How to Make Remote Employment Work for You and Your Employee
Despite a few corporate dinosaurs—including some that are now extinct—that cling to the belief that workers must be in a permanent physical office with all their coworkers eight hours a day, five days a week, the marketplace recognizes the value of a remote workforce and the importance of offering workplace flexibility. Research—and the associated business outcomes—proves the point.
In a previous blog post, I pointed out that while IBM generated publicity by eliminating its remote workforce a couple years ago, its own Smarter Workplace Institute finds that remote workers are happier, less stressed, more productive, and more engaged than those who come to a permanent office five days a week and sit in an assigned workspace. Indeed, a recent report concludes that 70 percent of the workforce works remotely at least one day a week—and the numbers are growing. That same study pinpoints some salient outcomes of remote work options, including:
- 91 percent indicate employees are more productive
- 89 percent believe their business are growing faster, while 87 percent assert that they are more competitive
- 80 percent state they are able to recruit and retain top talent
With remote workers—whether part or full time—a foregone conclusion at the majority of companies and continuing to grow in numbers, how these workers are managed is still a work in process at many organizations. Further, businesses run a risk of failing to capitalize on the benefits of their remote workforce without the right set of processes and technologies in place. Following are some recommendations for organizations and managers seeking to ensure their remote employees perform as well, if not better, than their on-site workforce:
Launching a remote workforce plan without documented policies is a “wreck waiting to happen.” Organizations need to define rules and processes around remote work, clearly community them, and monitor to ensure they are being followed. It is particularly important to keep track of remote workers during the early stages of remote work. Policies need to include expectations for work hours that account for time zone differences and delineation of individual goals. Here, project management software and HR workplace analytic tools can aid in monitoring, reporting, and measuring the work of remote employees.
Breaking Up Home Office Monotony, Fostering Engagement and Collaboration
A majority of employees working remotely do so only part of the work week; the spend part of the week from a physical, fixed workplace and part of the week from home offices or coworking spaces. However, a significant portion of remote workers spend all of the time from remote workspace and only travel to the corporate headquarters periodically. While some thrive in these settings, others struggle due to the lack of face-to-face interactions with other professionals. In these instances, coworking spaces are a great option—particularly for companies with remote workers in the same geographical location. While leasing a permanent office location is infeasible logistically and financially, a coworking space that can be used on demand or reserved for use once or twice a week may be a perfect scenario.
Using the Right Technology Tools
Technology tools are critical in promoting collaboration and productivity for remote employees. Cloud-based applications and tools are the norm today—used for everything from managing projects, to developing applications, to chat communications, to analyzing productivity. Ensuring these will run on multiple devices for employees who access and share information across multiple devices as they more between workspaces and workplaces is important. With cybercriminals becoming increasingly more advanced in their exploits, the security employed across these applications and services as well as devices is just as crucial. Whether malicious or unintentional, a data breach or operational disruption caused by a cyberattack can be detrimental to a business. Here, companies need to ensure they have a multi-layered endpoint security and multifactor authentication implemented.
Leveraging On-Demand Meeting Rooms
While coworking spaces are great for facilitating engagement and collaboration with remote employees, on-demand meeting rooms are just as important. These are particularly important when a meeting requires privacy and confidentiality. Rented meeting rooms such as Davinci Meeting Rooms are a much better option than coffee shops or hotel conference rooms.
Supporting Remote Workers in Workspaces
For businesses with a permanent office location or flexible workspace options, ensuring that the workplace supports the remote workforce when employees visit is important. Here, organizations need to design a specified set of workspaces for remote workers and to implement a reservation system for them. This ensures that remote workers can plan their trips ahead of time and ensure they have a workspace from which to work.
Promoting Collaboration: Mandatory Work from “Office” Workdays to Social Events
Collaboration comes naturally for some workers but not for others. It thus is important for organizations to think about codified processes and tools for promoting collaboration between remote workers and other remote workers as well as remote workers and employees working from a permanent workspace. This might range from mandatory days for the team to work from the permanent office or coworking space to hosted social events.
While other recommendations are possible, the above is a great starting point. Workplace flexibility can bring great rewards to a business when it is managed correctly. When it is not accompanied with the right technology tools or processes and policies, however, remote work can result in diminished productivity, employee disengagement, low morale, and higher turnover. The upside is that with the right remote workforce technologies and processes, businesses can flourish and gain competitive business advantage.