The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many businesses to change their working practices, including switching office life for remote working from home. Now, despite the lockdown having been eased in many countries, a lot of businesses are still choosing to remain largely remote, connecting with their employees via the internet and in some cases giving up their office spaces altogether. But what does it take to successfully take your business remotely? How do you make sure that it works?
The benefits of remote working
The chance to work from home one or two days a week has long been used by companies as an employment benefit, enticing candidates to job positions and ranking highly as one of the most sought after perks. The reasons why remote working is so appealing to employees are numerous, but the key benefits are:
- Family time
For parents of children, working from home enables them to be there when their children get up for school and to also be there for when they come home. This little extra little bit of family time can help to cut childcare costs and to improve family bonds.
- Help to achieve a better work-life balance
Working from home makes it much easier for a person to achieve a work-life balance, be that fitting in the time for a workout, spending some extra time playing with their kids, or simply running a hot bath for some self-care time.
- Reduced commute
Commuting can take up a huge chunk of a person’s day, not to mention it is often stressful and expensive. Working from home cuts out a commute altogether, freeing up valuable time for other things, saving money, and decreasing stress levels.
Working from home can also provide people with a new sense of flexibility, enabling them to eat when they want, to take breaks when they want, and in some cases even to set their own working hours.
- Time to knock off weekend tasks
And lastly, extra time spent at home and a decreased commute make it much easier for people to knock off weekend errands like doing the laundry, running to the post office, or going to the grocery store. Giving them more time to relax on the days when they are truly clocked-off.
But remote working isn’t only a benefit to employees, and as COVID-19 has shown, more remote working hours can also have a benefit for companies too.
- Increased productivity
Many companies fear that their employees will be less productive when working from home due to distraction, but in fact, the opposite is true. Employees are on average 30-40% more productive when working from home than they are in the office, perhaps due to less office gossip and fewer trips to the break room?
- Better performance
When it comes to better work statistics, employees that work from home have been found to have an overall better work performance too, with fewer defects in their work and greater accuracy.
- Improved retention
Hiring is a costly and time-consuming process, but by offering remote working, businesses may need to do it less often. 54% of employees say that they would change jobs without hesitation for one that provides more flexibility.
- Greater profitability
And lastly, greater performance, better productivity, and improved retention all add up to create higher profitability. Not to mention remote working can help to lower overheads like office space.
How do you successfully take your business remotely?
Of course, like any strategic business decision, switching to remote working will only prove to be beneficial if it is conducted correctly, and a new set of procedures, equipment, and guidelines may need to be put in place to account for the changes in your workday practices. Here are some things that you may want to consider.
One of the many perks of remote working is that it frees up more hours in a person’s day, meaning that there is more room for flexibility when it comes to their working hours. This can help you to man your phones for longer throughout the day and to improve your customer service and business productivity, with emails answered before, and after, your competitors have reached their workspaces. Whether you decide to offer your remote employees flexible working hours or not, the key to making sure that they work in your favor is to keep track of them clearly. In the office, working hours can be tracked visually, but remotely you will need to find a digital way of tracking and calculating work hours.
Communication is the key to any successful team, but it is perhaps more important than ever in one that is entirely remote. It is vital that you introduce a simple means of direct communication such as Slack, and also make the most of video conferencing software that will allow you to speak face-to-face as if you were in the same room. Microsoft Teams is another great team communications software, but whichever you choose the key to making it work is ensuring that your team knows how to use it and that they will use it. In the office, catch-ups could often be had ad-hoc whenever managers bumped into their team members, but with remote working, these must be more clearly scheduled to ensure that they take place and everyone feels supported.
One of the downsides of remote working is that it can be an isolating affair, which is why it is important to have the tools in place to facilitate collaboration virtually, be that video conferencing software or tools like Google Drive, that allows more than one person to work on a document simultaneously.
Outside of work, it is also still important for team members to be able to connect and to feel as though they are socializing with one another. Of course, if living locally, this can be achieved by meeting up face to face for team drinks or a team lunch, but if working remotely from across the world, then it is important that no one is left out and some kind of team activity is planned to bring everyone together online.
Managing a remote team is a little different from managing one internally, and so it is important that your managers are on board and capable. Aside from a need for more communication, goal setting is also a very important part of remote working, allowing managers to track the performance of their teams and to ensure that business productivity targets are being met.
Although most employees rise well when offered the opportunity to work remotely, it is important to realize that not everyone is capable of the self-motivation that remote working can require and so they may need more help from their managers and more input to keep them on track.
Making sure that remote working works
Every business is different, and every employee is different, and so you should not assume that your remote working model will work straight off the bat. Instead, take a phased approach to the transition by starting with a small segmented trial in each department or by having your whole workforce go remote for a short period of time.
This will enable you to find any inconsistencies and to fix them before they cause any lasting detriment to your business or profits.
It may take some trial and error, in the beginning, to get things right, but once the creases are ironed out working remotely can greatly benefit your business. Would you ever give it a try?