There was a time when working away from a brick and mortar office was considered a luxury only afforded to those at the very top of the organizational structure – out of reach for anyone else. Today, all sorts of positions are advertised with a remote working option, in part due to the ever-growing desire amongst today’s workers to have options in their workplace. In an effort to reel in the best and the brightest, many employers in this new economy include remote work into their growing list of workplace perks.
While remote work can be integrated into more workplaces than previously imagined, employers need to be proactive and prepare in advance of any large-scale movement towards offering a remote working option. Here are some tips to help you successfully build a remote working model in your workplace.
Hot tip 1: Create a sound policy
Make sure every employee understands the workplace policy around remote work including which roles are eligible for remote work arrangements and who is eligible to participate. Just because you have a workplace where remote working is an option does not mean that every employee will be entitled to it. In most cases, working remotely will be a luxury and employees should be informed about what they need to do in order to access this option (e.g. demonstrate that they are responsive, self-starters). Also, some roles are not conducive to a remote working option – for example, managers may need to be in the office to support their subordinates – and those ineligible need to be informed.
For individuals in federally regulated industries, a recent Canada Labour Code amendment permits employees to request flexible work arrangements after 6 months of continuous employment. The employer can accept the request in its entirety, partially accept the request, or reject the request. The employer can only reject the request in specific circumstances, including if the employer can establish that they wouldn’t be able to provide the employee with sufficient work or if they were unable to reorganize the workplace in such a way that would make the arrangement successful.
Hot tip 2: Connectivity
It is impossible to work out all of the kinks prior to launching a remote working plan, which is why it might be helpful to see the first few months of the program as a test period. Keep in touch with your employees and note any connectivity or integration issues.
Also, take stock of how you treat your remote employees as compared to the other employees in your organization. Do you find it more difficult to trust their commitment to the organization when you do not see them every day? Look for ways to address this insecurity as feelings of distrust can have detrimental impacts on the success of a remote program. For instance, have a weekly check-in meeting with your remote-staff and your brick and mortar staff about ongoing projects and office happenings. These kinds of meetings will ensure the relationship between employees and your relationship with the team stay intact.
Hot tip 3: Accountability
Creating a culture of accountability among your remote workers is essential if you hope to have a well functioning remote program. It is important that you make it clear that remote employees must meet the same goals as non-remote employees. This may not be especially difficult given that much of the research around remote work suggests that workers are more productive and, in fact, work more hours when they work remotely (likely because remote workers feel guilty about their arrangement and tend to overcompensate).
Just as you would focus on ensuring the remote employee is aware of their responsibilities, you should spend some time with the supervisor who will be managing the remote employee to ensure they are equipped to handle this transition.
Depending on the company model, it may or may not be appropriate for the remote employee to work flexible or irregular hours so long as they are able to meet their targets. In some instances, this may not be possible, and in those cases you should clearly articulate that the employee must work conventional hours.
Hot tip 4: Include facetime
One of the reasons remote working arrangements are so common in the modern workforce is because of the ease by which individuals can communicate. Your teams are likely already skilled in communications such as email or chat, so integrating someone who is not physically in the office may be easier than you think.
This type of communication, however, is not always the most appropriate way of interacting with your employees, so it is important that you continue to engage with remote employees in face-to-face communication as well as over the phone. As you can probably imagine, providing critical feedback is probably best reserved for a conversation over the phone or an in-person meeting. Remember: in most instances, a remote employee will still be able to come into the office occasionally or have a conversation over the phone or via video chat, so be sure to make space for those kinds of communications.
Hot tip 5: Equipment
Ensuring your remote workers have the proper equipment to do their jobs remotely is an essential part of a remote working program. Some workplaces don’t mind their employees using their personal computers for work, while others find it safer to provide their employees with some equipment. What you are able to offer will depend on the type of equipment your employees need as well as your resources.
Make sure to take down the serial numbers of all the equipment you provide as you will need a way to identify the items you need to recover in the event that the employee leaves the company.
Jason Fried, one of the biggest advocates for remote working arrangements and the co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, once stated that “work doesn’t happen at work” a pithy way of saying that people do not need to be in the workplace in order to create. A trusted employee in your workplace is not doomed to fall prey to distractions simply because they are working from home. In fact, being in a space where they have full control over their environment is likely going to increase happiness and reduce attrition. Not all workers want to work remotely or should work remotely, but some employees well suited to this arrangement will appreciate this offering.
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