Home working is well-established in many European countries and is starting to make its mark in the UK. Changes in the law have made it easier for staff to ask to work remotely and harder for bosses to say no. Before you despair at the thought of losing control of your team, home working has real benefits to both employers and employees, improving productivity, keeping staff happier and healthier with a greater sense of fulfilment thanks to an improved work-life balance.
If your business can offer home working to everyone, eventually, you could do away with a traditional office space altogether, significantly cutting overheads. However, before you shut up shop and head to the spare bedroom, it’s essential you have systems and tools in place to make home working work for your business.
Share your workspace: One of the key modern developments that has made remote working possible is cloud technology. By creating a shared ‘cloud’ workspace staff can access work anywhere, with everyone still feeling part of a team even though they are working remotely. Everything can be moved across to a cloud – conversations, task lists, documents and calendars, creating a ‘virtual’ office space.
Cut down on emails: When you compare the antiquated email with cloud-based technology it really falls short. Changing very little in the 40 years since it was invented, it still takes up a huge part of many people’s working days, mainly as a distraction rather than a useful communication tool. If not the cloud, use a VOiP platform (like Skype) or pick up the phone, which may be an even older technology but it is much more suited to real-time conversations and sometimes a quick call can solve something immediately as well as keeping the lines of human communication open.
Maintain a company culture: Even though you’re not physically with each other all the time, maintaining a company culture is still important. Regular face to face catch ups are imperative and outside of the daily grind an element of fun to help colleagues bond will create a cohesive team. The cloud can help here too; implement an online space that’s not about work, but allows staff to organise group activities or even chat in their downtime.
Manage time and results: One of the big draws of home working is that, within reason, people can work at a time to suit, fitting round family commitments and when they’re feeling most productive - let’s be honest, concentrating solidly from nine to five can be a challenge, with many of us preferring an early start, a late night and a few hours in the middle.
To make this work, you need to stop worrying about what people are doing and manage their contribution on output and results; if they meet their targets, deliver on deadline and contribute to the team, then they’re doing their job properly – it doesn’t matter how this is achieved.
There are a wealth of time management apps to assist you and your staff monitor what they’re doing. This isn’t about being big brother, but by using apps with timers, for example, all work is logged and reports created, helping you move from the old school structure of eight hours sat a desk, to eight hours split across a day in a more productive way.
Remote working does work, with shared ways of communicating making it easier than ever before. Employees are looking for more flexible employers and if you can offer this, it is a definite perk that will stand your business out from the rest, while providing benefits across the board.
By Bostjan Bregar, co-founder and CEO of The 4th Office, a structured cloud workspace that enables teams to collaborate remotely. For further information or a free trial for your business go to visit the website.