Increasingly, companies around the world are offering remote work options that allow employees to skip the commute and work from wherever they like. The benefits are obvious: better work-life balance, reduced stress levels, general increased happiness, increased productivity, cost savings... the list goes on.
But as Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, with great power comes great responsibility. Remote work takes accountability. It takes effort from both employer and employee. Without the right policies, expectations and tools in place, remote work can do more damage than good.
Now is probably a good time to point out that not all businesses can implement a remote work program. It'd be tough to tell a manager of a brick-and-mortar retailer to mind the shop from home. But for companies that can offer remote work, here's what to consider...
Successful remote work arrangements are rooted in both the employer and the employee knowing what's expected of each other. Make it clear that a remote work policy does not reduce accountability. (In fact, it actually requires more.) At first, consider designating specific remote days. That way, everyone will know who's where and why. It's also useful to create a "Remote Work Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" document that covers things like what time the remote work day starts, communication requirements, required tools, etc.
Remote work only works when everyone knows what to expect—out of themselves and everyone else.
Get the Right Tech in Place
Technology has turned remote work from something managers used to loathe into a reliable set-up that can improve productivity and employee happiness. Chances are it starts with strong internet connectivity, whether that be at home or somewhere like a cowork space. Be wary of working all day at coffeeshop as internet can be unreliable and, worse, unprotected.
Messaging products like Slack make it easy for team members to have one-to-one or one-to-many conversations. You can even share files and screens and make free phone calls with Slack and other services like Google Hangouts. If project management is part of your business's day-to-day, a tool like Trello is helpful.
The best part about these technologies is that they aren't just for remote work. They're wholly useful in the office and on the road too.
Word to the wise though, make it clear to your employees that while these technologies may enable 24/7 connectivity, the expectation is anything but.
A remote work policy may sound great at the start, but feedback is critical. Are people liking it? Are they getting distracted? Are folks more productive? Does anyone feel isolated?
Schedule regular check-ins as a team and with individuals to make sure things are, for lack of a better word, working.
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