COVID-19 has forced businesses to move towards remote working. The business world is changing, and CEOs need to move quickly to develop a strong remote working culture before they miss out. For years, Silicon Valley tech companies have been pioneering this more ‘relaxed’ working style. And it’s working for them. Here’s how remote working can help your business.
Can it really make workers more productive?
A well-managed office should be enough to keep your workers on track, right? Not necessarily. It turns out – giving your workers the freedom to work from home can actually help them perform better, work faster and take less sick time.
The research backs it up:
According to a survey by Vodafone, 75% of companies worldwide have now introduced remote work policies, and of those, 83% reported improved productivity.
A remote work-study by Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom showed a 13% performance increase across 16,000 call centre employees.
A US-based remote work-study of Best Buy employees showed a 35% increase in employee productivity.
A remote work survey of Silicon Valley tech companies reported that 77% of companies reported greater productivity, and 52% of employees are less likely to take time off.
Why does remote working increase productivity?
This is a little harder to answer. Any number of reasons could contribute to why remote working increases productivity. This survey on Monster.com found that employees felt valued and managed to fit work in around their own lives. Employees reported reasons such as a better work-life balance, better focus, less stress, and avoiding a commute.
What are the other advantages? There are two other huge advantages of a remote workforce.
The first is reduced employee costs. The true cost of an employee goes way beyond their actual salary. You’ve got to provide office space, a company car, food and drink, cleaning services, and more. Some reports claim that the actual cost of an employee is up to 26% higher than their salary. Encouraging your employees to work from home could make a big difference to your cost-per-employee.
The second advantage is a bigger talent pool. This speaks to the actual quality of your employees. If you demand that workers come to the office every day, you’re picking from a talent pool that lives in your area. Well, at least within driving distance. If you move towards remote working, you can access the global talent pool. You can pick the best person for the job – not the most convenient.
Downsides of remote working
But there must be downsides, right? The first businesses that moved towards a remote workforce had a lot of teething problems. They were pioneers, and that meant that they had to face up to new problems without any advice to help. They were paving the way for others. Your business isn’t the first to move to a remote workforce. So you can learn from the mistakes of others and mitigate the effort, pain, and difficulty.
Here’s what could go wrong and how you can prevent it:
Breakdown of communication
The key to a healthy remote workforce is clear communication. The problem is, some workers find it difficult to communicate over the internet or by phone. If you’re going to have a successful remote workforce, you need to put a communication structure in place.
Fix: Long-term goals, short-term objectives, and regular meetings to check up on progress. We know – some work environments experience death by meetings, but it’s more important than ever when you aren’t in the same building. A clear management structure is crucial as well. The CEO can’t spend their time making sure every employee is on track.
Workers getting distracted and slacking off
Some employees are more focused than others. Any manager can tell you that. The truth is, they are probably going to get distracted whether they’re in the office or at home. Some workers will spend all day on the task; others will be checking out the latest tips for online gamblers.
Fix: Stricter deadlines, a strong management approach, and better incentives. We’re not going to lecture you on management style – but it’s important to implement these things before you move to a remote workforce. Give your employees a reason to stay on track, and they will.
Lack of relationships within the company
Some employees love office banter. Some hate it. Most people are somewhere in between. When it comes to working remotely, you are going to lose some of the camaraderie that comes with a happy and vibrant office. Of course, the flip side of this is that you will reduce any office drama.
Fix Regular team-building activities, online coffee breaks, Zoom lunch hours, and more office parties. The bottom line is that you’re going to have to work harder at team-building. It’s an important part of a happy workforce, and it shouldn’t stop because everyone is working from home.
If your whole team is working remotely, you have less control over their internet connection. This could cause problems if you’re trying to conduct a team meeting over Zoom and one person keeps disconnecting. However, these days, it shouldn’t be a problem that you can’t overcome.
Fix: Ask workers to use a tool like SpeedTest to check the strength of their internet connection at home. Technically, you should only need around 4Mbps for video conferencing, but you should be looking for somewhere in the region of 10Mbps.
Loss of creativity and innovation
It’s pretty hard to measure creativity and innovation. But some companies – like IBM – have reported that a remote workforce is less creative. As a CEO or manager, you’ll know if your team is lacking inspiration.
Fix: Regular brainstorming sessions and time for ‘thinking’. You can’t force creativity, but you can definitely invite it. If you want to move towards a remote workforce, you are going to have to make room for creativity and innovation.
Tools to manage remote workers
You need to implement the right tools if you want to successfully manage your remote workforce. Here are the tools that can be used to stay on task:
Slack is a big one. It’s a messenger board with a bunch of features designed to make collaboration easy. You can make video and voice calls, manage workflow, and much more.
Trello is a list-making application perfect for keeping track of your projects. Every employee can have access to and update ‘cards’ as they complete projects. If you have a large team, this is the perfect project management tool.
Basecamp is another project management tool. It has similar features to Slack and Trello and is just as user-friendly. Choosing between them is pretty difficult – give them all a try and see what works best for your team.
If you’re worried about your team not working, you need Kickidler. It allows you to monitor employee’s screens, record their work, log the keys they press, and more. It’s perfect for managing the productivity of large teams. However, it can have the downside that employees feel like they aren’t trusted.
Covid-19 has turned Zoom into a household name. Families are using it to stay in touch, kids are using it for school, and businesses are using it for meetings. It’s the widely used video conferencing software for a reason.