Many small business owners suddenly find themselves—and their employees working from home. While working remotely often tops the lists of what employees want from their employers, it’s not necessarily as easy as some may think.
Numerous surveys over the years have shown that employees are more productive when working from home and actually work longer hours. While they admit remote working still can be distracting (citing the TV and domestic chores as the culprits), working in an office with constant interruptions is more disruptive.
Remote workers do miss brainstorming with their coworkers—and as the business owner it is harder to establish a collaborative environment when everyone is scattered. This is where it’s important to use the right tools, such as Slack, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Many of these offer free options including web conferencing tools and meeting tools. Check out the numerous collaboration apps from Zoho, including their work-from-home bundle, Remotely.
Working from home has several other challenges, including:
- Employees tend to work more hours than they would at the office
- Coworkers or bosses think they aren’t working
- It’s difficult to self-motivate when working remotely
- They struggle to disconnect from work
- They’re lonely
You can help your team overcome these challenges by:
- Encouraging employees to unplug after certain hours. For example, try not to send work emails or call your staff before or after certain hours of the day.
- Set “core hours” when all employees, both remote workers and on-site workers, must be working. This helps to set boundaries and also makes it easier to coordinate meetings.
- Be sure to continue to celebrate employee birthdays, the same way you would if you had office space.
- If (when possible) try to hold a yearly in-person meeting, so the team can get together and catch up.
- Even when you can’t meet, there are some virtual team-building exercises to help bring your team closer together.
What about you? If you’re working at home for the first time, here are some tips to help make remote working more productive and efficient:
A space of your own. Find somewhere in your home that offers some privacy and allows you to keep your workspace and your personal space separate. If you have kids at home, you need to create a set of “house rules” which let your family know when they can interrupt you.
Create a “signal” that lets everyone know when you’re on an important call, so they can be especially cognizant of being quiet.
Often space is tight and it’s hard to carve out a space of your own. If that’s the case, maybe you can share space with the guest room, the dining room or basement, if you have one.
Get up and move. It’s important to take breaks. They don’t have to be long—just get up and stretch or take a quick stroll around your home once an hour.
Equipping your home office. Talk to an IT pro about what you need to do about equipping your—and your staffs’ home offices. Will your team be using computers you send them home with, or their personal computers (not usually a good idea)? Security is a key issue here—do you need to get a VPN (virtual private network) service?
What equipment does everyone need to be able to work productively? Obviously everyone needs a computer. But what about a printer or copier? Will call be made from cell phones—does everyone have enough data—or will you install a VoIP system? Will everyone be relying on their own cell phones? Do they have enough data? You need to make sure your staff has what they need to do their work efficiently.
Photo by LightField Studios from Shutterstock.