Are you tempted to continue your company’s work-from-home program indefinitely? Several tech giants like Twitter have recently made headlines with their decisions to do this, while companies such as Salesforce and Google are extending remote work at least until the end of 2020. The experiment of past three months under lockdown conditions has shown us just how effective virtual teams can be, at least for most desk-and-computer type jobs.
Allowing for continued flexibility of working from home makes perfect business sense. There are significant cost savings gained by a decreased real-estate footprint and less office prerequisites such as furniture or supplies. Embracing remote work also means that you open your company up to a wider talent pool of experts, unrestricted by geography or commuting challenges. Plus, flexible employment has been tied to smaller turnover rates and greater career satisfaction.
Whether you are thinking of making this permanent move for your entire company or only for some roles, make sure to plan accordingly. Here are some tips to get you started:
It’s important to have clear guidelines in place for a sustained and successful remote-work program. Define expectations for work hours and availability, which might vary for different roles. Set a policy around cost sharing for things such as home internet or personal devices. Does your organization provide any specific equipment? If so, include rules for its use. If your approach is to have a blended workforce consisting of both in-office and remote employees, define who is eligible to work remotely, how often, and what the approval process is around that. For hourly employees, set up a timekeeping system. Lastly, don’t overlook cybersecurity and greater propensity for data breaches: identify what the rules are for use of public WiFi and sharing of data.
There are several technologies on the market, which make it easy for companies to track and analyze productivity. Among them are ActivTrak, Teramind, Hubstaff and Time Doctor. Holding people accountable for their work is generally good practice and it helps to have standard KPIs that employees can work towards. Setting up regular update meetings between management and providing deadlines is another way to keep your team productive.
Corporate Culture & Connectivity
Remember staying well into the evening, eating pizza with your colleagues, working on that milestone project? Or popping your head into your co-worker’s office to bounce some ideas off of them? This is part of what builds a strong corporate culture and binds people together. Consider how it will be changed in a virtual context and what strategies you can implement to sustain these types of interactions between employees. Leverage collaborative technology platforms to keep conversations between colleagues strong and frequent. Organize in-person team gatherings at least once a month, bringing everyone together to reconnect in person.
Health & Safety
Employers have the same health and safety obligations towards remote employees as those that work in the office. A home in this case is considered a workplace and employers should take the necessary steps to assess it for risk and provide guidance for a safe home-based working environment. Ensure that your remote employees have ergonomic workstations with suitable lighting and ventilation. Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders can just as easily happen at home, where people are more likely to work at a kitchen table or from a couch or bed. Educating and encouraging your employees to be mindful of posture and healthy working habits will help to minimize injuries.
Mental Health & Support
Remote work is not for everyone. While some employees thrive and are more productive working out of the office, others will experience feelings of isolation, lack of motivation, and dysconnectivity. Some things to consider when developing a permanent work-from-home program for your company is whether your existing employees are suited for it. Do they have proper childcare in place? Working with younger children around could impact productivity. Are they tech savvy enough to make use of collaborative technologies? If not, make sure to provide training and support. Do your employees need constant checking-in? Some people need more one-on-one attention than others. Make sure to provide your remote employees with the right tools and strategies to maintain their mental and physical well-being.
Offering flexible working solutions, although not a novel idea, is all of a sudden, thanks to COVID19, being touted as the “new normal” of employment. It’s definitely a beneficial solution for many businesses and it will continue to play a prominent role in the future of work.