Thanks to advances in technology, more and more people are choosing to work from home. According to Forbes, more than 1.54 million people in the UK work from home in their main job, and 8 million people in the US work from home.
For employees, there are a number of advantages to working from home. For many, the lack of commute is a huge bonus as it means they can get their kids to school or, alternatively, start their day much earlier than they could if they had to commute to the office.
It has also been proven to reduce stress — 24% of people who work from home at least once a month are reportedly happier and more productive at their jobs than their office counterparts. It can also help to retain talent, prolonging the careers of older workers and helping to close the gender gap.
How to Manage Remote Workers
Remote working is becoming increasingly popular in the business world. More and more employees are searching for jobs that allow them to work from home, or at least require less travel than traditional roles demand.
Cloud computing is largely responsible for this increase in remote employment, as it enables companies to utilize distributed teams who can work together seamlessly regardless of location. To help managers maintain an efficient distributed workforce, here are our top five tips on how to manage remote workers effectively.
1. Establish a set of company guidelines early on
Remote working can make it difficult for employees to know exactly what is expected of them — particularly if they work in different time zones or have inflexible working arrangements.
To avoid disputes and make sure employees receive the guidance they need, managers should set out clear guidelines on what hours they are expected to work, when they are allowed vacation time, and any other rules that will help them stay productive.
2. Keep collaboration high
Part of the reason remote workforces are becoming so popular is because they can be highly efficient. Productivity drops, however, when employees aren’t able to collaborate effectively.
To ensure that no one becomes isolated on their project – and that key information doesn’t become siloed in a single department or team – managers should encourage frequent communication. Face-to-face calls via Zoom, phone calls and video conferences are a great way to do this.
Another way to facilitate collaboration and communication within remote project teams is by using enterprise project management tools, which provide a centralized platform for team members to share information, track progress, and collaborate in real time.
3. Prepare for international staff
A distributed workforce means that managers will have employees from different countries, which can make things complicated if they don’t plan ahead. To minimize potential issues, it’s important to prepare a set of clearly defined company values and a system for dealing with cultural differences that could arise in the workplace.
Managers should also establish a clear company policy on acceptable working hours across different time zones to ensure employees are productive at the same time.
4. Encourage employees to make the most of their freedom
Remote working can be difficult if employees don’t feel confident about managing themselves and making sure their workload is completed in an effective manner.
To encourage employees to manage themselves well, managers should give them complete freedom over how they organize their roles. Employees should manage and estimate their own time, report on their work regularly, and be given the flexibility they need to get their jobs done without being micromanaged.
5. Be honest about remote working opportunities
While remote working can have many benefits, it isn’t for everyone. Managers should be honest about the potential problems that can arise from remote working and let employees know whether or not they will likely work remotely in the future, as this information could influence their decision to take a role with your company.
By promoting a transparent culture where no one is forced to make sacrifices they don’t want to, companies will be able to benefit from a distributed workforce while maintaining the high morale of their employees.
With all these benefits, it’s no wonder employees are looking to work from home more and more. But how should managers approach and manage employees working from home?
From a management perspective
From a management perspective, allowing employees to work from home is a big decision. For many employees, there may be a genuine need to work from home — for example, if they are a carer or they have a disability.
But it’s always important to analyze the specific job role to see whether it can be completed from home, and also the personality of the individual — there are many people who simply would not be able to motivate themselves to work while away from the office.
The pros of letting employees work from home:
- For many employees, they’re more productive.
- It can save you money on office space.
- Communication and technology is now so efficient that they won’t miss out on what’s happening in the office.
- It helps with employee retention — people who work remotely are less likely to leave the company for other employment.
The cons of letting employees work from home:
- There may be a cost to the business for initially setting up the home to work remotely.
- Teamwork may suffer if the business requires face-to-face communication between employees.
- The workflow may be affected, depending on what technology and communication platforms you put in place.
- For employees, there can be isolation issues and distractions at home which may mean they struggle with productivity.
What you need to consider when managing remote employees
Of course, when making such a big decision, it’s important to consider both the employee’s situation and the ability of the business to cater to their needs.
Here are some things you should ask yourself before making the decision about whether to allow staff to work from home.
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Is the employee in a situation where they need to work from home?
For example, it may be easier for parents to work from home should their children need them. While it may sound counterproductive to allow parents to work from home so they can be there for their kids, you’d be amazed at how much a parent gets done during school hours.
Alternatively, your employee may have a disability that prevents them from getting into the office. In order to ensure they’re comfortable throughout their careers and avoid burnout, they may need to work from home. Another example of when it’s a good idea to allow employees to work from home is if they work odd hours.
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Is their job conducive to working from home?
There are some online jobs that are and aren’t suited to working from home. For example, some employees may work with sensitive information. In this case, it’s probably not a great idea for that information to be leaving the office.
Of course, if the employee is, for example, part of your design or editorial department, these kinds of jobs are easy to do from anywhere – as long as there’s a good internet connection available.
Related: How to Become a Virtual Assistant
Can your company cater to employees working from home?
Do you have the right kind of technologies to allow for staff to work remotely? If not, it may be time to set the business up with some communication and remote access software.
It’s also important to consider what kind of equipment your staff needs to work from home. If it’s merely a laptop, then you may be ok. However, if it’s other more technical equipment, it may not be feasible.
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It’s here to stay
While your company’s decision as to whether to let staff work remotely may be up in the air, one thing is certain — working from home is here to stay. In fact, 77% of workers have said they’re more likely to accept a job offer if it comes with the ability to work from home at least some of the time. So, if you’re not set up for staff to work remotely, it’s definitely time to consider it.