As the coronavirus outbreak continues, travel restrictions and health concerns are prompting many companies to embrace remote working for the first time. For some, adopting remote working practices will feel like uncharted territory, so we’ve put together this guide to provide you with a handy framework that has proven to work for us and many of our customers.
At WiseTime, our workforce spans 15 countries, with just over half of our team working remotely around the globe. For us, this approach feels normal, works very well and we see the benefits of having a flexible workforce every day.
According to FlexJobs’ Annual Survey, 77% of workers say that having a flexible job allows them to be healthier and 86% say they’re less stressed. Enabling your employees to work outside the office encourages a better work-life balance, which makes for healthier, happier employees – what’s not to like?
In the long-term, remote working can also increase your company’s productivity. Recent research from International Workplace Group (IWG) finds that 85% of businesses confirm that productivity increases due to greater flexibility. It can also future-proof your business by retaining your top talent. Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work report finds that companies that allow remote work, experience 25% less employee turnover than those that don’t.
So, whether you’re embracing remote working through necessity, or through choice, the case for enabling this flexibility seems pretty clear, right? But how can you overcome the challenges of implementing it into your business?
Here’s how you can make it work for your company and build a future-proof flexible workforce:
Build trust with your employees
One of the biggest challenges that companies face when implementing remote working is building mutual trust with their employees. You need to know that your workers will continue to maintain standards, meet deadlines and practice open communication.
By contrast, employees need to know that they won’t be micromanaged, will be given the freedom to plan their day accordingly and the flexibility to manage their workload.
One of the best ways to build trust with remote workers is to maintain consistency and accountability. You can ensure that best practices are followed by encouraging your employees to review your remote working policies on a regular basis. Allocate specific days and times for deadlines, meetings and check-ins and communicate the importance of keeping to these appointments.
Using WiseTime allows you to keep everyone accountable, without overstepping the mark in terms of privacy. The app has privacy preferences that users can set themselves, and their activity is never shared with their team until they post it. This gives employees the assurance that they aren’t being spied on, but that their hours and input is being recognised and valued. It also really helps with keeping an eye on personal productivity and helping individuals work smarter day to day.
Integrate remote working into your company culture
IWG’s research reveals that 43% of companies fear how flexible working may impact their overall culture. Given that employees tend to view company culture as more important than salary, it’s important that they’re on board with any culture changes you make.
As such, your company needs to be clear on how its culture is currently perceived and how it needs to adapt to maintain employee support. Try to be transparent about why you’re introducing remote working in the first place and outline how your workers will benefit.
If your employees understand the reasons behind the changes, they’ll be more likely to embrace the process with positivity.
Define roles and responsibilities
Roles change over time and sometimes the job we initially applied for evolves into something different. It’s therefore important that every remote worker in your company has clearly defined duties and responsibilities. In an office environment, companies can afford a bit more flexibility in defining roles, but with remote working, roles need to be watertight to avoid overlap and the doubling-up of work.
At WiseTime, we would encourage companies to review their employees’ job descriptions and duties before implementing remote working as they may have changed over time. By ensuring that both the employer as well as all employees understand what falls within the scope of each worker’s everyday job, workloads can be distributed evenly and productivity levels will be maintained.
Similarly, workers should also be made aware of how remote working will impact their career progression. They should be reassured that working remotely won’t have any negative impact when it comes to applying for promotions – quite the opposite. As a company, having clearly defined career paths can mitigate any concerns employees might have about their future within the company.
Maintain a sense of teamwork
Remote workers can sometimes experience feelings of loneliness and disconnection from their team. This is amongst the biggest risks in maintaining an efficient remote workforce. To ensure the wellbeing of your remote workers, you need to maintain a sense of teamwork within the company.
The key is to connect regularly with your remote workers through telephone, email, video calls and face-to-face meetings.
You should consider using collaboration tools like Slack or the Google Suite to maintain a high rate of communication amongst workers as this, despite being online-communication, will provide a sense of a team and help tear down the isolation wall. Make sure you give employees quick and easy access to managers and other team members to remove obstacles quickly. Frequent check-in with your remote team will make them feel that attention is being paid to their efforts and that they’re still connected to the company and its culture.
Likewise, project management tools like Trello help remote workers update each other very easily on the progress of projects and campaigns. And organising regular team building days and social gatherings won’t go amiss either.
At WiseTime, we try to mitigate feelings of isolation by organising bi-weekly progress meetings with our entire development team. Combined with our active chat group, with channels for work and leisure, we find that this approach works well in helping everyone stay connected.
A few closing thoughts…
Remember, remote working isn’t an all-inclusive term. Whereas some remote workers may work outside the office permanently, others may only do so once a week. As a business, it’s important to consider the needs of every ‘type’ of remote worker in your company.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing remote working practices. Every company is different and you should customise your approach to make it work for you.