The digital age is synonymous with business outsourcing, telecommuting and working from home. Once companies adjust to the modern realities created by the technological efficiency of the internet, it’s just a matter of time before the definitions of telecommuting and working from home become blurry.
Here are tips both employees and employers can achieve when setting up an effective remote work environment.
What should your expectations be?
As an employer, it’s difficult imagining a sizable number of your workforce are working from home in their pajamas. In that respect, as an employer you can:
- Standardize working times: If al staff work within the same time zone, your working times should be relatively standard to enable cross-communication, seamless flow of work and prompt response to emails.
- Adopt time-tracking software systems: There are several tracking software such as RescueTime, DeskTime, Harvest, and several others.</p.
- You can use Google/Microsoft calendar to ensure all operations are in sync
Invest in the infrastructure that eases work from home
If a company has had telecommuting employees before, they might an idea of what is required. With the right tools, working from home becomes highly manageable. Here are some good gestures that will foster the work from home culture:
- Supply digital copies of all work documents
Inform your employees of all work from home policies arrived at.
- Ensure software in use is up to date
If the company employees operate with inferior software in their workstations, it will affect their productivity.
- Use secure and convenient Password-sharing platforms like LastPass
At the workplace, there is a tech guru from the I.T department who knows every password on every device. However, while at home, you will need an equally competent password retrieval mechanism in place.
- Give employees the opportunity to effectively carry out their job functions
Any small device whether a mouse, keyboard etcetera, can help ease their work from home transition
- Invest in video conferencing platforms such as GoToMeeting or Zoom
Direct video communication helps fend off any feelings of exclusion that may arise.
- Use VPN
Given that your employees will be using their own WiFi, it would be prudent to connect them to a VPN as a security measure.
Maintain an open communication channel
Only by effectively communicating with your employees can they understand what your expectations are of them and what the shared goal is. A failure to adequately communicate results in low morale and hence counterproductive results when employees work from home. Some effective communication strategies are:
- Use a chat system: Platforms like Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack, and Microsoft Hangouts.
- Have everyone’s cell numbers: That way anyone can quickly relay a message or exchange contacts in the event of an emergency.
- Constantly check your Email: Some older employees are more accustomed to the use of email – accommodate them if you have to.
The “social distancing” requirement should become the new office work culture. Studies show that social workplaces are more productive than those that are isolationist. Socializing does not necessarily have to be physical or involve contact. It can be done through the internet in the form of:
- Virtual bars: Everyone can grab a beer wherever they are and converse over different topics
- Coffee break talks: Agreed upon break schedules where people break from work and speak to one another.
For the socialization to work, it must be as organic as possible rather than forced or mechanical.
Have a way to monitor and gauge progress
If your employees are adopting a work from home environment for the first time, they can be overwhelmed by the unstructured nature of the workspace outside an office. You can give them a set of daily goals targets and milestones to achieve by:
- Adopting product management tools- Free resources such as ClickUp, Trello, Astana or Teamwork projects help.
- Having the daily goals written down
Understand your employees
Not all employees can work from home. Only allow those whose productivity will increase.
What are the proven results?
At first, the only rationale behind a work from home shift would be the cost-saving aspect of furniture and rental office space. Many found it hard to imagine that employees could concentrate or even maintain the discipline that is accustomed to a standard office environment. That was until stats began to show an increase in productivity and reduced staff turnover rate from employees accustomed to working from home.
Just so we are on the same page, the amount of money saved on office space and furniture is very substantial too.
Lower attrition rates
An office environment compared to the home environment, what brings about the reduced attrition rate? When the home is mentioned we imagine running kids, out cuddly pets, television, chores and a lot more. Alternatively, you can make a comparison with the office experience and see what am driving at. Offices have their fair share of distractions, which affect employee performance. A work from home employee starts work earlier, takes shorter break periods, and extends as late as the schedule allows ensuring the task is completed. Work from home employees have avoided the hassle of daily commuting, avoided lunch-time errands, and there is a reduced case of workers sick requests that result in lost work hours.
Which demographic segments cherish work from home?
Most people with social lives appreciate working from home. For instance, older workers, married workers, and parents. The younger generation whose social lives revolve around the office prefer sticking around the workplace. Today, employees who work from home are on either side of the office hierarchy or income bracket. They can be call center agents, developers, proofreaders, and professionals and senior managers.
What are the downsides?
To be clear, there are downsides too, as with any other work approach. For instance, what is the company culture? If the work from home culture is poorly supervised or appraised, there will be slack in output and overall morale. In that case, the naysayers will have their day discrediting the work from home culture.