Everything you need to know about working remotely
Remote working has fast become widely adopted across many businesses within the UK. In essence it allows employees to work outside of their typical office environment and provides greater flexibility. Over the last few years working remote has become increasingly popular, mostly due to the rise in companies modernising the way their workforce operates. This has all been helped by the advancement in technology that supports remote workers and their employers.
There are many benefits to allowing staff to work remotely. In fact it’s such a preferred work style that according to Inc almost two thirds of employees who occasionally work remotely at the moment want to work remotely more often, and nine out of ten remote workers plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers.
Unfortunately, some companies struggle with the thought that they can’t physically see their staff working and worry that they’re binge watching TV series or endlessly scrolling through social media. However, there is a large amount of research that supports the fact that on average productivity in staff working remotely actually increases over those that are bound to the office. One survey by Finder suggests that two-thirds of employees say they’re more productive when working from home.
Recruiting talent from local areas can sometimes be a challenge; especially if you are looking for someone to fill a specialist role. With remote working, recruiters aren’t restricted by the typical commuting distance from the office and can open their recruitment to wider areas. By doing this it attracts talent that doesn’t live right next to where they operate and puts their businesses ahead of the competition.
Now more than ever companies are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint and participate in eco-friendly initiatives. By having staff that work remotely businesses are reducing the number of vehicles on the road, reducing their office energy output, and condensing their property footprint which allows for more efficient workspace usage.
For decades, the standard 9-5 grind has been engrained into society. However, with the introduction of remote working the traditional working hours have become more flexible allowing employees to better manage their work-life balance. For example, instead of spending hours commuting to and from the workplace, employees skip the commute and add valuable hours back into their working day whilst significantly increasing moral.
Naturally working remotely comes with the added benefit of more freedom. Employees aren’t stuck at the office and can be more flexible with private arrangements. Instead of taking time off to wait for a parcel to arrive or booking leave to watch a child’s football game, employees can simply rearrange their day to accommodate. Having more freedom keeps employees happy, engaged and fulfilled.
With the cost of living constantly rising, working remotely can help employees save money. It’s estimated that the average remote worker saves £44.78 every week. This saving comes from not having to pay as much for commuting, work clothes, food, childcare etc. This in turn greatly boosts employee morale.
The hybrid workplace is a term you might have heard recently. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have been forced to quickly adapt and enable their staff to work from home. Since then, it’s become apparent that businesses have realised the many benefits of remote work and want to carry this on in a post-pandemic world. However, for some a fully remote workforce isn’t viable and a hybrid between remote working and being in the office is the solution.
Businesses are starting to think long term and are open to the hybrid way of working. It generally gives the freedom of allowing employees to fit work around the rest of their lives rather than structuring other parts of a weekday around hours logged into an office. In the UK, employers expect the proportion of regular home workers to double, from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic.
A hybrid workplace is the best of two worlds, structure, and sociability on one hand, and independence and flexibility on the other.
Some businesses are implementing a hybrid workplace differently to others. For some, allowing employees to choose how frequent they visit the office works as it enables employees to balance their home and work life. However, some businesses are choosing a more structured approach with set days that employees must attend the office. Every business is different and how they go about a hybrid workplace will vary. It’s believed that on average, working from home two days a week will be optimal for balancing collaborative and quiet work, while benefitting from the reduced stress of less commuting.
Enabling a workforce to be able to work remotely comes with its challenges. The recent pandemic has taught us that remote working has caught businesses off guard as they haven’t invested in the technology to make it possible. For businesses that are considering a hybrid workplace as a long-term work style, ensuring that the right infrastructure is implemented is a key priority.
Not only is technology a key part in remote working but careful consideration must be taken due to 5 generations in the workplace. We now live in a world where Gen Z are working alongside Traditionalists and every generation in between. Businesses have to realise that different generations have different ways of working and the digital divide will greatly influence their remote working strategy.
Gone are the days of simply giving an employee a laptop and a phone as a way of them being able to work remotely effectively. While this may have worked at the time, modern day remote working requires more considerations which businesses need to think about.
