More employees than ever before now expect to be able to work remotely and its employers are responding to the wants of their workforce after a recent study showed the practice has grown by 115 per cent since 2005.
“Forward-thinking companies are embracing remote work as a viable, modern business model that increases employee productivity, saves money, and broadens access to talent in a tight labor market,” said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of Remote.co – the firm that conducted the study.
However, despite its increased prevalence, many organisations still struggle when it comes to implementing an effective remote working plan and managers also face barriers when attempting to lead off-site employees.
“There are critical strategies and management techniques necessary to make remote work a success, whether it’s applied to one worker, a team, or an entire business,” said Fell.
“If done correctly and intentionally, remote work can be incredibly beneficial to the company’s success, bottom line, workers, and community,” she added.
Fell’s firm serves as an online resource for organisations that are interested in remote working or already operate a remote working scheme within their workplace.
To provide insight into how and why remote work can be an effective business strategy, Remote.co has compiled feedback from 137 companies regarding common questions and answers on how to manage effectively within a remote workplace environment.
The study found that the main challenges are; preventing employee isolation and overwork, creating a healthy company culture, communication, coordinating across time zones, tracking worker accountability and managing legal or tax issues.
However, respondents also shared a range of benefits including increased worker productivity and efficiency, higher employee morale, reduced employee turnover, real estate and overhead savings, access to a greater, more diverse talent pool, happier, healthier, and more engaged employees, avoiding disruptions in workflow from weather, etc) and better social and environmental stewards.
The research also collated tips for managing remotely with three key areas – measuring productivity, building relationships, and creating company culture – identified as most important.
In terms of measuring productivity, respondents said it should be done largely the same as it would be in a non-virtual environment – via results, output, quality of work, manager feedback and customer satisfaction.
When it comes to building relationships, the study urged employers to create a culture of trust and transparency.
“Establish communication norms (for both synchronous and asynchronous needs), hold regularly scheduled meetings, have an instant ‘virtual office space’, annual face-to-face retreats, give real-time feedback, establish clear expectations and deliverables and use the right technology,” it read.
Finally, the study also suggested myriad ways for organisations to create a positive company culture, including throwing virtual parties and events, creating virtual watercooler opportunities (like lunch hangouts, coffee breaks, books clubs), assigning a buddy or mentor to new hires, embracing work flexibility, celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and milestones and highlighting individual volunteer and humanitarian efforts.
The average telecommuter is 46 years or older, has at least a bachelor’s degree, and earns a higher median salary than an in-office worker.