Here, Ian Cowley discusses how to keep a handle on your staff when employing flexible working practices.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to empower employees to work remotely.
The benefits to your business can be huge. If the job role allows, remote working can lead to happier employees because they can schedule work around their lives, rather than vice versa. In turn, this can result in increased loyalty and productivity.
However, it’s one thing to work from home. It’s quite another to be effective, surrounded by the distractions of the household chores. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way to help employees maximise productivity.
Set firm targets
The remote worker is at risk of being easily distracted; by chores if they are in their home or the outside world if they’re working from a café or library. The best way to combat this is to set them a series of targets.
Provide remote workers with goals to be accomplished for each day they are out of the office and check regularly to see they’re on track. What’s more, from the word go, set the expectation that you will be applying this level of micro-management in all instances of remote working. In my experience, employees are happy to accept increased supervision in return for the perk of working from home.
Ensure they work as if they are physically in the office
Tell remote workers that they should be in touch with team members regularly throughout the day. It’s important that they make their presence felt for two key reasons.
Firstly, to be on hand to respond to questions and contribute to projects, just as they would if they were a desk away. Their remote working should not impede the progress of a shared project.
Secondly, to show this is not a jolly. Working at home is not skiving. They can stray from the 9-to-5, but they should still be doing a full day’s work. This should be communicated by actions rather than words to maintain respect between workmates.
Create a routine
If you have concerns about the hours remote workers are putting in, talk to them about their routine. The answers you receive may help put your mind at rest. Maybe they like to break the day with a cycle or gym session and make up the time in the evening. There could be family reasons for early morning or evening working. However, if there appears to be no routine, sit down with your employee and create one.
Be a face, not just a name
In some cases, it may be appropriate for employees to work for more than 75 per cent of their contracted time away from the office. For example, one of our programmers lives in Bristol. He can still deliver the work we need him to, without us insisting on an impossible commute.
However, in cases like this schedule time for remote workers to come into the office, so people can put a face to the name. Organise a day each month where they come in to work alongside colleagues which ends with a post-work trip to the pub to strengthen relationships between teammates.
The effect will be powerful. Even in this technological age, don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face contact.
Keep in touch
Keep remote workers, who are out of the office for extended periods of time, in the loop to ensure they feel part of a team working to a shared goal, eg the success of your company. Send frequent messages keeping them up to date with developments in the office and any successes that have been achieved.
Use technology to its full effect
Use all the benefits of technology to ensure collaboration in not limited by physicality. As well as the basics of email and messaging, encourage video calls, Hangouts, or shared documents. My business partner and I often work from our own home offices but spend the whole day on Google Hangout so we can chat through queries and voice ideas as they arise.
Ian Cowley is managing director of cartridgesave.co.uk.