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Why remote working is becoming the new norm (and how to manage it)

By Jacqui O'Brien by Jacqui O'Brien 5 min

A few years ago, most “working from home” arrangements had to be limited to autonomous roles – the type of jobs that don’t call for teamwork, or at least, very little in the way of inter-person collaboration. But today, it’s a completely different story. New technologies such as mobile devices and collaborative software have made it entirely possible to work effectively with people, even if you’re not sharing the same space and breathing the same air (well – provided you have a decent WiFi connection, of course!)

It stands to reason, then, so many companies across almost every industry sector are starting to challenge what it means to schlep into an office every single day for the nine-to-five grind. Yep – we’re finally coming to realise that maximum productivity is more about finding when and where people work at their very best than the number of hours spent at the office (even if it is at home in your pyjamas). A Future Workforce Report by Upwork even found many hiring managers think 38% of full-time staff will be working remotely in a decade.

Aside from productivity gains, there are also a few other and perhaps less obvious advantages for organisations offering flexible working from home arrangements to staff. It can save costs on office overheads, while companies find it easier to attract the best talent and enjoy higher staff retention rates, simply because it’s easier for employees to achieve a better a work-life balance and manage personal commitments. Think about how many extra hours in the day you could gain by cutting the daily commute! Unsurprisingly, studies have shown working from home arrangements are actually one of the most important factors for job seekers looking for a new role.
Here’s some advice and tips to help your business get the most out of employees who work remotely.

Set the objectives

Employees should never be judged on the quantity of hours spent working (or procrastinating) at the office – this about the quality of work actually done. Setting some clear objectives for remote employees will ensure each party understands the required deliverables, timeframes and how performance will be measured, wherever they decide to undertake the task.

Implement a framework for regular communication

Have you ever heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind”? That’s right, the worst thing a manager can do is treat remote workers like they’re not present just because they are, indeed, physically absent. This could mean forgetting to include them in meetings or failing to regularly catch-up or provide updates – these things are all too easily done! So, make sure there is a mechanism for keeping remote workers in the loop at all times. This could include voice and video calling, sharing and working on documents via collaborative platforms or using instant messaging for quick questions and updates – no matter how trivial they seem.

Make eLearning your thing

It can be easy for remote workers to feel alienated when it comes to career development – especially if they’re working remotely for the long-term. This is because training opportunities are traditionally delivered through onsite presentations or workshops – which means they miss out! And this situation isn’t favourable for employers seeking to nurture highly-competitive, skilled workforces either. Equipping your organisation with a range of eLearning materials will provide an effective and engaging way for remote workers to keep up with the latest skills and insights and help them move onwards and upwards in their careers.

Invest in the right software

Are your employees still connecting to the shared drive every time they come into work? While this might be an adequate “status quo” for office-based employees, remote workers could expose the business to a few risks. While they’re more likely to work on documents offline, they might also resort to convoluted email chains as a means of communicating and sharing documents with colleagues. Not only is this an inefficient way to collaborate, but there’s absolutely no back-up for when tech goes wrong (because we all know it does!) All these risks can be eliminated by implementing and training staff to use tools such as Slack for instant communication, Trello for project management and Google Docs or Dropbox for sharing and working on files in real-time.

Don’t forget the importance of a great on-boarding experience

Imagine this; your new talented recruit has been attracted to your company because you offered the chance to work remotely. But just because they’re not physically present doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on delivering an excellent onboarding experience – especially when well-structured on-boarding programs are said to dramatically increase retention. By creating a suite of high-quality and engaging introductory and training videos, online onboarding presentations, eLearning materials and welcome kits, new remote employees will soon feel welcomed, well-equipped and fully immersed in the workplace culture – even if they never set foot inside the office!

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