According to Peter Hirst, Associate Dean of Executive Education at MIT Sloan School of Management, if companies want employees who are less stressed, more productive, and actively engaged, the No. 1 perk they can offer employees is the flexibility to work from home.
Hirst has experience with employees working from home, since all of his employees are allowed to work remotely. He points out that this tool offers the ability for team members to “have more control over how and when they work in order to achieve outcomes that we’re looking for.” He implemented the policy in 2016 after more and more employees expressed interested in a more flexible work environment and he discussed with them what flexibility meant to them. It was a mix of how they worked, when they worked, and where they worked.
Hirst and his team worked together to develop a solution and ground rules on how they wanted to operate. Employees were given the ability to work from home, which saved MIT office space and the associated costs. They then agreed to make a concerted effort not to send or respond to emails after hours unless they were urgent. Hirst ensured that every job in the office offered some flexibility, meaning that even employees whose jobs require them to be in the office can work from home at least one or two days each week.
Since face-to-face interaction with colleagues is important, the team comes into the office on Wednesdays for a group meeting. Hirst points out, “That gives us a day that we can organize,” and it keeps social cohesion. Employees who are unable to be in the office that day can participate through a video conference.
While flexible work options can sometimes slow down productivity, the benefits outweigh these issues. “Snowmageddon,” a 2016 storm that affected New England and shut down offices for days, did not impact Hirst’s team as much. “We didn’t have this whole, ‘Are we going to declare a snow day’ or, ‘Are we going to make people spend three hours commuting because the weather’s bad?’” he explains. “Everyone just automatically [knew] what to do and how to do it.”
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