Over the last 25 years I have managed remote teams distributed geographically all around the globe. Early on in my career I embraced remote employees as I was recruiting talent in Northern California in startups competing against significantly larger companies. Building a talented team with the right team dynamics while focusing on retention is a challenge. Today though with work at home being a requirement for many companies, we should maximize the advantages of remote employees, beginning with a significantly larger pool of candidates for your job openings.

The key to retention and team building has always been connecting with each team member and doing a deep dive into what is important to them individually, culturally, and in a team environment. Opening up a position that allows for remote work on either a full or partial basis expands the pool of talent you have access to exponentially. While managing teams remotely for Walgreens many of the employees were commuting an hour each way for work and they were tied to the train schedules. Yes that is normal in metropolitan cities, but how much is it worth to an employee to eliminate two hours of their day just commuting to work? Tack on the ability to grab lunch from their kitchen versus heading out of the office to find a place to eat and you are talking about a considerable amount of time per day that goes back to the employee. Benefits that are not tied to a dollar are not easy to come by and the reality is for many employees the work life balance is a higher priority than salary.

Salary is a single factor in the recruiting process and definitely plays a part in securing talent, but work life balance is also a critical factor. Maybe culturally or even just as an individual principle an employee or candidate places a high priority on parenting directly and not having the bulk of their child’s early development period spent in daycare. Clearly in today’s economy it is difficult to have one parent stay home and be that consistent presence. Providing even a partial situation of half-day at work, half-day at home can be a huge benefit. What is important to your employee should be of critical importance to you as a manager. It is not uncommon for top talent to take as much as a 20% cut in salary in order to have flexibility for remote work. Nearly everyone places a value on personal time. If you do not agree, try adding a 10% pay increase with the accommodation of a six day work week. I think most employees would say you can keep the 10%.

While today we are in a position where working remote is a requirement for many companies and employees, take the time to evaluate all the advantages of offering work at home options. Refine your process and policies to maximize remote employee productivity for now and in the future. Certainly this is not just a value proposition for hiring…this is a commitment you are making as a manager. I will be posting a series of tips for managing remote employees that will detail how to maximize productivity. The employee should receive the benefit of a better work life balance, and the employer when managing effectively should see an increase in productivity, a higher engagement rate, and significantly better retention rates. Watch for the first batch of tips later this week.