Say your best talent is out of commuting range. Or, a new parent wants to work from home for a couple of years. Or, maybe teleworking was thrust upon your company during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, more than ever before, it’s important for business leaders to understand how to setup a successful remote work program. It requires deliberation, planning and, likely, some investment in technology.
Here’s what you need to know to build a successful work-from-home program.
1. Define the work and expectations
It’s important to recognize that not every job is suitable for remote work.
For example, a receptionist, warehouse workers or warehouse manager all require a physical presence. Customer service reps, salespeople and IT specialists may be entirely successful conducting business in another location, whether that’s a home office or a co-working space.
Nor is every employee well-suited to work from home. New employees may need weeks or months of working in your office to learn systems and absorb company culture. Other characteristics to look for in remote workers are a self-starting attitude, maturity, ability to communicate and collaborate, and a commitment to their work.
However, with much of the United States shuttered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who wouldn’t normally be approved for remote work might find themselves working from home.
It’s critical to define clear expectations of behavior and the work to be accomplished. Otherwise, you can’t accurately judge whether that employee is successful. Think through these questions:
- Should the person in this position be available during certain hours? What does “being available” mean?
- Will the remote employee work in an area with little to no background noise while on calls?
- How will projects be assigned and deadlines determined?
- Is there a checklist for all the critical tasks associated with this position?
- What is the standard required turnaround time when replying to emails and telephone calls?
- When the country lessens restrictions on going into the office, does the employee need to come into the office once a week, or only for key meetings?
Answering these questions will lay the foundation for how you define accountability for remote workers.
2. Technology: the work-from-home program secret sauce
Technology plays a big role in the success of remote teams. These employees will need the same full, easy access to the information those in your office have. Calendars, phone lists and other resources will need to be accessible by everyone.
To make this happen, you may need to invest in an intranet, file sharing software, remote access software, a client management system, video conferencing or communication apps, such as Slack.
This investment doesn’t have to be expensive, just properly organized for the work at hand. For instance, FaceTime or Skype can be used for small, informal chats, while Zoom can be used for larger, more formal meetings.
Literally hundreds of technology options exist, so your company will need to analyze which combination of software investments will work best for your situation. For instance,
- Salesforce.com is a popular option to manage and track sales teams.
- Jumpchart is used by teams building websites.
- Workfront and Basecamp are used for project management.
3. Test remote work (or reflect on your COVID-19 strategy)
Conducting a test case is a good way to determine how remote operations might work for your company. Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic created your greatest work-from-home program experiment.
A telecommuting trial-run can generate questions that need to be answered, identify what software or office supplies need to be made available and what training and documentation need to be developed to prepare employees to work from home or in a co-working space. Read more here…