Working from home — a dream that so many people hope for that can easily turn into a nightmare if not done correctly. With over 7 million people working from home, and with more and more employees preferring it to traditional in-office jobs, your off-site teams must have the strategies and tools needed to be successful.
This task falls on the shoulders of their companies, who are in charge of providing equipment and encouraging a healthy work environment for their employees. Here are four ways to ensure that your remote workers are just as productive at home as they would be if in the office.
Balance Autonomy and Supervision
Employees like to be autonomous, which is one of the main reasons why working from home is so appealing to them. Not only does it make your workers feel trusted, but autonomy also lets them take pride in the goals they accomplish, as well as learn on their own from the mistakes that they make— leading to job satisfaction.
For the past five years, the number of people working remotely has grown by 44 percent. In the same global survey, 83 percent of workers say that if they are deciding between two similar jobs, the ability to work remotely at least some of the time would act as a clincher. Even the choice of work location would matter to the workers than being given a more prestigious role within their company as stated by 32 percent of workers.
For you to provide your employees with the autonomy that they desire, you have to set clear expectations for your employees to follow. This could be the hours you expect them to work, tasks you expect to be completed, due dates, or anything else that affects the success of your business, and then trust your employees to operate within these guidelines. Not only will this result in happier employees, but it will also build trust within your workforce.
Simple things like weekly check-ins and status reports can help hold your remote workforce accountable to the goals you’ve set. If you’re still worried that your employees may take advantage of these freedoms, you could also implement software like a real-time employee monitoring software that allows you to verify that your workers are staying focused while working, as well as giving you insights on their productivity. Just remember that if you do choose to use monitoring software that it’s best to be transparent with your employees about it so that you don’t lose their trust.
Offer Multiple Communication Options
One of the first things to be impacted when employees begin working from home is communication. Between not having the ability to talk to their coworkers in person, navigating flexible schedules, and lack of voice and body language from coworkers, employees may find it difficult to fully understand information, expectations, and procedures through email alone. This is why there must be multiple ways for employees to communicate with each other.
A great strategy to offset some of these obstacles is to use virtual meetings. Not only does this allow your employees with the ability to communicate instantly and non-verbally, but it can also help your workers feel more connected to each other. This software doesn’t have to be super complicated, either. You want to choose something that is intuitive for your workers to use, so that way everyone in the company can create and join a meeting with ease, and use all the relevant features with little to no confusion. Look for an easy-to-use video conferencing service that allows your employees to collaborate on ideas without spending too much time learning how to use the software. In a Gallup research, when employees spend 60 to 80 percent of their time working out of the office or three to four days in a five-day workweek, optimal engagement occurs. Also, the flexibility in their work arrangements contributes to their morale as said by 90 percent of employees.
Sometimes, though, an entire virtual meeting might not be necessary. On occasion, your employees need to send small bursts of information to their teammates, or they need to share ideas quickly and informally. In this instance, it would be better if your company also provided a chat service so that employees can communicate swiftly with each other. While searching for which software to use, look for an easily integrated chat service that can merge with some of the tools that you’re already using. This way your employees aren’t feeling overloaded with too many applications.
In a survey of company managers conducted by Future of Work, the most effective non-monetary ways to increase employee retention are “flexible schedules and telecommuting” which was listed by 78 percent of respondents.
As a manager, it is important for you to be available to listen to them. 46 percent of workers said that the most successful managers make sure to check in remote workers frequently. Also, being available during remote work hours is helpful for remote workers to feel supported and cared about.
Lastly, your workers must have access to a centralized hub of information regarding remote work policy as well as other information that might be necessary when working from home— this way your employees have a place they can reference if they’re confused about a rule or expectation. This information can be housed either in the company handbook or an FAQ section on an internal content hub, or anywhere where your employees will be able to refer to at any time. This way, managers won’t have to use valuable time answering the same questions— instead, workers can find the answers on their own.
Provide Them With Office Supplies
While the software is important for your remote workers to be successful, it’s also important that they have the right hardware. It might seem like it’s the employee’s job to acquire their office supplies, but if you put this burden on them it could lead to stress, missed deadlines, and even loss of quality talent. It could also open you up to security threats if your employees are using their own devices or are operating on public internet networks. Companies should consider providing the following for their employees:
- Necessary electronics like a laptop, cell phone, or tablet
- Printer or fax machine
- Headsets with microphones
- Home desk and office chair
Statistics show that technology has revolutionized the workplaces. 52 percent of employees who work remotely were provided with computers by their company. 36 percent of employees use cloud-based management tools, 34 percent use an instant message service and for collaboration software 13 percent of employees use it.
It might not be necessary for you to provide all of these solutions to all of your workers, but if your employees are struggling with finding appropriate equipment or are not able to do their jobs because they don’t have the hardware, then you should work to correct that for them. Even if you just provide one or two of the things on this list, or if you provide a stipend so that employees can get what they need themselves, you’ll be relieving them of financial stress and you’ll make it easier for them to complete their jobs remotely.
Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
While it may seem out of bounds for CEOs, the health of your employees greatly affects the success of your business, with employees who eat well and exercise well being up to 25 percent more productive than those who don’t. If you want your employees to work at their best, then you need to invest in their mental and physical wellbeing.
Employees can feel rather lonely when working remotely. Some of that loneliness could come from a lack of communication with coworkers, while other times it can stem from over-working to compensate for being at home and feeling like there’s no one to lean on. That’s not to mention any other at-home stress that could add pressure to your remote employees who can’t physically escape to the office. To alleviate some of that stress, you can look into offering an employee assistance program. These programs allow your employees to air out some of their grievances, about both work and home stress, and provide them with resources on how to combat these issues.
There are methods to promote physical health as well. Something as simple as conducting a fitness challenge or hosting a weekly live yoga class on a company social media page can encourage your remote workers to start living healthier lives. If you’re unsure where to start, you could always use a third-party employee wellness program as a resource for your workers. These programs are good for taking a well-rounded approach to employee health and can provide different solutions, like fitness coaching and documented workout guides so that your employees can easily adapt to a healthier lifestyle.
When companies take the time to invest in their employees’ physical, mental, and operational needs, they are rewarded with a productive and loyal workforce. Your remote workers are an extremely valuable asset, so make sure that they have everything they need to be successful.