MANAGING REMOTE WORKING
With a year of events behind us that no one could foresee, the world of working has changed for many companies. Many have ditched the office environment for remote working, while this may have been a necessary adaption at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, many of those companies have said they will not be returning back to the office even when it’s safe to do those. Huge multinational companies such as Twitter are choosing instead to make remote working a permanent feature of their business model. Yet this pivot to the working world comes with both advantages and disadvantages, so let’s dive right in!
What is remote working?
Firstly, to understand how to manage remote working successfully we need to really understand what it is and it’s simple, remote working involves working outside of the traditional office environment, carrying out all the tasks that would normally occur within the office fully online and remote. It’s a term that has become hugely popular in the past year, mainly due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. However the term and the idea of remote working seems to be here to stay….
Advantages of having a team who work remote
There are several advantages of having a team who work entirely remotely ranging from how your talent pool dramatically increases to the simple fact that many employees expect it as part of their package since the dramatic international move from offices to working from home. Advantages such as these suit both the employer and the employee, meaning that at the end of the day, everyone’s a winner.
Many companies took a stance at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic that the loss of the office environment would mean employees productivity would decrease, with factors such as a loss of managerial control and the distractions of home life would be leading causes of this. However, despite the initial sense of skepticism towards remote working, employers are now seeing the benefits with one of the key reasons being productivity. A Stanford survey found that productivity increased by 13% with remote workers when compared to their office based colleagues as well as a 50% drop in employee quit rates. With less water cooler chats, the distraction of colleagues popping to your desk for a chat, or the last minute request for meetings, employees seem to use this time to complete tasks in a more efficient and quicker manner.
The New York Times reported how not only are Cisco employees more productive working remotely, they are also completing major projects that usually take a month in an office environment in as little as 15 days. It seems concerns over productivity needn’t have been fret over, with time spent on office distractions from colleagues and commutes now being replaced with completing projects in almost half the time.
Another surprising advantage of remote working is the effect it is having on employee retention. Turnover rates are hurtful for companies,not only does it take time to find the right person to suit the role but it also means a lack of productivity while you lose a trusted employee for someone who is still being trained up, which usually comes with a few mistakes along the way. Time spent training up a new employee as well as trying to find them in the first place, is time taken away from growing the business.
However, with remote working, many of the reasons as to why an employee might leave are taken out of the picture. No longer does an employee contemplating re-locating or the addition of a new family member mean that they now need to consider leaving their job. With remote working they can move from city to city, state to state or even country to country as often as they like. Previous thoughts of having to hand in their notice so that they can drop their children off at nursery or make doctor’s appointments, is all out of the window.
With 82% of millennials saying they’d be more loyal to their employer if flexible working was incorporated. The importance of remote working and the flexibility in working that comes with that is key in business success and employee retention. Deloitte conducted a survey in which millennials not only appreciate the flexibility of being able to work remotely and alter their hours to suit this remote working lifestyle but also highly appreciated the trust that comes with such a decision and due to granting flexible working only 35% of employees are considering leaving in the next two years.
Increased talent pool
When making the decision to allow employees to work from anywhere it also allows for the company to now hire talent from anywhere, not restricting them to a small and commutable geographical location. In widening the geographical pool to search for the perfect candidate companies will now be able to concentrate on skills, qualification and experience rather than simply those that applied because they are in the area. This means higher skilled workers, senior leadership teams with more experience and employees that are yet again thankful for the flexible nature of the company and therefore will be loyal. It also means there are no relocation costs for candidates that you would have considered moving closer to the office due to their skills and experience, saving the company money while still gaining the best talent in the industry.
As contradictory as it may sound letting employees work from home actually decreases absenteeism within the workforce, a staggering 41% decrease in absenteeism according to Forbes. Employees now no longer need to take an entire day off for a quick doctor’s appointment, letting painters and decorators in the house or due to their child being unwell. They can now do all of these things while working remotely and fitting these around their schedule. With less absenteeism and more flexibility, it means work can continue to flow and projects don’t stop progressing due to employees not being able to physically attend the office that day.
