This is a guest post for the MELD Coworking blog written by Alan Price.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen many changes to the traditional working hours. The new generation of employees entering the workforce have different priorities and concerns relating to mental health, work-life balance and overall wellbeing.
With this came the rise of flexible and remote working. They ensure your staff are in control of where, when and how they work.
According to the annual IWG global workplace survey, up to 50% of employees worldwide are working remotely (outside of their regular workplace) at least 2.5 days a week.
The report went on to show that out of the 50%, 85% of them confirmed they’ve seen an increase in productivity because of the flexibility allowed to them.
However, there’re also challenges to remote working. In this piece, we’ll highlight five challenges and offer solutions to them.
Communication is an important feature of maintaining any relationship including in business. It’s the cornerstone of any functioning team and an essential aspect of remote working. As opposed to working in an office setting, where employees can talk to and ask a question of colleagues and superiors, working alone means your staff won’t have this luxury. As well as the feeling of isolation, you’ll also notice a decline in productivity and morale as issues with communication arise.
The rise of remote working came with an increase in the number of communication tools available for teams. Tools like Slack, Facebook’s Workplace, Google Hangout, Hive and more were created as collaboration apps that serve as an alternative to email. As well as keeping the lines of communication open, you should also ensure every employee knows what’s required of them. This is especially important when the majority of conversations are held over emails and chats with room for misinterpretation.
This is a significant challenge for employers. It’s harder to monitor and track employee performance when you can’t see them. It’s more difficult to ensure they’re using their time effectively, working to a schedule and can meet deadlines.
As well as maintaining open channels of communication, you should also implement systems that can evaluate your remote worker’s contributions. There’s also software that monitors the productivity of employees. With these, you can get a better sense of how remote employees are spending their time. Depending on the software, some provide a screenshot of what they’re working on.
Another option to improve morale and productivity among your employees is to encourage remote staff to work from a coworking space. A 2018 study found that 84% of individuals who work from coworking spaces report an increase in their work motivation and productivity.
While working remotely is said to increase productivity, it’s more difficult to manage employees spread out over different time zones. When you have staff working out of the same geographical location, you’re able to coordinate working times, meetings and more.
Take advantage of scheduling software that allows you to schedule working hours for each staff member. They have features that send out alerts when there’re issues or discrepancies with the logging of hours. Another option is to have conversations via email. With this, employees on different time zones can chime in and are able to access previous discussions.
When you have employees working outside of the office with access to secure files and information, you should always consider the security risks. Apart from the theft of equipment, you should also consider the loss of confidential client information.
First, consider putting a policy in place that addresses issues relating to security breaches. It should include information on what to do and whom to contact if staff believe confidential information may be compromised. If your business deals with confidential client information, you should ensure they’re only available to those requiring access to it. You should also provide secure equipment (PCs, phones or laptops) to those with access to this information.
As if traditional recruiting methods aren’t stressful enough, it’s even worse when you’re doing so remotely. It’s tougher to screen candidates for hard and soft skills. Attributes like communication and collaboration may be harder to recognize over the phone or via video interviews.
Because you wouldn’t want to hire anyone based on their CV, you can use video interviews to pick up non-visual cues you can’t identify in a phone interview. It’ll also give you a better sense of their social skills, which is required for effective communication. As well as work samples being a good way to judge the skill set of a potential hire, it also allows you to see how the applicant handles communication via the tools available.
To wrap up…
Although there are numerous challenges with remote working, various articles, surveys, reports and studies show the benefits outweigh the challenges.
You should remember it takes time, practice and patience to overcome some of the challenges associated with remote working.
Your ability to successfully manage remote workers can offer your organization many benefits. As well as providing your employees with a healthier work-life balance, it improves morale, productivity, and brand reputation.
Alan Price is the CEO of BrightHR, and he comments on major HR and employment law issues. Alan is responsible for the leadership of the Group’s operations strategy, presiding over 100,000 client monthly service interactions and client experience. As an industry-leading thought leader, Alan’s expertise is sought after regularly. His authoritative commentary on SME and people management issues has been featured in media outlets such as The Telegraph, BBC Five Live, The Guardian and Sky News.