Remember when working remotely was seen as an excuse to get away from work? Well, things have changed quite a lot since then.
The workplace has experienced a sharp culture shift over the last couple of decades. In that relatively short space of time, remote working has moved from a rare employee perk to a valuable productivity trend — and that trend is rising steadily.
Data released from the US Census found that 5.2% of workers, equivalent to 8 million people, worked at home in 2017. This number is up from 5% in 2016 and 3.3% in 2000.
Why are so many people working remotely?
It’s partly thanks to massive developments in mobile technology and wireless Internet connectivity. Although not every job can be performed remotely, it has quickly become apparent that employees and entrepreneurs need not travel to a central office environment in order to work productively; in many cases, work can now be completed in alternative locations such as the home, in coworking spaces or cafes, on the train, and in other ‘third place’ locations.
As for the swift acceleration of this trend, it’s largely due to the overwhelming positive attributes of remote working.
5 Remote Work Benefits
A remote working policy provides valuable opportunities and benefits for business owners, but more importantly, for the workforce too.
Here’s an overview of the 5 top remote working benefits:
- Staff are more productive. One of the key reasons entrepreneurs switch to remote work is to gain more productivity from their workforce. This fascinating two-year study by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom and Chinese travel company Ctrip found a productivity boost among telecommuters equivalent to a full day’s work. Reason being, work-from-home employees worked a true full-shift (or more) as opposed to arriving late to the office or leaving early.
- Remote work improves morale and happiness. Productivity is rooted in personal wellbeing. A happier, fulfilled person is more likely to put in additional effort for your company — but fulfillment isn’t always related to pay or promotion. Giving staff the opportunity to work flexibly equates to better work/life balance, more time with the family, and less commuting, which saves your employees time and money.
- It’s cheaper. A remote work policy doesn’t just save on commuting costs, it also reduces business overheads. Fewer people in the workplace means less office space, which cuts the cost of the lease along with heating and cooling rates, lighting, and other expenditures. Thanks to remote work capabilities, some companies have now replaced their office rental with a virtual office agreement; this enables them to keep a commercial mailing address with access to meeting rooms and day office rental, without the long-term commitment or cost of a full-time office.
- It enhances talent recruitment and retention. Millennials and up-and-coming Generation Z value flexibility in the workplace. Companies that embrace remote working are seen as in touch with their employees’ needs and are more likely to attract skilled workers from further afield, given the reduction in travel.
- Flexible working reduces attrition. In addition to employee retention, flexible work is known to help reduce attrition in the workforce. In the Ctrip example mentioned above, there was a 50% decrease in employee attrition along with fewer sick days during the two-year experiment (and the company also saved almost $2,000 per employee on rent by reducing their office space).
Employees that are given the opportunity to work flexibly are often eager to prove the success of their remote working arrangement by working longer hours, delivering higher quality of work and being ‘better citizens’.
How to Manage a Remote Team
Like any business process, certain rules and regulations must be put in place to help your remote work policy run smoothly. These tips will help you put the right processes in place to create a successful remote working culture in your business.
- Set clear expectations. You won’t be working in close proximity to your team, so you must tell them what you expect of them. For instance, do you expect remote employees to work 9-5? Can they start or finish earlier? What’s the protocol for lunch breaks? How do you stay in contact during the day? Whatever you expect of them, make sure they’re fully aware and where necessary, make it part of their employment contract.
- Talk regularly. It can be isolating to work at home. Keep up regular communication but don’t rely too much on email; inboxes easily become swamped, leading to stress and missed messages. Talk over the phone and schedule video calls to discuss projects or tasks in more detail. For quick day-to-day queries, messaging apps such as Slack are a great way to check in.
- Document regular processes. Documentation becomes a whole lot more necessary when there’s distance between you and your team. Remember, remote workers can’t simply turn up at your desk to ask a question, so it’s worth documenting certain tasks or procedures to provide guidance along the way.
- Take project management online. Rather than constantly pinging your remote team to ask for project updates, use an online centralized project management tool such as Asana to check in on certain tasks. It assigns tasks, sets deadlines, and sends timely reminders too, which means less person-to-person chasing.
- Share documents online. Rather than sending amended documents back-and-forth, shared online documents can be stored securely in the cloud and are a boon for instant feedback. Google Docs is the obvious choice; it’s intuitive and lets multiple people work on the same document simultaneously.
All things considered, a remote work policy can dramatically improve your company culture. It takes time and practice to get it right but countless studies and
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