Why remote working teams can be viable for small businesses

Jason Downes looks at the difference between a remote worker and remote working teams, which could be shaping the future of the workplace.

When it comes to remote working, most people assume it just involves an employee working from home instead of an office. But the reality is, it’s actually become much more than that. Remote workers can work from almost any location, whether it be a couple of miles away from their office or from a completely different country and time zone to their colleagues. But now, there are also entire remote working teams that can utilise software and technology to stay in touch.

Remote working teams tend to be more common with development, operations and marketing departments, where the nature of their job allows them to be more independent and get on with their tasks and use catch ups to see where they’re at with projects. Sales and customer service teams on the other hand, tend to have individuals who work remotely if they’re seeing clients or working different hours over the holiday season because there tends to be more common interaction required within their teams.

The downside about remote working – although there is less of it now – is the stigma that remote working gives workers the opportunity to slack off and do more online shopping or procrastinate as the year comes to a close. However the reality is, all work is measured by output, so if targets and deadlines aren’t met, then maybe certain employees aren’t ready to work remotely.

Different working habits

The reason that remote working doesn’t work for every individual is because everyone works in a different way. There are some employees who are more productive when they are surrounded by other hard-working colleagues, there are some who are easily distracted when they’re not in an office environment, and there are some who work better in a different environment.

What it really comes down to, is trust. There needs to be a level of trust between employers and employees to make sure both have the interest to get the job done. If not, it’s quite easy for managers to start micromanaging to make sure they know that their staff are working. So it’s important to find the balance between managers and employees to communicate enough without hindering productivity levels.

Management styles and forms of communication also change when it comes to remote workers and remote working teams. If it’s only a couple employees who work remotely, instant chat, emails and conference calls tend to be the tools that keep the lines of communication open for colleagues to check in with each other, whereas remote working teams tend to use part of the money they save on office leases and invest in more integrated software that enables them to conference call, share their screen, instant chat and video or web conference at a click of a button.

Having group chats or channels is a good way to maintain the levels of communication. It’s easy to forget the common etiquette of everyday conversation, so a good habit to remember is to greet co-workers in the morning before you just dive into work and ask for updates on tasks. Remote working doesn’t mean that staff have to retrain themselves to communicate with each other, they just need to remember to communicate as they would in an office but through technology instead.

Access to a wider talent pool

Remote working individuals and teams mean that managers aren’t restricted to hiring people who live within a couple of miles of their office. Instead, they are able to hire top talent in their industry and hire based on experience, rather than geographic proximity. The pool of quality candidates also increases when you’re not confined to a certain area.

But when trying to determine whether having individual remote workers or remote working teams are right for you, it’s best to start with a couple of individuals. This gives you the opportunity to test, discover and rectify any initial issues that you find when a selection of staff work remotely. Remote working doesn’t only work for small start-ups, major global companies have implemented it too. It’s just important to iron out the kinks at the start and find the right technology to keep you connected before any disadvantages becomes an inherent issue.

See also: Should your small business adopt remote working?

The workplace has changed, so we’ve had to adapt to it. Employees require more flexibility to get their job done, so there’s no reason we should stop them. We’ve seen a huge drop in absenteeism since we encouraged remote working, and our remote working teams can now get more done without the long commutes. As long as there’s an investment in the right technology and software, and a process in place to keep in touch with co-workers, then remote working will continue to benefit our employees and our business’ bottom line.

Jason Downes is managing director of Powwownow.

Further reading on managing employees

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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