Integrating remote work into your business comes with great benefits, but also has its own set of challenges. After the COVID-19 virus disrupted the flow of the workforce, many businesses were forced to move to remote work environments to reduce the rate of infection. While it was born of necessity, it has become generally desirable. Remote work benefits workers and employers alike, as workers are often thankful for the flexibility of working from home and employers gain access to a wider pool of talent. However, integrating and managing remote work is complicated. Let’s talk about it.
First off, it’s important to note that not all businesses can take advantage of hybrid work arrangements. Brick and mortar stores, construction or landscaping, or any other jobs that market physical labor and materials will not function remotely. Unless your business is already founded on digital technology, you will likely always need in-person workers. However, almost all businesses have employees who could benefit from the ability to work remotely.
This can vary based on the factors in your business, such as how it is structured, what size it is, or number of departments. Consider the efficacy of allowing remote work before you commit your time and resources to making it possible. When executed well, remote or hybrid work is an incredible benefit to your workplace. It can allow your employees more flexibility with scheduling and travel. Think of the mom who needs to pick up her child from daycare midway through the day but would never make it from the office. In the event of poor weather, you have employees who can continue to be productive from their homes. Remote work also gives you as the employer greater access to possible employees. Instead of searching for local employees who are limited by commute times and geographic location, you can “outsource” your work to someone living across the country.
Hot tip: Be consistent, not constant! Too many video meetings can cause “digital fatigue”
The management of your remote workers can require extra attention to detail. To minimize potential complications, only trusted employees should be allowed to work remotely. And instead of hopelessly attempting to track their active working time, keep a sharp eye on your employees’ results. Check in regularly on employee projects and require measurable results to their activities. One of the biggest changes to your workplace when you have remote workers is the switch from spontaneous to planned collaboration, so make sure that you are scheduling team meetings to keep in touch with remote workers. This keeps everyone in the loop and reinforces accountability for your employees.
Hot tip: Keep it snappy. People work better when they are dressed professionally, even when at home.
Set agreed-upon expectations with remote workers. From the start, you should define what behaviors and habits are acceptable, such as professional appearance and availability. Adopt a teamwork platform, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, to allow for simple communication and collaboration within your company – it’s an essential tool for effective remote work to be accomplished.
Hot tip: For new hires: If possible, trial them in person first before allowing any remote work. That way they will absorb the workplace culture and you can monitor their productivity.
Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Keep things fair. Make sure that your company standards are universal. If one person is allowed to wear casual clothing, everyone should be able to.
- Support a healthy work/life balance. Check in with your employees to make sure that their home lives aren’t interfering with their work, or vice versa. It can get muddy when everything is in the same building, but good communication and understanding go a long way towards finding solutions.
- Keep sensitive information secure. Make sure that remote workers understand how to handle sensitive documents and information. Some work can be done at the coffee shop, and some can’t. Everyone should know the difference.
- Keep talking, or experience “culture loss”. If you lose contact with your employees, they can fade off the radar.
Working in person allows organic bonds between coworkers to form naturally. It is more difficult to connect through a screen. Take some time out of your day to reach out and chat so that your remote workers don’t feel left out.
While there are caveats to remote work, it can be incorporated in ways that benefit both businesses and employees. Ideally, this new approach to work will help everyone involved become happier and more effective workers. Navigating this changing landscape can be daunting at first, but with these tools you are set to give it a try with your business and see what can be possible.