What is Remote Working?
Remote working is a growing trend of businesses choosing for (all/part of) their team to not be based from a fixed office owned by the business. With remote working, any member of your team should be able to work from home, coffee shop or even across the world. Simply put, employees don’t have a long commute to an office.
The concept is that due to the advancements of technology where you can use different communications methods and software to do you job, that you do not have to be in the same or even the same country as your colleagues. It also allows business to pull from a far greater pool of skilled people when the employees can work from where they are based. It has been hugely popular in America for many years but in Britain, it is a growing trend but not the norm although, attitudes towards remote working has greatly changed since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Not everyone can work remotely as your job might require you to be at a physical site, such as if you are part of a production line, however, that isn’t the only factor. There are two other factors that brought into consideration: Company Culture and Mental Wellbeing.
Company Culture dictates a lot within a business because it’s based on human interactions and perceptions which mould a company culture (whether you like it or not) and this can be positive or negative. For example, some people use the “I don’t think he/she is working because they are working remotely.” “Tom doesn’t do as much as us because he isn’t in the office.” It is most likely factually incorrect but it’s a hard perception to overturn especially if the majority of your workforce is based at one office. There is a simple solution to this problem although not an easy one as it takes time and the message and attitudes need to start from the leadership teams and filter down.
Mental Wellbeing is an important factor and one that should be considered before an individual commit to remote working. Most people require an office environment for their wellbeing whether that be for social reasons or structure. Obviously, the right person can still meet those needs by working remotely but it requires a different mindset.
What’s the difference between “Working from home” and “Remote Working”?
They are essentially the same terms because the principle is the same but if you want to be concise; “Working from home” is usually a few days a week or month and is at home. Remote working is practically all of your working time based outside the office but can be anywhere, so not just at home but in a cafe or across the world.
Business Benefits of Remote Working
- Travel costs – if you offer travelling expenses as an employer, then this will save you a lot of costs, especially if your team are usually based at a London office.
- Carbon footprint – by your employees not travelling to work every day this will reduce your company’s carbon footprint as well as utilities because remoter workers can choose to control their own heating, lighting and recycling to minimise their own carbon footprint.
- Reduce overheads – some businesses opt to have a fully remote working team and give up their office space which greatly reduces their overheads. Even by having a smaller office and having the majority of your team working remotely, enables you to save costs.
- No more Snow Days – if your team are set-up for working remotely, then when the weather gets bad, they won’t risk themselves on the road and won’t take a long time to get to the office because their work space is set-up at home.
- More productive – without office distractions such as “Can I just ask…” or “Did you see that customer did…” or “Do you want a cup of tea?” interrupting your flow means that you will be far more productive because you are able to concentrate fully at the task at hand.
- Increase Staff Retention – your staff may love their job but commuting can be a deciding factor to leave so by offering a flexible working solution means that is one less reason they have to leave.
- No Office Politics - no more office arguments about who is making the tea, the temperature of the office, whose desk is free to use, who stole someone’s chair etc.
Employee Benefits of Remote Working
- Reduce costs – save money on lunches, snacks, work clothing, parking and car costs.
- No more commute – On average most people spend an hour travelling to and from work and that doesn’t count getting ready to go and trying to avoid congestion so it means you have more personal time (or you can sleep in later.)
- Calmer working Environment – no more office arguments about who is making the tea, the temperature of the office, whose desk is free to use or who stole someone’s chair etc.
- Dedicated Workspace – You can have your workspace designed to how best suits your needs rather than a uniform approach. You can paint it the colour you want, choose your own chair, have the room at the temperature you want or even be able to have a blanket at the desk.
- Healthier work/life balance – without factoring a commute every day you will have more time to have a healthier breakfast, go to a gym class or even get some housework done rather than cramming it in when you have just got in from a long commute.
- Flexible Lifestyle – Most businesses offer the flexible lifestyle approach alongside remote working. This means you can work the hours you want (generally your most productive hours) so that you have time to pick up the kids from school, go to personal appointments or even just attend your favourite Pilates class.
Disadvantages of Remote Working
- Isolation – Sometimes the switch from working within a traditional office setting to working remotely can be quite significant and can feel isolating which impacts on your mental health. However, you can minimise that if you putting best practices in place such as ensuring there is a place to communicate socially with colleagues such as a water cooler chat or simply encourage video calls.
- Diminished Colleague relationships – Working in the same environment naturally means you share experiences and insights through a working day but when you work remotely, that is no longer possible unless you put the effort in. That is where company culture comes in, you need to ensure that there are business practices put in place to encourage social and cross-department interaction
- Decreased Work/Life Balance – Some people feel like because they are working remotely that they have something to prove because there is an assumption that people aren’t working so this sometimes leads to the thinking that they need to be available beyond their working hours. Again, this can be overcome with simple company culture and expectations by ensuring managers are clear that they need to unplug once their day has ended and encourage breaks.
- Workload Ownership – Remote working requires people to manage their own workload and ensure they get it done on time. If you need a lot of motivation then you will struggle when you are working remotely.
- Distractions – At home, you are likely exposed to distractions that don’t appear in a traditional office environment such as; housework, family and TV. If you can self-motivate and focus, then you can resist the temptation to procrastinate or simply, assign yourself to downtime to indulge in this.
- Technology issues – these are common concerns but if you have the right equipment set-up at home, your team will run just as effectively as if they were in the office. Also, remember that even when teams are based in offices, that doesn’t negate tech issues either.
5 Tools to help Businesses implement Remote Working
- Unified Communications tools – these tools can create a seamless communication method between customers, staff, suppliers and prospects. You can do audio and video group/individual calls with screen-sharing abilities, Instant messages, ability to annotate and share files, integrate with calendars and show availability status. These tools are available on mobiles, too so it really doesn’t matter where you are, your business can communicate effectively. We recommend the following three unified communications tools; Horizon Collaboration, Mitel MiCollab and Wildix.
- Email – A lot of communication is done via email so of course you need a reliable email software. We recommend using Office 365 as it includes Outlook.
- CRM – a centralised database of your customer records and interactions is imperative for all businesses. You can get CRM’s that do far more than that, where they integrate support functions, sales, marketing and accounting abilities meaning you have less software costs. Choosing a CRM should be done carefully because it is a huge undertaking so you don’t want to keep chopping and changing. We use WebCRM but there are thousands of different CRM’s out there.
- Company file storage – you need a place where you can store, add, remove and update files that can be accessed in a central location. We recommend OneDrive, Dropbox and SharePoint.
- Checklist – most people are far more productive with lists and tasks. Some systems integrate that ability but if they don’t, we recommend Microsoft To-Do which recently bought out Wunderlist. It integrates with your outlook account for when you flag emails to be looked at for tasks, you can share tasks with your team and create lists of different tasks for different projects.