Managing remote staff and contractors

Remote working or ‘working from home’ has become increasingly popular over recent years and with good reason. Businesses are changing and, in turn, so is the requirement for us all to be herded like depressed cattle into grey office spaces several miles from our homes. Business owners are starting to realise that certain employees can actually increase their quality of work and levels of productivity by being allowed the flexibility of remote working.

Now, this is the point where the traditionalists among you turn their noses up at the ludicrous suggestion that remote working could actually help their business. Well, it can, and in this chapter we will tell you how. While allowing your employees to work from home may not have been a viable option a few years back, the advancement of technology and the wide range of support available to those wishing to introduce it means that it certainly is now.

So, whether you’re so against remote working that you even kick the dog out of the house at 9am or you’re just a little intrigued by the benefits it has to offer, this chapter will tell you all you need to know about working from home. Then you can decide whether or not it would be a smart move for your business.

Why isn’t remote working the norm?

There is a certain stigma attached to remote working. The mere mention of it conjures up thoughts of your staff sat in their onesies watching Jeremy Kyle when they should be working on that really important project you gave them. This is because we’ve been conditioned throughout our education and professional lives to believe that, in order to carry out a good day’s work, we must actually ‘go to work’.

It could even be said that the majority of business owners actually fear the idea of remote working because it means that the control that they have over their workforce is compromised. They worry about things like managing people’s time, productivity levels dropping and a lack of communication between office based workers and their remote counterparts. Whilst all of these are valid concerns, each of them can be addressed with a little thought and effort. We’ll look at some possible solutions later in the chapter.

Why remote working works

Those brave business owners who do make the leap from an entirely office based workforce to remote working enjoy a whole host of benefits, some of which you may have not thought possible. Here are a few:

Increased productivity – Be honest – you thought that allowing your staff to work from home was actually going to decrease productivity, didn’t you? Nope. It can actually have the opposite effect. Firstly, the time your staff spend commuting to and from the office instantly becomes available as part of their working day. They can now use the time that they may have spent snoozing on the train (and dribbling on the shoulder of the person next to them) to do the work that you have set out for them. It’s also not uncommon that remote workers will work beyond their regular hours, checking and responding to emails, etc. well into the evening. This, coupled with the removal of office distractions (interruptions, phonecalls, chatting with colleagues) mean that the remote worker is perfectly equipped to be even more productive than they were under your watchful eye.

Useful quotes

“To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision.”– Richard Branson

Improved relationships – By allowing your staff to work from home you are telling them that you trust them. Do not underestimate the effect of this. Mutual trust in a working relationship is essential and there is no bigger vote of confidence than showing that you trust in your people to get the job done.

Attract & retain – Remote working is extremely popular among employees. It gives them flexibility when it comes to childcare arrangements and even saves them money when they don’t have to travel to and from the office every day. Working for your company will be an infinitely more attractive prospect if you offer it. Simple as that!

How to collaborate remotely

Just because your staff are no longer based in the office doesn’t mean that they can’t communicate with each other just as effectively. In this day and age there is no reason why you cannot message, talk or even hold meetings with your staff wherever they may be. The technology is readily available to us all and there are some really awesome applications out there that can make the transition to remote working as seamless as possible. Here are some of our favourites –

Other best practices

Remote working is awesome… but it’s not for everyone. The employees that you select to work from home should be self-motivated individuals who work well without the need for constant supervision.

If you are considering introducing remote working for your business then you should also be clear on what you expect from your staff when they are away from the office. Rolling out a policy on remote working will ensure everybody knows where they stand when working from home.

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