employees say they want to work remotely, but the company makes it too difficult.
It's easy to see how this disconnect spells trouble: 41% of employees say flexibility to work from home is or was a reason for them to change jobs and half of companies say they've lost employees due to their current policy.
In many cases, the problem isn't that the company doesn't want to offer the flexibility employees desire. It's that they can't because they lack the technologies to make it practical at scale. To avoid the risk of running afoul of regulatory agencies, they instead risk losing great talent.
This defensive posture isn't sustainable in today's environment. Instead, HR teams need sophisticated tools that make it easy to say "yes" to the flexibility employees demand. Here are three critical software capabilities you need to support a remote work policy that actually allows employees to work remotely while protecting your company from unnecessary risks.
1) A remote work "explorer." Offering flexible, remote work opportunities is key to creating a delightful employee experience and building an employee-centric brand that attracts and retains talent. But because of tax, immigration or business nexus issues, there may be remote work locations that are simply out of the question for your company, and that's OK. What's not OK is forcing employees to go through a cumbersome process to request remote work, wait days and then get a "No" from HR because they requested an off-limits location. Instead, offer a remote work "explorer" that provides an engaging way for employees to investigate approved remote work options. By guiding them to options that meet the criteria, you can create a much better employee experience and establish a stronger framework for saying "yes" more often.
2) A streamlined request system. Over 90% of employees and more than 70% of executive leaders agree people should be able to work from wherever they choose, as long as the work gets done. This high demand for flexibility often means HR is fielding an influx of requests, and the emails and spreadsheets they've relied on to manage it so far aren't sufficient to handle the volume.
To support a robust remote work policy, companies need software that provides a simple way for employees to submit requests, to verify whether the request aligns with company policy for location, duration, etc. and makes it easy for managers and HR to review and approve the request. If the process is too cumbersome, employees won't bother and will instead move on to another firm where it's simple and straightforward.
3) Employee location tracking. Knowing where employees are working from is critical for tax compliance, and inaccurate or unverifiable reports can expose the company to fines and penalties. But data shows HR has an overconfidence problem: 90% say they're confident employees will self-report when working outside their home state or country. But the reality is, 66% of employees didn't report all those days, and 4 in 10 HR pros have discovered employees working where they shouldn't be (that virtual office background only provides cover for so long).
To eliminate this risk, HR must implement automated location tracking technology that respects employees' privacy, but also reliably reports employee work location and tracks their time in places where length-of-stay thresholds are enforced. In our study, 91% of employees said they're perfectly comfortable with their employer knowing their location at the city level, so there's no reason to rely on the honor system which is clearly not working.
In the current job market, delivering on a remote work policy with actual remote work opportunities is essential. Operating in a defensive position, where the default answer is "no," will send your team heading for the door and make it impossible to replace them. Instead, companies must implement technology and tools that empower HR to satisfy the demands of employees today and support the future of work tomorrow.