It may sound weird but many companies used to frown on remote working. Yes, workers who requested to work from home were broadly considered “slackers”. But advances in technology have made telecommuting – the modern-day term for working from home – incredibly popular.
Working from home has become a part of today’s corporate culture. For instance, a number of forward-looking companies, like Amazon and Dell, are experimenting with remote working.
The accessibility of the internet has also made managing small-to-medium businesses from home possible. With the boom in ecommerce, most businesses have shifted their sales and their workplaces online. Entrepreneurs can now successfully grow their businesses through remote working.
In this blog post, we’ll explore how companies can get the most out of remote working whilst making sure results don’t suffer. After all, there’s quite a bit to take into consideration.
What are the benefits of remote work?
Remote work is becoming an increasingly popular option. According to stats, the number of people who work from home has increased 140% since 2005. Remote work has also become an attractive perk for many, with 78% of respondents saying that it is the one of the key non monetary ways to retain employees.
Remote work has led to healthier and happier workers. In a recent study, 80% reported that they have less stress when working from home. This stress free work environment has led to 65% of respondents saying since transitioning to remote work they have been more productive. Employers have taken note of these advantages. It’s currently predicted that by 2028, 73% of workforce teams will have remote workers.
These statistics make sense. The flexibility of working from home allows employees to keep their own hours and enables more of a work-life balance. Parents can spend more time with their children, while with flexible hours, late risers can work when they are fully awake.
8 Systems To Facilitate Remote Working
If you’re planning to implement a remote work policy, you need to set some clear policies in place to support telecommuting. The goal is to foster a productive and working environment that both employees and employers can benefit from. With this in mind, let’s dive into what needs to be considered when applying a remote working strategy.
Companies need to determine who among their employees can work remotely and clearly state this in company policy. This entails analysis of the company’s operating model, work structure, and team member’s deliverables.
For instance, staff involved in creative work can be eligible to work remotely, as long as remote collaboration technologies are enabled. Remote working may even boost creativity since there are fewer distractions at home and creative people prefer to work alone anyway.
Small businesses can also benefit from remote working. Managers of ecommerce stores can work remotely by accessing online tools like order management software. These kinds of programs help facilitate smoother processes from online ordering to managing deliverables.
When considering who can do remote work, think about the tasks which can now be effectively completed over the internet. Take advantage of all the software and applications that are now available to employees and assess from there.
However, some companies may not have any remote-compliant jobs. This should also be stated as a policy to eliminate any future inquiries about remote working. Equally, there will be some roles at companies where the person needs to be based in the office.
- Availability And Responsiveness
So say a company decides to allow remote working: well, the next step is to define what it expects of its employees and outline this in a policy. Will workers be required to clock in from 9am to 5 pm? Or can they set their own schedules and instead focus on output and a minimum number of clocked hours?
Whatever the higher-ups decide, it must be put in a policy. This removes any frustration among employees based on time considerations. It also guarantees the equal treatment of remote workers. If this kind of policy isn’t properly executed, it could lead to tensions between the remote and in-office workers.
Along with setting schedules, the company must also set policies which deal with response time. Should a remote employee respond to a coworker immediately or will a certain time frame suffice? This should be written down and cleared up for all the workers.
Clear communication is key to a functioning workplace. When hosting remote meetings, the conferencing platform should be specified. Video conferencing has made scheduling meetings more efficient since they can be done virtually anywhere at any time. Specifying the platform and communication guidelines helps set expectations. It leaves less room for misunderstandings and concerns over productivity expectations are eliminated.
- Productivity Measurements
Policies on remote working should specify how an employee's productivity is measured. This seems to be a huge concern for managers. Productivity can be measured in so many ways. It can focus on the time spent on a project, the number of cases resolved, the number of client interactions, etc.
Without productivity measures, there’s a lot of grey area for workers and supervisors. Time is managed differently in and out of office and productivity can be measured in different ways.
For some businesses the outcomes of work are measured, not the number of hours. The ability to measure the performance of getting the desired results is a better situation than trying to measure people’s productivity based on the number of hours worked.
