With the increase in the trend of remote working, you need to feel confident that you are prepared with the knowledge and best practice to make sure there is not a slip in productivity or efficiency of not just the individual employees, but of the team and whole organisation. Remote-working is becoming a worldwide trend with 13.9% of the UK workforce now working remotely and 1 in 5 Americans working from home, with that figure predicted to rise to 63% in the next five years. Russel Cooke offered some advice on this topic in a recent TrainingZone article… What are the five key areas you need to consider and focus on?
1. A preliminary step to spend time considering is which employees you allow or choose for remote working, because you need to make sure you select the correct and most appropriate employees based on both their skill-set and their working personality. Look into what skills the remote worker needs to have and place great emphasis on the requirement for the employee having strong communication skills, demonstrating maintained motivation, a positive work ethic, confidence to work independently as well as being characteristically cooperative. A candidate who has previously worked remotely and been successful in doing so, would be a good bet.
2. Make sure the offering for remote and office-based employees is the same and ensure you provide the same tools and resources to remote workers as you would for those employees you see in the office every day. Ensure not only the basics are covered, but also the access to additional tools, such as ‘virtual private network (VPN), shared cloud-based drives, or company-provided computer equipment’, as Russel highlights. This should be a priority from day one so the employee has everything they need to get started on their work and it demonstrates that you have planned and thought well ahead so the transition for them is as smooth as possible. You do not want to demotivate your employees by forgetting to provide them with something!
3. You need to make sure that communication stays high and remote working employees and office-based employees can all easily get hold of each other. Relationships need to be kept strong and remote workers need to still feel part of the team, be included in conversations and decisions and know they can get in contact for some help or advice when necessary. Spend some time researching into the best communication channels and be selective with which ones will work best for you and your team. As most employees will always have their email inbox open on their computer or linked to their smartphone, this is usually an effective method of communication. However, look further into other voice and messaging systems such as Yammer or Skype to continue the community feel.
4. If your team is going to be split up with some employees working from home and some from the office, make more of an effort to arrange face-to-face team meetings and round-tables to ensure the team spirit does not subside. Make the effort to keep communication frequent, continue to include remote workers in decisions and arrange meetings in the office so they do not feel left out or forgotten.
5. You need to have a strong level of trust with your employee so you can give them the same amount of independence you would if they were working in the office and not end up micromanaging them and analysing what they are doing every hour of the day. In order to track their outputs and that they are still completing work to their usual standard and within the same timeline, you should create targets and deadlines for employees to work towards. Do this for your office-based employees too, to make sure remote workers do not feel singled out or pressured.
It can be a tricky transition for all employees when one or a few workers start working from home and the only way it can work effectively and be a success is how you manage it. In your role as a manager, you need to take responsibility and help and guide all of your team. This is a lot of pressure on you and you will receive questions and need to provide reassurance from all directions, however, developing the above tips will help make the transition as smooth as possible!