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Having employees working remotely can be highly productive. Here’s what you need to know to make it work for everyone.
It’s no secret that we have swiftly had to change the way we live – and work. Many companies around the world have instituted new work-from-home policies, resulting in more employees than ever joining the ranks of remote workers. Already a growing worldwide trend – the International Workplace Group found 50% of employees globally worked outside their main office headquarters for at least half the week in 2019 and 70% of Australian companies have a flexible working policy in place. Savvy businesses understand the strategic and financial benefits of remote working, and the savviest understand the benefits for both the company and its employees.
If you’re looking to go remote, or already have, here are our tips on maximising productivity when remote working and best practices for work from home days.
If you want employees to work efficiently from home or remote offices, they need to be connected in the right way. A business owner with a mobile workforce will either need to stage their electronic enterprise resources in a public cloud, or offer VPN access for remote employees. Basically, you want to be able to talk to each other easily, like you always have. Your staff will need a reliable network connection from home, possibly with more bandwidth than they required previously, in order to support reliable communications – particularly video. To make that possible, you want a router with a suitable speed, such as AC2000 and above. Don't forget you also need to be within an appropriate range of your router to ensure good connectivity. Consider a mesh WiFi solution to help spread your network further around your home. Find out more about WiFi networking solutions. Given you and your team will be conducting more and more business online, it’s worth considering a secure bank-grade encryption so you can send files easily and safely — and keep information private. Best part? You can install this VPN on a computer, laptop or phone, so you can use it at home or on the go.
Nothing will get done if you can’t talk to each other and virtual meetings can be just as productive as face-to-face gatherings in an office. There are dozens of reliable collaborative tools available, with varied levels of complexity and functionality. Think file and screen sharing in real time, goal tracking, project management and instant messaging. Try Scoro, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. You’ll soon work out which one your team is most comfortable with. We’ve moved on from conference calls so tools that provide video conferencing features are essential (remember: 80% of communication is based on visual cues). Having regular face-to-face team meetings helps strengthen remote workforces, making team members feel included and up-to-date. They can also improve productivity by shortening cycle times and decision-making processes. There are plenty of options in the market for video calls: Zoom, Skype, Jabber, Webex, Google Hangouts — take your pick.
With employees working remotely, the concept of “office hours” can become fuzzy. Make sure you have clear expectations and guidelines in place for your team, whether that’s responding to emails within a certain time frame, using text messaging for urgent matters or simply having an all-staff 9am virtual meeting to get the work day rolling. Consider implementing an instant-messaging system like Skype for Business that provides “presence indication”, which flags to other employees (and you) when staff are online and working, and when they’re not – and set clear policies around your expectations for publishing their available work hours. This not only benefits your business by keeping employees accountable for their work time, but also ensures the wellbeing of your employees. In a home office or remote location, it can be all too easy to overextend yourself and forget about maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It’s a good idea to encourage remote workers to adopt the same habits they would if they were in an office environment. Best practices for remote working include not working around the clock, making time for meals, taking regular breaks, walking around the block for fresh air, drinking plenty of water, and mentally “clocking out” from remote work at the end of the day. Getting the balance right will keep staff engaged, productive and ready to face the inevitable challenges 2020 will bring.