It’s a thorny issue isn’t it? To let your employees work remotely or not. Yahoo made headlines when Marissa Mayer joined as CEO and banned working from home. Yet so many other businesses allow it, saying it increases productivity.
So who’s right? Well, it really depends on how your business manages it. Here are five ways to make working from home great for your business:
1. Remote Work isn’t for Everyone
Different people have different ways of working. Some prefer working in groups, while others need a more private space. When it comes to remote work, only certain people will thrive
If you’re hiring for a remote position, make sure the person either has some experience with remote work or shares the characteristics of your other, successful remote employees.
The toughest part about working remotely is the need to be incredibly organized and proactive. Remote workers need to take initiative in completing tasks and thinking ahead instead of always waiting for direction. They need to be responsible enough to meet deadlines, like all employees, but more importantly need to consistently show that they are working.
It’s up to you to decide who can work away from the office and when. Talk to existing employees to find out if they would be more productive working from home or at the office. When hiring remote workers, look for the traits that make them suitable for working from home.
“Great remote employees let others know when they won't be available, and why” says Jeff Haden. “They see working remotely as a trade-off: They know they have more freedom, but they also recognize that with that freedom comes the responsibility of hyper-availability.”
Getting this step right will go a long way in ensuring that hiring remote workers can help your business. You just need to make sure the management and expectation of such employees is more clearly defined.
2. Make Training as Easy as Possible
Onboarding is a serious process in most companies. Training workers in their first few weeks with your company is often tough, and this is especially true for remote workers. While on-site workers have direct access to mentors and ‘office buddies’, remote workers have limited resources.
The best way to make sure their entry into your company is as easy as possible is to have all of your materials and policies available and easy to access. It also means you need to develop a virtual support network for new employees.
The goal is to make sure that there is always someone to reach out to if remote employees need help. You don’t want them to feel lost and cut off. Having a direct phone line or real-time chat system with onboarding staff will really benefit them.
Assigning an on-site employee to support and guide new remote workers, particularly if they are from the same team, can be really helpful. Since they work together on the same projects, it won’t be a stretch for the on-site employee to keep checking up on the entire team, even those 2,000 Km’s away.
3. Don’t Forget, You Still Need Face Time
You can hire the perfect remote workers and train them well, but you still need some face time with them once in awhile. You don’t want your on-site employees wondering if there is an actual human sitting at the other end of those e-mails.
Facetime allows employees to get to know each other better and it helps build trust and rapport. It’s a lot easier working with someone when you’ve already met him or her and made a personal connection. This translates to a mutual understanding when working on projects and improves internal communication.
37signals gathers the whole company three times each year so it can facetime without too many energy zapping meetings. The main idea is for everyone to have a good time, become a part of the company culture (and get a better understanding of it) and learn more about their role.
4. Develop a Remote Work Policy for your Company
This goes for permanent and casual remote work. You need to support your team and set clear goals, rules, and expectations. A company remote work policy is a great way to do this.
A clear policy lets employees know what’s allowed and what isn’t without the fear of making any mistakes. If there are only certain days when working from home is allowed, or only certain people are allowed to work from home, the policy must state these.
It also makes sure managers are consistent and don’t penalize, micro manage or set unrealistic expectations of those working away from the office if they are within the rules stated in the policy.
5. Assuming That More Communication is Better is a Mistake
It seems logical that you might need to keep in constant contact with remote workers to make them feel like a part of the team. However, that might actually harm productivity and defeat the entire purpose of remote working.
“It is often assumed that teleworkers need a lot of communication and contact with the organization in order to diminish their sense of distance and to develop a sense of belonging,” explains Kathryn Fonner, UWM assistant professor of communication and one of the researchers behind the study, “but we found that the more teleworkers communicated with others, the more stressed they felt due to interruptions, and this was negatively associated with their identification with the organization,”
It’s important to find the right balance of connectivity. E-mails, telephones and virtual conferencing are just a few ways people can connect with each other. It’s become so easy to stay in touch that the problem is not how to stay in touch but when to.
Place limits on the number of video conferences and group calls. Better yet, set up a recurring time, not too frequently, when your team can catch up with each other and decide the next steps of a project.
Ultimately, working from home can be good or bad for your business. The good thing is it’s totally under your control and, if you put in place the right management and practices, it could be the best thing for your business.
Do you have remote workers? If so, let us know what you do to manage their time and expectations.