Whether you’re planning to launch your business soon, or you’ve been going for a while, the current global situation has forced us all to have a big rethink about our ways of working. Remote working has suddenly had to become the most usual option for most businesses overnight, and now that it’s here, it’s not likely to go away anytime soon. There are a lot of things about running a business remotely which makes sense. The time and stress saved by not asking staff to undertake a long commute every day is considerable. It lessens the impact our businesses have on the planet too. And it’s great for employee health and the health of your business – studies have emerged that show home-based workers are generally more productive, satisfied with their jobs and loyal to the business they work for – something HR teams have been trying to work towards for a long time. And it’s even been found that 70% of workers actively look for a flexible work location when weighing up new career opportunities. It seems to be a bit of a win-win situation, and for a small company trying to save on costly overheads like office hire, it also makes financial sense. But remote working is only successful if you go about it in the right way. You need to be set up, both in your working practices and in the tools you use, to make it a success. The past few months have been an extremely steep learning curve for many as to make this happen – so you may either be aware that you need to up your game or have been patiently watching and waiting as you prepare to launch your own business. Either way, it pays to understand exactly how to make remote working a success.
Set Your Policies Clearly
The first thing to understand about becoming a fully remote business is that there needs to be clear policies and procedures to eliminate any employee confusion about how the model works. Working from home is new to a lot of people, and somewhat understandably, they can struggle to implement boundaries to begin with – so it works better if you are very clear about expectations and ways of working from your end. Remote working policies need to be closely tailored to your own organization and the way it operates, but they should also allow for a degree of flexibility. Just make sure that they are clear, consistent, and easy to interpret. These things should become a matter of habit over time – that’s when you know they have been successful. Things to consider covering include how a home office environment should be set up for healthy and safe working, how often colleagues should check-in with each other using video chat software, etiquette on how to use instant messaging and email effectively, and crucially, device and network security, including things like using a VPN, piracy detection software, secure file transfer and dealing with phishing scams and other forms of data security.
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Create An Onboarding Policy
For those joining an organization which is entirely virtual can be a strange experience if they haven’t done it before. How do you instill a sense of company culture and make someone feel welcome if you haven’t seen them face-to-face? It’s important to create an extremely robust on-boarding process for employees joining the organization to counter this. Building relationships can be done online, but there’s no doubt it is harder than face-to-face, and so you will have to put in more effort. Set up a series of virtual meetings and insist on a cameras-on policy so that everyone attending can see each other. Creating interactive training with video elements can also be useful, especially if you use real employees to help. Make sure there are a lot of resources and support available to familiarize new employees with the tech solutions that your business uses – it can be hard when there’s no one to lean over to on the next desk and ask a quick question of when you’re stuck trying to find a function in a piece of software! Help your new employee get to know the rest of your team but focusing some conversations on activities outside of work, and setting up virtual coffee sessions alongside project focused or business induction processes. Be clear on expectations, set probation objectives, and present your new employee with something that feels structured and is focused on their integration. Make sure that you schedule in a lot of personal contact with each new hire at the beginning to check that they don’t feel lost and have a clear idea of the expectations.
Educate Employees On Best Working Practice
Working remotely is a whole new ball game, and giving hints and tips on best practice remote working is essential to help your people transition into a new way of life. Talk about topics such as maximizing productivity when you work from home, taking regular screen breaks, creating a good home office environment, and implementing boundaries between home and work, as well as guidance on how to stay mentally and physically healthy. Often little things can make a huge difference, such as employees making sure they get outside at least once a day for exercise, assigning a mentor who can be there for virtual chats and setting standard working hours so that no one feels the need to be constantly checking work email and responding to tasks in their personal time. Make sure everyone is aware of using their work diary and online status to clearly show when they are available and not, and it makes everything a lot easier to maintain.
Find The Right Tech Platforms
Having the right tech stack to be able to deliver quality work through a network of remote employees is essential – it’s the foundation on which home working businesses are built. Every business will require a slightly different mix of software to support its operations, and it may initially take some trial and error to find the right fit. Most businesses will require a suite of online communication tools – video calling, instant messaging, and the more traditional email, as well as something which enables you to create meetings and schedule virtual appointments. Many companies opt for an all-in-one solution such as MS Teams, while others prefer a custom mix of things like Zoom. Project management software is another area where most businesses can benefit – implementing a collaborative solution such as Slack, Basecamp or Trello to help dynamically manage workload and enable everyone to see where something is progressing at a glance. Equally, cloud storage to keep your companies documents and data safe and accessible anywhere is a pretty important part of your suite. You may also want to look into HR software which can help you with training, tracking employee progress, and taking care of admin tasks such as holiday and sick leave.
Build Up Your Knowledge Base
Expertise is always better when it’s shared, and within a remote organization, you need to work even harder to facilitate this. When it’s done well, this can also ease the initial onboarding period and give productivity a boost as new employees get into their tasks. Creating a regular schedule to turn new discoveries into white papers, video training or blog articles is a very worthwhile stream of activity. The training material you create should be accessible for everyone, stored centrally where everyone knows the location and updated regularly as processes change and things develop. Aim for all training to be concise and easy to use but detailed enough to cover what it needs to – also give staff the opportunity to ask questions.
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Keep The Team Together
The importance of adding in the human touch when introducing someone to remote working cannot be stated enough. Consider ways that you can both keep in touch virtually on a daily basis and schedule some face-to-face activity as well, whether it’s a once a quarter in-person company update and social or just getting together to do something once a month. What you do will depend on how geographically close your employees are, but it’s very important to make the effort to do things together in person occasionally if your day-to-day reality is virtual. Never underestimate the value of this contact – it can be easy to not make it a priority when you are busy, but it’s fundamental at cementing the bonds in your organization. Set aside a social budget to do something together – it can be a mix of work-related content, like brainstorming on a big new campaign or hosting an industry day with presentations on the latest sector developments – with a more social element at the end.
With a little thoughtful planning, remote working can be the ideal path forward for your business. You can have happy, productive employees, lowered overheads, and a sustainable business model – as long as you always work to develop the provision and set it up in the best way possible.
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