As more businesses are implementing flexible working hours, remote working is becoming increasingly popular. It has been proven that some workers thrive when they can do their jobs in an environment that suits them, and during the hours they are most productive.
Employers could allow their employees to start working remotely, either permanently or part time, to improve their employees’ work-life balance, to accommodate life changes like sickness or family issues, or simply in an effort to grant their employees more control over their own lives.
Although remote working can have its benefits, it can also reveal new challenges. In this article we will discuss common threats to successful remote working, as well as give some advice on how you can keep your employees motivated while working remotely.
Communication might be a challenge for remote workers. Luckily, there are several applications, systems and methods that can be implemented to simplify it.
Encourage your employees to communicate regularly, both with you and with each other. Sending emails, or instigating video calls, can help clear up confusion and allow multiple people to collaborate. This is especially important for employees that work in the same department or teams working on the same projects.
And don’t forget the social calls. Sending each other funny pictures, sharing stories or exchanging some words about a new movie you watched is a great way to replace the casual “water cooler conversation”, which often plays an important role in improving the company culture.
Take advantage of technology
With all the technical advances made in recent years, working remotely has never been easier. Remote workers can use video conferencing to participate in meetings, presentations or brainstorming sessions, as well as reach out to coworkers with questions and queries.
Project and time management tools such as Monday, Trello or Asana, can help your team keep track of tasks and deadlines. Cloud based collaboration tools like G Suite allows multiple users to work on the same documents and view their coworkers’ progress in real time.
Taking full advantage of available technology is a key factor to accomplishing successful remote working. Establish which resources are available to you in your industry, and consider implementing them into your workflow.
Loneliness is one of the biggest struggles employees face when working remotely. They can feel alone in their work and responsibility, and if they work from their homes, they might lack adequate social interaction.
Scheduling daily meetings is a great way to ensure that your team gets the practical support and reassurance they need. It gives your employees a chance to talk about challenges they face, and give each other an update on how their work is progressing.
These daily meetings can also function like a mental break from the monotone work day, and the social boost can contribute to improved mental welfare as well as work efficiency.
Trust your employees
For employers it can be hard to trust that your employees are doing their work efficiently when they are working remotely. Likewise, many employees tend to feel like they have to “look busy” to prove that they are in fact doing their jobs.
In a remote working situation, there has to be a mutual trust in place. The employer has to be confident that the employee is doing their job, and that they are getting tasks done. Similarly, the employee has to be able to relax knowing they have their employers’ trust.
Clarify exactly what is expected from your employees, and agree on how their progress should be recorded and reported. As long as deadlines are kept and duties are fulfilled, employees should be comfortably regulating their own efforts.
Track accomplishments, not time
People have very different routines when working from home compared to working in an office environment. Faced with new distractions and circumstances, remote workers often need some time to get settled in.
To allow people to work at their own pace and find a workflow which suits them, you will find that in most cases you’ll have more success by tracking your employees’ accomplishments instead of how much time they spend working.
Focus on tracking achievements, like goals reached, assignments completed and work produced, instead of measuring the amount of hours spent at their desks. This will allow employees to establish tailored work routines that will allow them to be more productive.
Let’s face it, it can be tough to stay on track with your company’s monthly or quarterly goals whilst your team is working remotely. The team is detached from the traditional office environment, and sometimes that can cause someone to get discouraged, or distracted from their goals or tasks.
A good way to tackle this challenge is to establish goals for the team as a whole as well as individual goals. The team goals should be split into small, manageable chunks, and allocated to each team member. Each team member can work on their individual goals at their own pace, and once completed, they would ultimately contribute to the larger objective.
Setting realistic, achievable goals is a great way to keep your team motivated, as reaching them creates a sense of achievement within the team. It also gives everyone the assurance that they are actively contributing towards the greater good of the business, even if they are physically distanced from the rest of the team.
Make social interactions a priority
If some or all of your employees work remotely, it is important for them to maintain social contact with the rest of the team. This ensures the emotional wellbeing of your employees by reducing the risk of loneliness, and helps your team to stay productive.
To ensure that your team members remain engaged and sociable, schedule social interactions as a part of their daily routine. This could include social calls with the whole team, fun quizzes the team can work on together, watching short entertaining or informative videos, or scheduling video conference lunch-time yoga & exercise sessions. A daily funny video or meme competition, a relaxed morning coffee catch-up or other social plans reinforces a positive work culture and is a great way to keep team members motivated.
As long as you ensure to recreate a fun, sociable and relaxed environment, your business can implement remote working without anyone suffering from social deprivation or increased stress.
Give employees advice on how to work from home
When an employee moves from working in an office to working remotely, they might need some time to get comfortable in their new daily routines. To ease the transition, consider giving your employee some advice on how to efficiently work from home.
Consider composing a document or an email with best practice advice for working remotely, such as setting up a work space that is separate from your personal space, taking regular breaks, and practicing healthy morning routines. This document could also include information about regular catch-up meetings, certain hours they are expected to work within, and other practical material.
Make sure they have all the equipment they need
Improve the comfort, confidence and efficiency of remote workers by providing them with all essential equipment required to undertake their assignments. This can often include a computer, phone and network connection, as well as industry specific equipment such as a headset, printer, paper shredder, fire-safe storage, or stationary.
If employees are expected to work from home for an extended period of time, you should also ensure that they have an adequate work environment, with ergonomic equipment to prevent strain injuries.
It is also essential that employees have access to all necessary software and systems, and that they receive adequate training in the use of these.
Assure employees they are valued even if they work from home
Remote workers can often feel distanced from the rest of their team, and naturally, this can lead to them questioning their position within the team or company.
To minimize this uncertainty, employers should assure their employees that their contributions are valuable. Make sure that they are included in meetings and projects, and that the work they complete is recognized at the same level as in-office team members.
Avoid giving remote workers the “easy tasks”, or leaving them out of regular communications. This is particularly important in case there are rumors of layoffs or promotions, as remote workers could feel more vulnerable or less important than their coworkers.