With the incredible improvements in both technology and internet speeds, having a team made up of remote workers scattered across the globe is becoming normal practice. Even in more traditional, “brick-and-mortar” operations in a single location, offering employees the opportunity for flexible remote work is common practice. Depending on your point of view, these flexible work arrangements are either a bold new future that brings a wealth of advantages, or a sad indictment of how changes in technology are driving people apart.
Neither side is definitively right or wrong but if you or your organization are considering introducing flexible work arrangements as a benefit, here are some dos and don’ts to make sure it goes smoothly.
Flexible Remote Work: Dos
Start using project management and communication software
There are a wealth of programs out there which are designed to help aspect of remote work, for example Slack for communication or Planview AdaptiveWork for project management. By using these programs everywhere, for both in-office and remote work, all of your team will be working off the same page and will be able to move seamlessly between traditional and flexible working arrangements.
Encourage team members to use a schedule that suits them
If you’re offering the freedom to work from home you must also give people the freedom to set their own schedule, so long as the work gets done. Enabling team members and giving them that responsibility will allow them to work in a way they find most comfortable or productive and also build their own professional decision-making competence.
Try to foster a system that mimics a traditional office
Traditional office spaces have their own specific culture and behaviours. The watercooler, the break-room and “other departments” all bring their own connotations. As much as possible, try to recreate a feeling of harmony and collectiveness within your work structures in order to recreate those same bonds that build loyalty and dedication among office-based teams.
Offer support in terms of knowledge and resources
Organizations can save hugely on office space by having a remote workforce. However, this saving can come at a cost in terms of productivity. If you want flexible work arrangements to work, consider investing in your team by offering training on perfecting a remote work lifestyle or providing technology (e.g. powerful laptops, high-end noise cancelling headphones) to help them.
Flexible Remote Work: Don’ts
Keep team members siloed without meeting
Teams are a lot easier to build when their members are in physical proximity to each other. Where possible, bring all employees, both remote and in-office together to spend some professional and non-professional time together.
Encourage it for workers who prefer close guidance
Some people prefer to be able to ask a quick question of their manager to reassure them they’re on the right path. While in the same location, this may only take 30 seconds, but for remote team members, it requires either setting a meeting or writing an email explaining the query. Be sure to let any remote workers know that they will be expected to self-manage in the majority of situations.
Make clock management a sticking point
Everyone has different ways and means of working and it might only be when employees are left to their own devices that you find out just how different they are. If you want work to be flexible, you must also be flexible yourself. Don’t focus too much on the hours the employee works, so long as the work gets done in the end.
Forget about those who aren’t in the office
It’s natural for an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality to occur with staff who aren’t physically present in the office. However, special preference being shown to those in the office will cause resentment and dissatisfaction among the remote members of the team. Make sure to keep all remote workers up to date with how things are going in the organization and in the running for promotions and bonuses.