A young woman works remotely.
From understanding your customers' needs to investing in the necessary tools, there are several steps to take when implementing remote work. — Eva-Katalin/Getty Images

In today’s competitive job market, remote work is on the rise, with more and more companies allowing their teams to work from anywhere. In fact, 33% of small businesses say they are offering perks like flexible work locations to attract employees.

However, remote work — while it offers benefits like flexibility, increased productivity and loyalty among employees — needs to be implemented properly, with the necessary tools, so that day-to-day business does not get interrupted.

Here’s what each small business owner must consider before offering a remote work policy.

Does working from home serve your customers?

There are some verticals where working from home simply isn’t possible. Retail, restaurants and contractors all benefit from face-to-face customer interactions. But, in other instances, you can get creative in how you allow your team to work from home. Salon owners, for instance, can equip their stylists to go mobile. Customer service or sales professionals can set up a home office to stay on top of client calls from anywhere. Understand your customers' needs to determine whether or not working from home is a good business decision.

Can you invest in the right tools?

A study by Stanford University found that remote employees were able to produce work equivalent to an additional full shift per week when they worked from home. That’s a remarkable increase in productivity, but one that’s fueled by setting your team up to succeed.

“Make sure your workers have a laptop, tablet or desktop that can help them tackle their tasks, and consider investing in a company-wide software sponsorship program that lets them install important software directly to their personal devices so that they can use them for business, too,” according to Fast Company.

For some small businesses, investing in software and hardware to equip your employees to work from anywhere may be too expensive. Merchants must weigh these costs against the savings that can be gained from a remote work policy. One analysis reported that employers can save over $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year. Obviously, this depends largely on the size of your company and your office environment. But, working from home can lead to smaller utility bills and overhead expenses. Plus, there are many free collaboration tools available to help manage your employees’ workflows while keeping costs down.

[Read more: 7 Tools That Will Help You Work From Home]

Understand your customers' needs to determine whether or not working from home is a good business decision.

Do you have high employee turnover?

Millennial employees, in particular, are demanding the option to work remotely. Gallup’s recent poll found that “37% of employees would change jobs if they could work remotely at least part of the time.” With the average cost-per-hire at around $4,425, small businesses can’t afford to continuously turn over new hires. If you’re struggling to retain talent, consider implementing a work from home policy. Business owners who establish a telecommuting program see a 50% decrease in attrition.

[Read more: Hiring in a Competitive Market: 5 Ways to Recruit Top Talent]

Do your employees want to work from home?

Some employees like working from an office every day. The company culture at a small business is often one of the perks that draws a candidate to accept the job offer. Think carefully about how you will maintain that culture when your team is distributed. Will your team have an equivalent or better work experience when given the option to work from home?

Harvard Business Review’s study on remote work concluded that, “Employers who allow employees to work remotely should grant these employees true autonomy and flexibility, rather than trying to micromanage their remote work.” Working from home can’t always work for every team. Speak to your employees and get their opinions before moving forward with a remote work policy.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 13, 2019