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In the last twelve years, remote working has grown by 159%. In the previous five years, that number has grown from 3.9 million people to 4.7 million people in the US, a staggering 3.4% of the population.
Remote work has gone from being a nice thing to do, every once in a while, to a way of life for millions of people.
The question is, as a company, are you prepared for this trend?
Do you have the policies, procedures, technology, communication, and leadership skills to enable your staff to work remotely successfully?
It is not as easy as it sounds. Working from home can be isolating for people, and if they are not set up for success, they can find that they are ultimately distracted, feel disconnected from what is going on at the office, and ineffective.
The first thing to consider is, do people have the proper space at home to be successful? It may be fine to work at the kitchen table for a couple of hours, one or two days per month, but in the long term, this is setting people up for failure.
People need to have a quiet and private space within their dwelling that can mirror the office environment: professional desk and ergonomic chair, high-speed connectivity, dedicated phone line, printers, and video cameras. There is also the need for filing cabinets and shelving space to house office supplies such as paper, toner, envelopes, letterhead, and possibly courier pouches. Then there is making sure that there is good lighting. Do not forget additional insurance to protect business equipment not stored at the office. All of these things are critical to making sure that employees working from home can work efficiently and effectively.
From there, there is a conversation about whether people feel comfortable working from home and whether they would feel isolated or not. Would they feel that those they share the home with would be a distraction that cannot be overcome (pets, children, spouses, loud neighbours) or whether they can effectively be able to overcome the needs of others who want their attention?
Now that you have set your remote workers up with an office space that allows them to be productive and successful, the hard part begins. What policies, procedures, and communication channels need to be modified so that you can integrate the remote workforce into your daily workflow? Will you incorporate remote sharing of data using programs like Dropbox, and will you set up video conferencing systems like Zoom to allow people to share information and ideas easily? Will you have remote workers meet in a central location regularly so that you can maintain the semblance of a team? Will you develop buddy systems so that remote workers can spell each other off during the day and make sure that there is always peak efficiency and coverage to provide superior customer experience? Will your leadership develop check-in systems to make sure that everyone is still working effectively and feels like they are part of the team and engaged?
You may be reading this list of items and are feeling a little overwhelmed right now. You may be thinking that maybe having remote workers is not a great idea, after all. Let me dispel this fear and anxiety.
Having the right people able to work remotely is a benefit to most organizations. It can allow for increased service hours as some people would prefer to start work earlier in the morning, have time to themselves in the middle of the day, and then continue working into the evening. It allows workers to have the flexibility and reduces their levels of stress, anxiety and will enable them to work more effectively.
Don’t believe me? Click on this article from Forbes – 4 Reasons Why a Remote Workforce is Better for Business.
Having a tremendous remote workforce takes planning, operational changes, more open communication, active listening, and realizing that there is no “one size fits all” approach that will be successful. Talk to your people. Find out why they want to work from home, why they think it will be beneficial for them and the company and how they think this needs to be implemented to work successfully for them. Assess opportunities as they arise, test them, see what works and what does not communicate and modify, and then check again.
Here is a nine-minute video that I created to help people send their teams home successfully.
Ben Baker wants to help you engage, retain, and grow your most valuable asset … your employees. He provides workshops and consulting to enable staff to understand, codify, and communicate their value effectively internally and externally and Retain Employees Through Leadership. He is the author of Powerful Personal Brands: A Hands-On Guide to Understanding Yours and the host of the Spotify and IHEART Radio syndicated YourLIVINGBrand.live show, he writes extensively on leadership, brand, and internal communication strategy.
His COMPLIMENTARY ONLINE COURSE is now available: “KNOW – LIKE – TRUST! How to Develop Your Personal Brand” CLICK HERE to access the course