This doesn’t work for everyone. Companies should take a step back and think about what productivity means to them.
- Equipment And Tech-Support
Remote workers need the right tools to complete their work. A steady internet connection is just the tip of the iceberg. From the get-go, companies should state what they can offer potential employees. If employees are expected to go the Bring your own device (BYOD) route, then companies need to disclose that. Companies need to state the minimum internet speed requirement as well.
Tools and equipment aren’t the only things to consider. Cloud storage might be the only way remote workers can access important files. Employees need to be aware of how to troubleshoot problems, or what to do if the internet connection goes down.
It’s important to also let workers know if there’s any kind of tech-support they can use. The remote working policy should outline what employees need to do when having technical difficulties.
- Remote Vs in the Office: Finding the Balance
More and more businesses have started employing people who work from home, at least some of the time. In a 2019 study by Buffer, 40% of their respondents stated that part of the team works in the office and part of their team work remotely. In fact, up to 31% of offices, including Buffer’s, have a completely remote office.
Companies looking to get the best out of their remote staff need to foster a schedule that works towards maximizing productivity. A study by Gallup found that workers are more engaged when their week is broken up into some days in the office and some at home. In the study, it was found that the best balance lies in employees spending 60-80% of the workweek working remotely.
Every company is different and should keep this in mind when trying to strike the right balance. Sodexo, a French food facilities company, took the time to get to know what their employees wanted. They created the system called FLOW (Flexibility Optimizes Work). In this system, managers work with their employees to help tailor schedules that match their specific needs.
Another thing to keep in mind is companies need to put into writing that no employee will be terminated because they work remotely. This needs to be stated since many managers are still uncomfortable with remote working. This is also where the importance of communication comes in. Open and frequent communication between managers and remote workers ensure that there are no questions as to the work that is being done.
- Physical Environment
Companies go to great lengths to ensure that their premises are safe and secure. When working in an office, companies are required to monitor things like CO2 levels, fire safety standards, etc. A policy on remote working should also specify any requirements of an employee's physical environment when working remotely.
For example, a company could put guidelines in place that state employees are allowed to work from home, but not work from a cafe. Or, alternatively, employees need to be within a one-hour driving distance from the office, just in case they need to be called into a meeting.
- Digital Security
Security is not guaranteed when information is taken out of the office. Many remote workers work from public spaces like coffee shops and coworking spaces. These public spaces potentially force them to use unsecured wifi networks.
Companies who rely on an online workforce and utilize software like inventory management systems are also left vulnerable. When thinking about cybersecurity, companies need to assess WiFi and device usage and provide employees with the right tools against cyber attacks.
The importance of data security should be addressed as a policy. Encourage employees to use strong password, set-up two factor authentication and back-up data constantly. These are just some of the solutions to securing online data. Cybersecurity is a huge risk for most businesses and should always be one of the first areas addressed when considering work online.
- Client confidentiality
Along with security, client confidentiality needs to be addressed in a policy. Keeping information confidential is much easier in a protected workspace. A remote worker having a client call in a cafe could lead to leaks on private information. If it’s not directly stated in the policy, nothing can stop an employee from talking about sensitive information in public.
Remote Working Is The New Normal
A recent report projected a growth of remote workers, claiming over a third of full-time employees will make the transition in 10 years. So what was once thought of as lazy, has become a trend in the workforce. Productivity, cloud and order management software are just some of the additions that have made remote working possible.
Workers have found that businesses can be run out of anywhere, office, homes or even coworking spaces. This has led to more business opportunities for entrepreneurs and the workforce.
It’s clear that companies will continue to invest in technology which makes remote working possible. But, companies must also introduce clear work from home policies that focus on productivity. Paired with proper business policies and the right technology, remote working is quickly becoming an exciting alternative to the workplace.
Nicholas Shaw is the General Manager at Brightpearl, an omnichannel retail platform for retailers, wholesalers, and brands. He has written for a range of publications, including Tech Crunch and Huffington Post.