By | Ben Eubanks | Human Resources Professional, Speaker, and Blogger
Many companies are redesigning their workplaces so that employees can work from home most or all of the time. Not only does this method alleviate health concerns, but it also saves time, cuts down on office expenses, and reduces employee commutes. If you’re thinking about having your employees work remotely for the long term, figure out solutions to these challenges.
When you’re at work, it’s easy to ask employees a question or give instructions; you just visit their offices or cubicles and have a conversation. When you’re working remotely, though, communicating with employees always takes more time. Thankfully, there are many technological solutions available. You just have to take the time to investigate their features properly so you receive the most benefits.
One technical issue with transitioning to a remote work staff is that your employees’ phones are at work. The solution is not making your employees take work calls on their personal phones or buy work phones. Instead, have them install a computer phone app. This allows them to hold calls from their laptops or desktops at home while still accessing all your company contacts. Using computer-based phone systems, you can even receive voicemails, see your call history, and start conference calls.
Another major key to remote communication is your email. Even if you think you know how to send emails like a professional, don’t forget to take advantage of these features:
- Add clients and employees to your contacts lists
- Create a personalized signature
- Embed meeting invitations
- Share files
- Copy people who need the same information
- Use the blind carbon copy feature for confidential subjects
Once you’ve mastered these skills, you just need to remind your employees about the dangers of hitting reply all, and your company’s ready to rely on email.
Sometimes, you have a lot to say and you need your employees’ feedback immediately. Hold a remote meeting through your computer phone app or another videoconferencing software. Send out the meeting invitation a few days in advance so people remember to save room in their schedules, and if the meeting needs to happen regularly, use the scheduling settings to make it recur. During online meetings, people’s minds wander much more than in-person, so stick to the point while still allowing your employees time to speak.
Once you transition to a remote workplace, you have to trust that your employees are doing their jobs, since you only see them a few times a week on videoconferences. Decide what your expectations for their work hours are and communicate them clearly. For example, do employees need to work from nine to five, with an hour break for lunch, or can they work at any time provided they complete eight hours each day? Perhaps you want to set a quota system instead, in which employees have a set amount of work to complete and may stop working as soon as they finish. If you choose this option, make sure that the work can be feasibly completed within eight hours.
You also have to think about your employees’ children. If your workers are doing their jobs while home with their families, count on interruptions throughout the day from little kids who need help with meals, school, and hygiene. Be patient with employees whose kids interrupt meetings; this is an occupational hazard of having everyone work from home. Accept that people with kids may take longer to get through their work and be as flexible as possible.
As you think about moving your company from a brick-and-mortar office to a fully-remote setup, don’t forget to address these challenges before your first day.