Once upon a time, remote working was something only tech startups saw as an option for staff members scattered across the globe. Then a pandemic struck, forcing businesses around the world to reconsider the possibility that allowing employees to work from home might be the only way to keep the company from going bankrupt.
According to a TechRepublic survey, 61% of companies have gone out of their way to make remote working possible for most employees. It is not a mistake on the radar. Given that an overwhelming majority of respondents (61%) would rather work from home than in an office, it’s safe to say that the remote working option is here to stay.
For employees, it’s a change of routine and place, but for businesses, it’s more than that – every business has so much more to consider. Let’s take a look at five considerations your business should understand for a smooth and productive work from home experience.
SEE: Speed Up Your Home Office: How To Optimize Your Network For Remote Work and Learning (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Remote Desktop Tools
No matter where your employees work, they need the right tools. When these employees work in the office, you provide them with everything they need to get the job done: computers, printers, mobile devices, desks, chairs, network devices, software, whiteboards, and more. If you think home workers should be alone for equipment, you’re doing remote work wrong. If you’re not prepared to pay directly for the tools your employees need, you should at least consider allowing them to expense those costs. But all purchases must be approved – otherwise you’ll end up with employees buying extravagant chairs and laptops.
According to our survey, 56% of respondents said their company did not provide the necessary equipment (computers, printers, etc.) and 52% of respondents said their company had done a poor job in their service. providing the necessary equipment. office equipment (desks, chairs, etc.) for working remotely. Unless that improves, staff will either be unable to do their jobs with any level of productivity (at best), or they will burn out and quit (at worst).
At a minimum, your company should provide remote workers with:
- A computer or laptop for work only
- A printer (if necessary)
- All the software needed to do their job
- A VPN (if security is an issue)
Burnout is a serious problem for employees who are not used to working from home. Why is this happening? The main reason is the inability to separate work from home. When this happens, the lines are so blurry that employees can start to feel like they are working 24/7. On top of that, people no longer get a much needed break from family life. This punch makes burnout faster and on a deeper level.
How do you deal with this? The most important thing you can do is keep the lines of communication open. You will need to have someone (or more) on hand to speak to staff to help them get through these times.
You will need to educate your staff to:
- Create a routine such as work schedules that clearly define “work time” and “home time”.
- Set limits such as: “When the office door is closed, I’m at work”.
- Communicate with family – make sure your employees communicate well with their loved ones.
- Practice self-care. Your employees will, at some level, need to learn to take care of themselves to avoid stress.
- Understand the priorities so your staff always know which work is priority and which work can be postponed.
According to our survey, 78% of respondents indicated that they work from home five days a week. If these staff members don’t work smart, they will quickly suffer from burnout. Feeling “at the office” day in and day out can be exhausting. To this end, you will need to consider allowing staff to work flexible hours.
Manage a flexible schedule
This one is a challenge for most businesses, as almost all businesses assume that the hours of operation are universal. There’s a reason Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” resonates so well with most people around the world.
However, with remote workers, the idea of a fixed work schedule must be rejected. You have to remember that people work at residence, which can throw a major key in the works. What am I talking about ?
- Caring for out-of-school children
- The possibility of burnout
- Family responsibilities
- Less reliable networks
- Equipment failure
The most important thing to consider is that your employees prefer to work from home and can be even more productive by working in this comfortable environment. But this improved productivity can come at a price to your business in the form of flexible hours.
Remember: As long as the job is done on time, it shouldn’t matter when that is done.
Safety is the key
One thing your business needs to consider is security and how to help your remote workers do their jobs without compromising company data. This may mean that you will need to purchase enterprise-class VPN services for those who need to transmit sensitive data from their home networks. Employees who deal with very sensitive data may also need to be trained in the use of encryption.
Another issue that needs to be resolved is passwords. You probably have password policies in place for office staff, but you cannot enforce those policies on their home networks, which means you will have to train your remote workers to change all network passwords. (like those in wireless routers) be strong and unique. While you should also make these employees aware of the use of a password manager (which they should anyway), that can’t be stressed enough.
SEE: How to Manage Passwords: Best Practices and Security Tips (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)
KPIs to watch
You need to know which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor, and I suggest these KPIs as a good place to start.
- Self-discipline: Ability of an employee to work independently.
- Effective communication: The ability of an employee to communicate effectively and efficiently with teams and customers.
- Learning skills: The ability of an employee to not only follow a known set of instructions, but also to learn new things effectively.
- Remote or local tasks: Are there any tasks that can or cannot be done remotely? You must know the difference.
- Responsibility: Employees need to learn to hold themselves accountable for doing their jobs with less supervision.
- Self-discipline: Employees need to be able to stay focused on their task with less supervision.
- Collaboration: Employees must be able to work effectively with other teammates via video / audio chat and email.
- Availablity: Managers should be available to discuss work-related issues during office hours. While employees can work flexible hours, they must also be available during office hours.
Transitioning your business from a standard work environment to a fully remote or hybrid environment (remote and in-house) doesn’t have to be a challenge. Since almost every business across the world has been forced into this new world order in practice, the hardest part is already settled. With just a little extra planning and work, you can make this new reality not only seamless, but even more productive.