There’s a few fundamental pieces of hardware that allow an employee to work remotely. A laptop is the preferred choice as it allows the employee to be mobile and enables them to work in various locations. Most laptops come with an integrated camera and microphone but if it doesn’t then there’s numerous plug and play webcams and microphones that do the trick. Alongside a laptop a business mobile phone should be considered if it’s necessary for the role.
For those employees that work on the road, a portable internet device that supplies WiFi or 4G hotspots could be of use. Another consideration would be a headset, which can be very useful for employees that are predominantly customer facing and communicate through phone calls.
IT Security should also be a major consideration when employees work remotely. Their devices are most likely connected to other WiFi networks out of your control which comes with risks. As a minimum business should protect their staff with a strong anti-virus and two factor authenticate software which contains sensitive data.
Effective communication is essential for businesses to operate. Some businesses fear that remote working causes a breakdown in communication amongst staff. However, with the right tools communication can work just as well for employees working remotely as those in the office.
A major technology which aids in effective communication is VoIP. With voice calls being handled over the internet and in the cloud, it eliminates the need for bulky on-site hardware. VoIP also enables remote staff to take their phone number with them wherever they choose work. It’s definitely time for businesses to start investing in VoIP technologies due to its numerous benefits.
Naturally with staff working remotely it reduces the face-to-face interaction usually found in an office environment. This used to be an issue with remote workers as attending meetings became more difficult and grabbing a colleague for a quick chat was harder. Technology has since evolved and there are a number of virtual meeting software out there for businesses to use. The two top choices are Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Both enable businesses to set up virtual meetings where staff can attend by using a webcam and microphone.
Virtual meeting software has become incredibly popular over the last year due to the pandemic and businesses have seen the benefits it gives to staff working remotely. This has sparked businesses to unify their communications. Unified communications take standard communication to the next level by integrating instant messaging, in-person conferencing, voice, mobility features (i.e. extension mobility, single number reach, etc.), and video.
It’s safe to say that sometimes trying to collaborate effectively can be painful. This results in simple mistakes being made, projects being delayed and mixed messaging. Thankfully, there’s an abundance of collaboration apps and software out there in the market that can help.
Collaboration tools allow employees and teams to effectively interact with each other, share resources, communicate, and work efficiently. Some of the top collaboration tools on the market at the moment are Slack, Asana, Monday and even Microsoft Teams. Each comes with their own set of features that fit different business needs, so it’s worth looking at all of them before making a decision on which one to use.
Effective collaboration is even more essential when having employees that work remote. Collaboration tools allow employees to have an overview of the projects their staff are working on as well as being able to quickly review outstanding work.
Communication is absolutely key in any workplace but even more so when remote working. It’s easy to feel secluded when working away from the office so it’s even more important to communicate with your colleagues. Unfortunately, your co-workers aren’t a few desk down anymore so quick chats can become difficult. Talk with your team and your manger about scheduling regular check-in meetings or even set up a Friday afternoon chit chat to end the week.
Working remotely gives staff the freedom and flexibility to choose where they work. However, as tempting as working on the sofa seems, it’s not a good idea. Instead, invest in a dedicated workspace. Most remote workers have a similar office setup at home which give both the freedom of working remotely but also emulates the office environment. Some remote workers prefer to work in different locations entirely such as café’s, serviced offices, and hot desks. Wherever staff decide to work, it’s important to choose a place where you can focus on the work at hand not get distracted.
Sometimes remote working means that you find yourself stuck to your computer screen for a longer period of time. It’s important to take regular breaks so that you don’t overwork yourself. Some remote workers like to schedule their breaks so that they’re reminded to get up and move around. Others simply take breaks when their body tells them to. However you decide to choose your breaks, ensure that they’re frequent and include a change of scenery.
If you’re easily distracted working remotely can be daunting. However, with the right precautionary measures you can manage distractions effectively and dedicate your attention to work. If you’re tempted by tech such as your mobile phone, consider leaving it in another room. Or if other people around you are distracting you try to choose a quieter place to work. Understandably some distractions can’t be avoided but that’s where the freedom of remote work comes to its advantage. By managing your home and work life balance this allows you to create your own schedule.