WFH (working from home) has been a growing trend for years, even in the e-commerce industry we see the rise of tax on remote sellers, and the inclination towards them is only accelerating.
For many employees, working from home may be preferable. With no commute, they save time and money. Employees also report improved work-life balances. Some choose to take 30 minutes out of their lunch break for a home workout video. Others are happy to be home to tuck their children into bed.
A significant issue many businesses face with employees working from home is that they don’t have any remote explicit policies in place. How are teams meant to communicate? How are productivity goals measured? Is it even feasible to have all roles done remotely?
With the changing culture of the workforce, you likely realize it’s time to establish some effective remote policies.
Here’s how to craft the best remote policies for your company to survive the digital transformation.
Consult the experts
Before you begin to tinker with remote policies, consult with your legal, financial, and HR specialists. They’re best positioned to advise you on any issues your new policies may face.
Whatever policies you implement, you must ensure they comply with employment law, budgeting, and taxes. These experts will help you stay abreast of the various rules and regulations you need to follow when formulating your policies.
Not only this, but they can also advise on how best to support your employees working from home. HR may be able to suggest the best routes for remote employee development. Legal specialists, meanwhile, can guide you on how to inform employees of their legal rights working remotely.
This is essential for employee productivity, as they need to feel like they are appreciated and part of the team. New employees may never have met any members of the company face to face; if their job is remote, they probably never will. Policies that are well-considered will allow for a smoother transition into your company.
Establish expectations of remote communication & work
How has remote culture at work affected collaboration amongst your teams? For many, unclear communication channels can leave employees somewhat bamboozled. An effective remote working policy ensures your employees know all the relevant contact channels and how to communicate with the rest of their team. That way, you can ensure everyone is able to work remotely should the need arise.
What kind of policies on communication would be effective? The answer depends on your company culture. It’s important to consider the tools and resources team members may need to work effectively. For example, a weekly team summary might help all your team members stay informed of the work others are doing.
You may also need to consider additional training and resources for remote employees. What about the person managing a remote employee? Will they also need additional training and resources?
Remote communication policies are some of the most challenging to establish. It may take some trial and error to see what works best for your company and which provisions work best for them.
Provide the right tools
A decent Wi-Fi connection and a laptop may not be enough for an employee working remotely. In order to ensure productivity, it is essential to have technology that engages your employees and their teams, and assists them in fulfilling their role for your company.
For example, do they have collaboration tools to help them communicate? Do they require video conferencing software so they can virtually attend meetings and contribute to brainstorming sessions? Or perhaps they require more hardware, like a second monitor or a printer?
Ensuring all your employees have some form of virtual presence means they are a part of the team. More importantly, ensuring your employees have all the hardware they need means they can do their job.
Utilizing collaboration software means that the informal chats employees might have had over a coffee in the office kitchen still happen. Working from home shouldn’t be isolating or unengaging, and you can make sure you don’t fall into any of those traps by making provisions to engage your employees.
A critical consideration as to the right tools for your business may also be cybersecurity. Remote working using messages, calls, and other channels can make your company more vulnerable to a cyber attack.
Ensure your employee is able to make a secure conference call or to traverse the web safely by introducing VPNs and cyber security policies.
Set clear rules
With or without face-to-face interactions, creating processes for collaboration and communications is essential for the smooth running of your business. It’s important to establish early on the kind of lines of communications that are expected in different scenarios.
What types of communication would work best in manager 1:1s? Team meetings? Performance reviews? Instinctively you know these meeting types would all have a different approach in real life, but you may be unsure how to replicate it in a digital environment.
A good way to ensure employees are working as they should is to utilize effective progress reports. It allows energy to be directed towards key goals and can track progress at all levels. You will be able to easily appraise which teams are working effectively and which have room for improvement.
Plan for socializing
Your policy needs time built-in for virtual team building activities. Every month, virtually gather all your team members together for a fun session that allows them to bond with each other. Be creative!
As an alternative to Zoom quizzes, why not do a virtual escape room? Or ask employees to tag where they were born on an interactive map?
The virtual boom has left many new employees feeling left out of company culture. Employees who have been at your company for years have had the pleasure of meeting in person. It would be easy for your new recruits to feel left out of the loop because the time they would have had impromptu interactions is gone. Virtual hangouts can help with this issue, as long as older employees are also using them.
No matter what technologies you have at your disposal, one of the strongest productivity tools you have in your arsenal is to set aside time for your employees to be distinctly unproductive!
A word on productivity
Are you worried about the productivity of your remote workers?
In one study, remote workers said they worked more than 40 hours – 43% more than on-site workers. But working more hours doesn’t always equate to more being done.
You may want to consider some project management software, such as Trello, to ensure tasks are being done effectively. You may want to implement regular check-in for employees to discuss their work. You might even boost employee productivity with a reward system. Every role is different, so measuring productivity will never be a ‘one size fits all approach’.
There are many options for measuring productivity, many of which are free or can be based on data you already collect about your employees. A trap to avoid here is to not use data that doesn’t actually relate to productivity. For example, even though hours worked may be a good metric for one team, the number of calls answered may be more suitable for another team.
Whichever method you choose, it should open up the channel for communication, and approach issues of low productivity in a non-judgmental way.
A remote policy doesn’t need to be complicated, but it must be effective and work for all your employees.
A remote, or even hybrid, policy can drive process improvements that can help propel your company into the future and ensure it is here to stay. Making sure your policy is legally sound, compatible with company culture, and engages your employees will help productivity.
About the Author:
Jenna Bunnell – Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system and cloud PBX system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. Check out her LinkedIn profile.