Telecommuting is one of the hottest commodities in modern business: companies offer the ability to work from home as an incentive or reward, productivity apps geared toward remote management are virtually unavoidable, and an unprecedented number of traditionally brick-and-mortar services have opted for the lower overhead which accompanies this phenomenon.
If you’re interested in creating a remote team, here are a few pointers on getting started.
Pros and Cons
The cost of running a full-time office is immense, so allowing employees to work from home can cut down on your overhead. It’s also a good way to encourage employee independence; knowing that you can expect your employees to execute even without your explicit overwatch is a huge relief, and your trust in them may even inspire them to hold themselves to greater productivity standards.
As with any business model, working from home has its fair share of drawbacks. The main one that comes to mind is a lack of control; while you can assign tasks to your employees, you don’t have direct input on a moment-to-moment basis, and they don’t have the luxury of knocking on your door when needed. You can offset this issue by maintaining a direct line of communication with your employees via Skype or Slack, but your employees will have to learn to be more self-sufficient than usual.
Another problem which ties into the above one is the issue of trust. Employees may mean well, but it’s too easy for first-time remote workers to get caught up with distractions not present in the workplace. Time-keeping apps, productivity add-ons, and making clear your expectations can all help prevent overt misuses of time, but you’ll ultimately have to look at your bottom line to determine whether remote work checks all of your productivity boxes.
Determining Your Eligibility
The most important factor in determining whether you should implement a work-from-home environment is your employees themselves. Presumably, you trust your employees enough to hire them; however, the poise with which employees conduct themselves in an office setting often has no bearing on how those same employees will handle remote work.
There isn’t a way to know for sure how your employees will react to working from home, so consider starting off slow: allow employees to work one or two remote days per week at first, and make sure to keep in constant contact with them while they do so. This will allow you to keep an eye on your employees’ productivity while ensuring that they don’t feel isolated. Once you and your employees are comfortable with this model, bump up the number of days as you please.
If some of your employees prove incapable of performing remote work without either an excessive amount of monitoring or a sharp decrease in productivity, you’ll probably have to bring them back into the office setting for the time being; however, you may notice that some employees thrive in a remote setting. If so, consider running a split office in order to capitalize on your employees’ strengths.
Consider drafting a firm policy on working from home so you can set standards and expectations for both the employer and employees. With the labor law library and templates for memos and policies, Abacus Payroll’s HR Help Center can help your business create documents to distribute to your team and incorporate into your employee handbook.
Remote work isn’t for everyone, but you may find that dividing your office actually improves your overall efficiency—and your power bill.
Maintaining Company Culture
Perhaps the most difficult part of running a remote office is keeping intact your company culture. Remote work, for all its benefits, has a distinctly dissociative effect on your employees—especially the social ones—which can lead to a gradual erosion of your workplace culture over time. While remote work obviates the need for a unique environment, incentivizing employees to maintain positive attitudes and rally around a common goal requires a bit more guidance.
As you communicate with your team, be sure to allude to your preferred workplace culture through your communication methods. This may include a joke of the day, a 15-minute group discussion about a mutual interest, or a conference call in which each employee can state their specific goals for the day. The important part is interaction; allowing your employees to interact with you and with each other, especially first thing in the morning, will ensure that they keep your mission in mind.
If your employees all work in a similar geographical location, facilitating a weekly happy hour event or some other social, non-work-related gathering might be a good idea. If that isn’t possible, hosting a weekly debrief during which employees can express personal successes or concerns is a great way to make sure that everyone stays on the same page going forward.
Contrary to its casual appearance, working from home comes with its own diverse cast of problems; however, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both you and your employees. For more details on how you can get your remote workforce off the ground, call Abacus Payroll at (856) 667-6225 today!