How to prepare your employees to work remotely
Allowing employees to work remotely offers a number of benefits for businesses.
What is remote work? Remote work is work that is done somewhere other than a company-provided office space. Typically, remote work is done from an employee’s home or from a remote location like a coffee shop or library.
Surveys have shown that employees who work from home report a 25% reduction in their stress levels, with 86% of telecommuters also claiming that they are more productive in their home office. While this doesn't take the worldwide pandemic into account, we know for certain that remote work is increasing whether its a matter of finding a less stressful environment or a safer one. Meanwhile, remote working can also benefit employers by saving them money on property costs and office supplies by ensuring there are fewer in-house employees to account for.
If you'd consider adopting this growing trend, invest the time in properly preparing your team—and your facility—for the coming changes.
Communicate clear guidelines around accountability
Recently, major companies like Yahoo! and Reddit quashed work-from-home policies because they believe the practice negatively impacts collaboration and productivity company-wide. The leaked Yahoo! memo that announced the ban claimed, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home." The truth is that by its very nature, remote work does present a number of challenges—but to dismiss it entirely as a possibility can also prove to be problematic, as it suggests a distrust of your own workforce.
The key to instigating a remote work policy is to develop a smart and strategic plan that ensures productivity and efficiency won’t fall by the wayside. The first step is to clearly communicate the company’s policy around remote working. Establish clear rules and processes that must be followed and be vigilant in monitoring your employees’ progress—especially in the early stages of the roll out. For instance, set clear expectations for work hours that take into account time zones and hold all remote employees accountable for their goals and deadlines.
Today, access to analytics data is at your fingertips. By using a tool such as Microsoft Workplace Analytics, you can gain insight to employees' productivity, efficiency, and behavioral patterns—no matter where they’re working from.
Offer tools to make remote working easy
If your company is still operating in the dark ages and using outdated technology, now is the time for an update. For remote workers, using cloud-based technologies and mobile-friendly software is a must. Cloud-based software tools offer the flexibility and accessibility that remote teams require. Your remote employees will be able to access and share information across multiple devices, no matter where they are in the world.
Additionally, these new technologies offer an answer to industry concerns regarding cyber security. By implementing cloud technologies, employees are issued a secure access point to company data and applications, so employers can retain peace of mind knowing that their company’s precious assets are stored safely and securely.
While remote working has several benefits, without the right tools it can also have several drawbacks, including isolation, a lag in communication and a lack of knowledge about what other people are working on. For smaller companies that don’t yet have the scope or resources to create a VPN, it’s particularly crucial to find the right tools to stay in touch with the rest of the team. The search can be overwhelming, so here’s a list that can help you get started. From project management to video chatting, these tools can make remote working much easier.
Using Google Drive, a team can view and edit documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms and even maps. Google Drive offers some free storage with larger storage options available at a cost. Conveniently, documents created in Google Drive (as opposed to files that are uploaded) don’t count toward your total storage quota. This makes it an easy and economical solution for smaller teams.
This project management tool was created to eliminate email from the collaboration process. With Asana, users can track task completion, leave each other comments, and share documents with one another. Integrations with Box, DropBox, and Google Drive add to Asana’s convenience factor; users can attach files from each. Users may also grant access to external parties for free, including contractors, vendors, and clients.
Slack is an effective communications tool that many companies use to increase productivity. As the current leader of team chat and collaboration, this tool organizes conversations into “channels”, which can be created for a particular topic, project, department, or group of people. Employees can also use Slack for instant messaging, connecting remote workers, and enabling real-time collaboration. Slack has become the centerpiece of productivity tools for many cutting edge companies for good reason: not only can it integrate with over 600 apps, but its private channels and searchable chats allow teams to reduce email overload and find key information quickly. Messages and files are archived and indexed, and are easily searchable weeks or months later.
Workplace by Facebook
Workplace by Facebook combines features of Facebook, including the news feed, search, and trending posts features, along with messaging and chat functions. This allows teams to communicate in unique groups based on projects, departments, and tasks. Workplace is designed to take advantage of Facebook's interface while acting as an entirely separate product for businesses. Facility managers looking for an intuitive tool that can increase engagement across teams might benefit from implementing Facebook's communication app.
Ensure your facility is set up to handle remote workers
Before sending your employees out into the remote working world, ensure your facility is set up to handle a whole new way of working. Employees who remain in the office full-time will need modern tools and technologies to connect with the remote workforce. This means installing large displays in conference rooms, establishing call conferencing solutions and even looking into augmented and virtual reality options. Investing in the best-of-the-best communication technologies will ensure your remote team can collaborate as if they were sitting right next to each other.
In addition to the tools your employees will use to conduct their work, a desk booking tool is key to ensuring a smooth transition for your remote workforce—just because remote workers spend most days away from the office, it doesn’t mean they won’t need an in-office workspace from time-to-time.
The opportunity to work remotely has proven to be an important job fringe benefit, with 25% of surveyed employees claiming they would accept a reduction in salary in order to continue working remotely. Therefore, employers need to know exactly what their policy entails. The key to a successful implementation of a remote working policy is a strong strategy. Clear communication and the ability to trust in the commitment and tenacity of your workforce is also essential. The benefits of working remotely extend to both the employee and employer, so it makes sense for companies to make every effort to ensure a seamless adoption of this exciting new way to do business.
Encourage collaboration and socialization
Remote teams are a necessity of today's fast-paced and mobile world. Companies are increasingly letting their employees work from home or cities around the globe. This style of working offers greater flexibility to employees, allowing them to work in environments that best suit their lifestyles. That said, it takes a lot of work to make sure remote employees remain connected with each other and the office. Here are a few tips to make sure your remote workers are all on the same page.
Set mandatory in-office days
Requesting that remote workers come into the office on specific days of the week is a simple way to ensure that the entire team maintains some sort of physical presence in the office. These days can be coordinated with important meetings so that you can outline tasks and goals for the upcoming week. You can also schedule client meetings on days when you know the office will be a hive of activity.
Host social events
Working remotely can be an isolating experience for some people. Hosting social events to let employees meet each other can encourage communication and loyalty. Even incorporating seasonality into your office culture, will help remote workers feel part of the team from abroad.
Schedule one-on-one meetings
Having one-on-one meetings, either by Skype or phone, can reduce back-and-forth email and allow both remote workers and in-office employees to share updates or concerns quickly.
One-on-ones also add a personal touch, giving remote workers the chance to get to know their managers or in-office coworkers as individuals—even in the absence of in-person contact.
Bring a piece of the office home
It can be easy to lose sight of your team's culture or your organization's values if you're not in the office every day.
Providing employees with flexible design options and enabling them to bring home office items like framed team photos or posters with the company's key messages, can encourage a sense of social cohesion among your team, whether they're in the office or at home.
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Photo Credits: Shutterstock / Cressida studio, Shutterstock / GaudiLab, Shutterstock / fizkes.