How to test remote working (without getting your team’s hope up)

To work at home or not to work at home, that’s the question. Marissa Mayer famously put a stop to remote working when she started as Yahoo! CEO, yet we’ve seen it work for so many other successful companies.

The thing to remember is that remote working isn’t for everyone and it might not suit your business at all. But how will you know if you don’t try?

Once you’ve allowed your team to work remotely, taking that privilege away could make them pretty angry. Before you decide whether or not to allow remote working, why not test to see if it works for your company?

Here’s how to test remote working without getting your team’s hopes up…

It’s all about trust

One of the most common concerns about remote working is how to monitor your employees. If you don’t trust your team, you don’t need to test remote working. Just don’t do it. It’s that simple.

Results only work environment (ROWE)

Short of installing desktop monitoring software (which I think seems a little invasive), you’re not going to be able to see what your employees are getting up to while they’re working remotely. But that doesn’t mean you can’t monitor how much work they’re getting done…

When word got out about the end of Yahoo’s remote working policy, David Heinemeier Hansson responded with a 37Signals blog post claiming:

“What this reveals more than anything is that Yahoo management doesn’t have a clue as to who’s actually productive and who’s not.”

So how do you know how productive your team are outside the office?

The Results Only Work Environment (or ROWE), created by Best Buy employees Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, encourages employees to “work whenever you want, wherever you want, as long as the work gets done.” Instead of monitoring your employees in terms of the amount of time they spend in the office, ROWE companies monitor how much work gets done.

Best Buy has recently cancelled ROWE but many other companies are still seeing great results.

Kansas based software company Suntell reported that, in the 3 years since adopting ROWE, their headcount fell by 20% while their customer base increased by 20% and expenses fell by 12%.

Going full ROWE might seem quite a dramatic change, but if you’re considering allowing remote working, you might want to consider a shift to goal oriented work instead of time oriented work. That way you can still monitor your employees without having to keep an eye on them all day.

Introduce collaborative tools

There are hundreds of online tools that can help your team collaborate remotely. Here are 10 we recommended a short while ago.

Team collaboration tools aren’t just helpful for remote workers. We use Campfire to instant message in the office so we don’t have to shout over each other. We use Google Docs to collaborate on documents.

Try introducing collaboration tools to your office and see how your team deal with them. You can expect a little resistance at first, it’s pretty normal for employees to have a moan about new systems. If they really can’t get their heads around it, remote working might not be for you.

Allow remote working when necessary

Sometimes your team are going to ask for time off to wait for the plumber or look after their kids when they’re off sick. But don’t just give them the afternoon off, these are the perfect opportunities to test remote working.

Ask your employees to work from home and see how they handle their workload that day. How quickly can you get hold of them? Can they do everything you ask them to? Did they achieve as much as they would in the office?

You could allow your team to work their overtime remotely where possible. Or maybe the holiday period is quiet in your office. Offer your team a few days of remote working.

Any chance to let your team work at home without promising it will become a regular thing gives you the opportunity to measure how remote working works for you.

Did you switch from office to remote working? How did you do it?

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