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Working from home makes you more productive. We all know that already – you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. But as with anything, there’s always room for improvement. There are things you as an employer can do – and encourage your staff to do – to help your remote workers not only be more productive but also reach greater heights of excellence.
It’s common knowledge by now that working from home makes you more productive. Something about telecommuting allows workers to be more efficient, effective, and satisfied. You’re already aware of that, I wager – you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.
Thing is, while it’s certainly possible to just send your staff home and tell them “work there,” you’re not going to get the most out of the initiative by doing so. You need to take a more active role if you’re to truly enable and empower your remote employees. Today, we’re going to talk about what that involves.
1. Focus On Performance
For many employees, the biggest draw of remote work is the increased flexibility it enables for them. Rather than having to adhere to a rigid nine to five schedule, they can finish projects at their own pace. They can take off to go for coffee with a friend, or spend time with their family.
That’s the idea in theory, anyway. A lot of employers tend to have trouble adjusting to the idea that someone who’s telecommuting isn’t necessarily subject to the same schedule as anyone else. And that’s a problem.
Sure, it makes sense to expect remote workers to be available for meetings. But as long as work is getting done and they aren’t holding up anyone else on their team, it shouldn’t matter when and how they work. As long as they do.
2. Have Them Use A Tool Like Trello
A big challenge of working remotely is keeping oneself on-target. There are no colleagues in the immediate vicinity to keep you focused on work, and there’s no manager you can turn to for direction. In this regard, a tool like Trello can be invaluable.
A virtual kanban board, Trello allows a user to create columns, cards, and checklists which they can then use to prioritize and track progress on tasks and projects. It’s an invaluable project management tool whether being used by a solo telecommuter or an entire team. Consider directing your remote workers to the software – or to something similar.
3. Teach Them Tactics For Avoiding Distraction
One of the biggest challenges facing telecommuting – and one of the biggest reasons so many businesses are still leery to allow it – is the ever-present distractions provided by smartphones, the Internet, and social media. In the workplace, these are (presumably) mitigated by the IT department or management. At home, there’s no such luck.
That’s why it’s important that you reach out to your remote workers and provide them with a bit of advice for cutting down on noise and staying focused. Such tactics might include
- Turning off social media and muting all non-work notifications on their smartphones.
- Laying out a few critical priorities at the beginning of each day.
- Exercising to help regain focus
- Listening to music
- Creating a dedicated office space, away from their personal space
- Setting a timer each time they start working.
4. Consider Providing Them With Office Gear
Not everyone has a decent home office setup – nor does anyone have the cash necessary to put one together. As an employer, it might be worth your time to provide them with a stipend. Some money for a new desk, a decent and comfortable office chair, and the cost of Internet and phone service could go a long way towards improving productivity.
And as an added bonus, providing such perks will very likely improve job satisfaction.
5. Emphasize The Importance Of Self-Care
We’ve all neglected the needs of our bodies for the sake of getting more work done. When you’re working from home, it’s easier than ever to do so. However, just as a machine cannot run without regular maintenance, your mind and body cannot operate effectively if you don’t take care of them.
While you want to avoid being condescending, it’s worth your time to speak to your remote workers about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet, a regular sleep schedule, and an exercise regime.
6. Give Them Advice On Organizing Their Workspace
Clutter is a mood and productivity killer. There’s no getting around that. The more your remote workers can do to de-clutter their home offices, the better.
Encourage them to choose a few things each day they don’t need and throw them out. Talk to them about clearing unnecessary items from their desk and their surroundings. Include stuff like dusters, keyboard cleaner, and a vacuum in their home office stipend.
7. Make Sure Your Corporate Applications Are Fully-Accessible
Let’s move to something a little more technical. Your remote workers should have seamless access to all the same platforms, tools, and systems available to in-office staff. We’ve moved well past the era when it was acceptable for the IT department to lock a corporate application to a few pre-approved devices.
It’s your job to ensure your corporate software not only functions seamlessly across multiple operating environments and form-factors but also that it keeps sensitive data safe without impeding workflows. Whether you achieve that through a corporate VPN, containerization, or some other method is entirely up to you. But you need to do it.
8. Ensure Your Helpdesk Is Always Open
I already mentioned earlier that remote workers might operate on a completely different schedule from the rest of your staff. You need to respect that by ensuring that 24/7 support is readily available. Fortunately, a large part of this challenge can be met through a self-service helpdesk.
Allow your remote employees to troubleshoot and address simple issues like password resets on their own, and keep a few support professionals online in the event that they need assistance with anything more complex.
9. Consolidate Your Workflows, Calendars, And Repositories
If you’re serious about enabling remote work, one of the first steps you should do is consolidate as many of your workflows as possible. Try to find a single platform that does what your laundry list of applications do. Not only will this reduce IT costs, it’ll ensure remote employees don’t have to maintain twenty different apps they’ll rarely use.
10. Stay Engaged
I’ve saved what might be the most important advice for last. Remote work can be lonely. It can make one feel isolated, lethargic, and anxious. Such feelings are only further amplified when someone’s gotten used to being part of an active workplace.
Managers should remain in constant contact with remote employees. Meetings should be set up so remote workers can join via teleconference. And colleagues and co-workers should always be easy to reach out to.
Just because someone is out of the office, doesn’t mean they should feel disconnected from it.
Remote work can improve both job satisfaction and productivity – but as an employer, it’s not a hands-off thing. You need to take the necessary steps to enable, empower, and engage with remote employees. Only then will you see just how far telecommuting can take you.