H habanero management social
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Mar 31

Category: Career Advice, Employers, Technology

Remote working is on the rise.

Believe it or not, faced with a choice either rising before the sun, being squashed into a smelly train carriage, and spending £9 a day on lunch or waking at a reasonable hour, walking to the computer, and eating lunch in their own kitchen, more people are choosing the latter.

Read more: Why is working from home on the rise in London?

According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, approaching 5 million people now work remotely, and the number is growing. Despite this, there’s still an underlying sense among managers and office-based colleagues that remote workers aren’t really doing much work at all.

There are dozens of remote working myths out there: remote workers are less productive, they’re impossible to communicate with, it’s almost impossible for managers to keep track of outputs, and so on and on and on.

They’re mostly myths. Taken altogether, the data suggests that remote workers are much more productive than their office-based counterparts. Remote working doesn’t work for everyone, though — just look at companies like Yahoo that banned remote working because they perceived it to be negatively affecting productivity and innovation.

So, how do you ensure that your remote working plans are successful?

#1. Establish a routine

Some people might claim to be at their most productive at curious hours of the night. However, the fact is they’re mostly wrong (there’s clear evidence that all people are at their most productive in the mornings) and, even if they’re an anomaly and it is true, it’s not much use if everyone else is working, as normal, during the day.

Of course, flexibility is important but establishing ‘core hours’ (e.g. 10 am until 3 pm) when everyone is available, and meetings, calls, and catch-ups can be scheduled can be helpful. Jacquelyn Smith, wiring in Forbes, stresses the need to plan your remote day around predictable interruptions, like the kids coming home from school.

#2. Stay constantly connected to colleagues

It’s a myth, albeit a pervasive one, that just because remote workers aren’t in the office, they’re probably off having a pint or a picnic somewhere. Of course, it’s hardly ever been true. However, these days technology means that remote workers simply couldn’t get away with this sort of behavior, even if they wanted to.

So, combat the risk that your office-based colleagues are assuming you’re slacking by making your office calendar public, being responsive to emails and calls during core hours, and staying logged into (and active on) your company’s instant messaging tool.

#3. Organise your workspace

While your colleagues may think it cute when your cat walks in front of the screen mid-meeting, your clients might think otherwise. While distractions can have hilarious consequences (if you haven’t seen Professor Robert Kelly’s interrupted BBC interview, you really should check it out), they can compromise your professionalism.

Creating a separate workspace, clear of possible distractions and interruptions, can have additional psychological benefits, too. That’s because working beside your bed or on your sofa can blur the distinctions between work and home-life, leading to stress and anxiety when you’re trying to relax rather than work.

#4. Get the technology right

Yes, of course, you’ll need a computer and a broadband internet connection, but unless your work is totally independent, you’re also going to need some additional means of communicating and collaborating with your colleagues, office-based or otherwise.

Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of cloud-based software solutions available. Google Docs and Office 365 are the highest profile — allowing users to instantly share and collaborate on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.

The right communication tools are vital, too. Email is a poor replication of the sort of instant back-and-forth communication that being together in the office can produce. It’s well-worth investing in instant messenger apps, like Slack and Skype in order to truly replicate those kitchen conversations while waiting for the kettle to boil.

#5. Develop easy to measure KPIs

Clear, easily measurable performance goals are at their most critical when it comes to remote workers. It’s essential that both the remote team member and their manager both know what’s expected, how work is progressing, and if deadlines/goals are being met.

This starts with clearly defining expectations and setting a clear set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be reviewed weekly or monthly during 1:1 meetings. For project-based work, tools like Trello or Asana, which facilitate the clear tracking of specific sub-tasks, can be essential for staying on the same page and for holding remote employees accountable for progress.

What’s the bottom line? Remote working can lead to happier, more productive workers and lower business costs. You’ve got to do it right, though. Simple directing people to start working from home without giving some thought to infrastructure and process won’t cut it.