Technology has made it possible for us to be at work all of the time – whether checking your emails, updating your social platforms or constantly tapping notes into your smartphone, we have the ability to be ‘switched on’ 24-7.
And it’s not just hardware: more companies have introduced ‘green’ or ‘paperless’ offices with clear desk policies – not just to keep everything in one neat and tidy place, but in favour of making everybody’s workload digital. We can now access everything we need for working remote and that goes even if you’re on a train, in a hotel bar or writing your weekly business blog while squashed in the back of a car on your way to the seaside…
The stage has been set and employees are not only working in their own time but are being entrusted to work remotely during official work hours.
So is remote working something all modern-day businesses should be considering? Is it outdated to expect everyone to commute to one place every day of the week and if so, are they really getting their best work done this way?
Before managers or directors kick off their shoes, roll up their trousers and make the splash into the sparkling seas of Bridlingt…erm, opportunity! I mean ‘opportunity’…there are one or two things to take into consideration.
There are or course arguments against allowing your full work force to now come and go as they please and working remotely, understandably, doesn’t appeal to all MDs. This is because it boils down to the individual; there are the workaholics among us who will use every platform and second of free time to their advantage and then there are those (amazing) people who can switch straight off at 5 O’Clock and not have another work-related thought until 8am the next morning.
So who do you trust? It’s tricky, as you want to treat all of your employees as equal – but the truth of the matter is that some are just more capable (or equal) than others when it comes to working remotely. In the same way that a primary school teacher knows which children to leave in charge of the glue, an MD needs to know the people who can cope with tasks independently, on the move and without getting distracted…speaking of which, does anyone know how to get sand out of a Samsung Galaxy S4?
Working Remote…or Remotely Working?
When assessing an individual for remote working, or looking into hiring experienced remote workers, here are some things to look out for:
You may think this employee cannot be entrusted to work remotely but that may not always be the case: getting up from your desk doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being unproductive and you have to remember that different people will work best in different ways. Of course, the use of social media in a business environment has made it much more difficult to tell when an employee is being productive or not, but that’s another blog for another day…
So, if an employee does appear to be easily distracted, look at their surrounding environment – is there something in the office that’s causing a distraction? Could it be their position in the office? Could noises from heavy building work, radios or other staff members be causing a distraction? If their environment is doing the distracting, this does not make the individual unreliable when it comes to working remotely. Plus, if you’re the type of boss who breathes down the neck of your employees every time they visit the toilet, you have to wonder whether they would work better when freed from such an oppressive environment.
Of course no distracted employee would be so without a distractor. These employees cannot only cause major productivity slow-down by being easily distracted themselves, but by insisting on taking as much staff with them as possible. The distractor will not only frequently get up from their desk, but will make it their mission to interact with everyone on their way to the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely anti-social but I know when it’s time to turn in the chatter and let everyone get on with their daily tasks. Distractors are less likely to be productive when working remotely so make sure you can spot the difference between these individuals…
Then there are the untouchables – those members of staff who can continuously work away no matter what gossip is going on behind them. Whether stuffing in headphones (note: music that is played through headphones so loudly that the whole office can hear does not make you an untouchable: see Distractor) or simply blanking out the surrounding mayhem, these people can somehow keep working away. These folk would be considered ideal candidates for remote working and would no doubt be trusted should an opportunity for working remotely or on the move came up. However, one of the most important elements of a remote working relationship is communication, so make sure you’re individual doesn’t struggle to do so or isn’t socially inept in any way or you may not hear from them for a few days…
The Well Established:
Of course, opting for already established remote workers could ensure greater productivity from the very beginning. The novelty of working from home just a few metres away from the PS4 may be too much temptation for some and so outsourcing work to experienced freelancers or remote workers could be the way forward. Just ensure that you are clear with communication to ensure quality of work and correct deadlines – inviting these individuals to join group conversations or task management platforms will also help to keep communication frequent and up to date.
Working remotely can have a lot of benefits but it has to be handled correctly. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and has to be tweaked effectively to ensure maximum productivity. With the right management, communication and performance tracking tools or procedures in place, working remotely may not only inspire more productivity and contribution but could even inspire some of those that seem to be remotely working…