Challenges of remote working
While the majority of this article so far has been based around praising the move to remote working, it’s fair to say that it’s not all singing and dancing, there are some challenges that come with employees not being based in the office. Such as how to integrate new team members into the community, making sure everyone within the team is still communicating and being productive. As well as still maintaining the company culture that is easy to ‘educate’ when working within the office.
It is vital to ensure if you do implement remote working, that your employees productivity does not drop. Tracking this is essential to ensure business continues as usual and does not drop. It is also important that the trust you put into your employees is not exploited, for example, if your employees are contracted to work 8 hours per day, that they do so. Implementing time tracking features into your software can help you monitor this. Also, having regular performance reviews against set KPI’s for their job role is vital to ensuring your employees are staying productive. Read more about Remote Performance Reviews
If you chose to have flexible working, it is important to know when your employees will be in the office and when they will choose to work from home. The gulfHR leave management module has a specifically built work from home feature, where they can request to work from home the same way they would a leave request, which goes through an approval workflow and shows on your master calendar. To find out more get in touch with one of our experts
While company culture is often a silent but needed process that works in the background acting almost as an operating system for any company, bringing social structure to organisations. The introduction of remote working is causing a challenge in how companies now implement this ‘operating system’ so to speak. Companies can now no longer hide behind labelling strategies such as allowing dogs in the office or free coffee or a 4pm finish on a Friday as simply ‘Company Culture’. They need to now be more direct and transparent with their employees. And while this may be a frightening change for many companies, it needn’t be so overwhelming. When broken down companies simply need to be clear, enhance online companionship, and implement structure for both communication and internal conflicts.
Not being able to simply turn around and ask your colleague a question or catch that employee you were trying to book a meeting with on the way to the canteen. Can in the long term be harmful for your business, once you transition everything to fully online, all communication becomes suddenly very formal. Instead of a discussion over the water cooler, that last minute question you had becomes a formal email or a scheduled meeting. Matters take on a whole different format once you move them online and it can leave your team feeling detached from the in-office human interaction. However, this can be battled, with the focus on including certain communication channels such a Microsoft Teams or Slack, it allows employees and colleagues alike to swap last minute advice/questions/discussions. It keeps team communications going, morale high, water cooler chats don’t need to stop – they just need to move online! With these informal chats, team bonding and creativity can thrive, which can only help the business to grow. So while team communication is a struggle for companies that are moving to remote working, they are finding new ways to keep communication and team morale strong. Even putting in official hours for non-work chat, whether that be a monthly quiz, a bi-weekly ‘water cooler chat’ or even simply using Microsoft Teams or Slack as their way to ask about someone’s weekend or the discuss the latest football score.
Hiring new team members
Hiring new team members is a balancing act at the best of times, you’re trying to find an employee who not only has the skills and requirements but also will be a good fit and gel well with your current team. So once this process is taken online and you can no longer meet your perspective employee face to face, the onboarding process can become a little daunting. Instead of your normal induction days or face to face training sessions, zoom calls and virtual training sessions are becoming the norm. All of the steps included in our previous article regarding the employee onboarding process, all still ring true, there’s no difference in the steps one must take, it simply now needs to be virtual. You can still assign a mentor, set your expectations, walk them through their first project, all via your communication channels. Make sure video cameras are switched on so that the employee can see who they are talking to for the first time as well as ensuring video meetings are put in place with wider team members to ensure colleague interaction and team bonding.
Role of technology in working remotely
The reason that remote working is now possible globally is not just due to the force of hand the Pandemic gave us, but the technological advances we have now. Without technology, remote working would just not be possible, so that being said, it is important that you have effective technology in place to help you. A sufficient HRMS will be able to support you through the implementation of remote working, from tracking, to time management, to performance reviews and productivity.
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In conclusion while adjustments to remote working can be daunting to companies at first, once the key pillars have been put in place to ensure communication and bonding between colleagues and the business as a whole. And technology is fully utilised, distance can no longer be a detrimental factor in why a business cannot push forward and continue to thrive, it just takes adaptation.
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