The heyday of the traditional office is over. Remote, home, hybrid, coworking… today’s corporate employees regard the company HQ as a place to visit once in a while, not to spend most of their working hours.
You can understand why. Remote working gives people a more flexible lifestyle. If they don’t have to be in the office all day, it’s easier to manage the rest of their life. Whether they’re getting to school to pick up the children or having time to visit an elderly parent; finding an hour to exercise during the day or signing up for further education, remote working helps achieve that elusive work-life balance.
Seeing remote work through this lens, the benefits to employers soon become obvious too. If staff lead healthier lives, they are likely to bring more energy and passion to work. They are less stressed, more motivated and less inclined to call in sick. Remote work makes good business sense. It increases productivity, saves overhead costs on rent and office equipment, and keeps employees happier and more engaged.
Easy, right? Not so fast. If you’ve got remote workers, you need a remote work plan. Nothing fancy, just a document that makes things easier for everyone, by defining responsibilities, structures and support. And you need it now.
How do you write a remote work plan?
Here are some first steps:
1. Set the rules
Working from home can lead to higher productivity, but not always. It can also lead to wasted time and poorer coordination, so start with clear guidelines. For example, you may want to avoid team members being active at different times of day, so they miss critical handovers and hamper workflow. Clarify an acceptable period during which everyone must log in. They will soon work out when their colleagues are usually online and ready to collaborate.
2. Remote working doesn’t suit everyone
For some employees, working from home doesn’t make sense. Their job might involve being in the field, working directly with colleagues or out with clients most of the time. And then there are the people who aren’t temperamentally suited to it. Try as they might, they just can’t log in on time, work when colleagues are also active or hit deadlines without being under direct pressure.
So, before you establish a remote working arrangement, make sure a particular employee has strong communication skills, works well unsupervised and can manage their time effectively. Check their attendance records, productivity data and general performance history. Based on this and an analysis of their soft skills, you can decide whether home working is the right route.
3. Provide the right tools
Employees working remotely need just as much, if not more, tangible support than their office-based colleagues. Ergonomically designed desks and chairs, reliable Wi-Fi and a VPN provide a sound basis. You should also think about a team or project communications platform, video conferencing and time management software.
4. Stick to the schedule
Flexible doesn’t mean unpredictable. Working in teams, people have expectations of their colleagues. Make sure they are creating task lists so others can plan their work schedule around their personal lives. If anything, coordinated daily, monthly and project plans are even more important than when you’re in the office. The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of collaboration tools available to help manage their workload.
5. Focus on health and wellbeing
The advantages of remote work are well understood, but there are drawbacks too. Not least the stress caused by distractions, competing responsibilities, social isolation and more.
A remote working policy should prioritise employees’ health and wellbeing. It should mandate breaks from work, informal chats and enjoyable group activities. Regular, direct contact with your staff, preferably on a daily video call, will also help you pick up signs that something is wrong.
6. Be empathetic
This is probably the most important factor of all. In the old days, most people successfully left their home life at home. Working remotely brings it right back centre stage. Remember that your employees may be contending with all kinds of distractions, from young children to noisy neighbours, from unsuitable workspaces to building work next door.
If they sometimes find it hard to cope, try to be understanding. Talk to them regularly and try to get a sense of their situation. Give and ask for feedback. Establish a bond that encourages them to share issues with you – and find solutions together.