The "How To" Guide to Remote Work
The “How to” Guide to Remote Work
Covid-19 forced businesses around the world to switch to remote work virtually overnight. I think it’s safe to say that despite the fact that for most businesses this migration went well in a short period of time, there are a few traps that business managers should be aware of. The implementation of capabilities to support your employees for working remotely is broader and it runs much deeper than, in my opinion, companies that are new to it realize. Unfortunately, there are no rules when there is a global event so compelling as the coronavirus outbreak – you have to act quick and you have to act accurately.
Working remotely is not a new concept and even if most of us don’t realize it, if you’ve ever sent an email from your cell phone, you’ve done remote work. Not all companies are created equal when it comes to their WFH policies though.
With business continuity a must, in this guide we have tried to provide best practices for management teams and businesses implementing remote work policies for the first time. We are also going to look at best practices for employees who work or will have to work remotely for a period of time.
Given the nature of the work we do at 60K, work from home or remote work isn’t exactly embedded into our DNA. Employees haven’t always had the ability to choose their work location either. We had to transition almost 1500 employees to work from home in less than 72 hours. We went through all of the problems we are describing here, hence why we decided to share our experience.
One for the Books
As Covid-19 becomes a real concern for governments everywhere, the impact on businesses around the world increases by the day. Major conferences around the world are being canceled, the stock market is in disarray and companies are restricting non-essential travel for employees. Take Apple for example, who have very close relationship with their offices in China. So close in fact that they shuttle about 50 executives between California and China on a daily basis – something they were no longer able to do given the closure of airports and cancelation of flights due to Covid-19.
But how should you, as a business leader address Covid-19 so that it doesn’t cause business disruption? Admittedly, it is difficult when huge, major events such as the Facebook F8 and Mobile World Congress are being canceled daily. However, if you want to be proactive, there are steps you can take to prepare a readiness plan. Institutions such as universities and venture capital firms all thought of this too and shared their ideas on what business can do to prepare. Harvard Business Review has a very thoughtful article on the topic together with an entire section dedicated to the effects the coronavirus has on the business world. And so does one of the world’s largest venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital, who shared their advice on dealing with business consequences for company founders and CEO’s part of their portfolio.
This guide is for organizations trying to put together structured remote work policies for the first time, the ones whose business is probably not best suited for remote work, but they still have to make it work. We have tried to get all the answers for you in one place. We have taken into account other similar events that might cause disruption to public transportation for example. These guidelines will also hold true for any situation that may make getting and/or working from an office difficult or outright impossible.
The Nature of Remote Work
So what does “remote work” really mean? Remote work is a way of working outside of the traditional, centralized workplace due to the distance to the office, by choice or other reasons. And we are just scratching the surface here. With most of us having reliable access to high speed internet we can even count on our smartphones to be the devices which allow us the opportunity to work from where and when we find convenient. In many industries, the ability to stay competitive and innovative means that employees be allowed to work remotely, outside of the traditional office setting. There are organizations, like Zapier and Buffer, for example which operate with 100% of their workforce completely distributed around the globe.
Why is Remote Work Important?
The concept of remote work and flexible scheduling was on the rise even before the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to adopt it. Businesses had already started to incorporate it into their efforts to attract top talent and to respond to a more distributed workforce.
According to a report by Fuze, 83% of employees said they don’t feel the need to be in an office setting in order to be productive. In addition to that, 60% of people surveyed between the ages of 15-18 said the only tools they need to do their jobs are a cell phone and a laptop. Businesses seem to agree with them as can be seen from the Global Workplace Analytics research, showing 40% more US businesses offer flexible work options today than five years ago. To add to that, research from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy shows that employees are likely to be 13% more productive when working from home for an extended period of time, compared to an office setting.
Technology vs Culture
As I already mentioned it is technology that is (aside from the extreme circumstances around Covid-19) the great enabler of remote work which with all its work preferences and options can be just as powerful a distractor. So, knowing your remotely working employees, what, how and when it works for them and optimizing their performance should take deliberate effort. At 60K we like practicing what we preach and work closely with our employees to build an efficient and positive remote work culture, even when they are sitting at home rather than being in our conference rooms.
However, to truly foster a mutually beneficial culture you can’t rely on technology alone. You need to pair it with other key elements:
- In-office culture and people: Foster open, adaptable, and a non-hierarchical culture that values the work-life balance.
The right hires: focus on hiring self-starters. They are more likely to perform well outside of the traditional office environment.
The real measure of employee value should shift from attendance to performance and productivity.
- Process/Policies: Businesses can empower their remote workers by:
Trying to accommodate the communication preferences of employees of different generations.
Security measures and virtual work policies need to be implemented company wide.
Workstreams, duties and responsibilities need to be clearly defined.
Remote Work Best Practices
When you’re not in the office, it’s especially important to continue to be a present member of the team who continuously adds value. Similarly, companies should follow certain guidelines to encourage this type of behavior. It’s important that teams don’t interrupt their routines. The traditional morning meeting could be held over group video chat for example. That’s just one example of how remote teams can make sure work gets done.
Best Practices for Employers Rolling Out Work from Home Policies
Communication: Clear expectations between management and the workforce are a must. Hence why in any WFH policy there should be clear guidelines around communication. Our policy at 60K states that all employees should be available via phone and email during regular business hours unless a different arrangement has been approved.
Working Hours: Unless a specific work hours and schedule have been agreed between the parties, employees should assume that they are to adhere to regular business hours, as if they were working from an office.
Managers should still allow flexibility to enable employees to make sure work-life balance is in order. This is bringing us back to what we said earlier: managers should focus on performance and results rather than where employees are located.
Compensation: Different countries may have different regulations when it comes to labor laws and remote work. That’s why it’s important for companies to consult with their legal teams and HR departments for proper arrangements around WFH.
Best Practices for Employees Adapting to Work from Home
Establish at home workplace: It goes without saying that even if you have the best equipment you still need to find somewhere comfortable to set it up, at least for a few hours. It’s important to keep your in-office routine: Stand up and stretch, go for a coffee or a brisk walk around the block, if you need to fresh up. It is possible to make yourself comfortable even in the tiniest apartment so take the time to set up your working area.
Video conference etiquette: Remember to make eye contact with your camera as much as you can during video calls, just as you would if the person was sitting in front of you in your office. It’s easy to get distracted by the picture on your screen and start speaking to it. Keeping your eyes on the camera will make you seem more focused and will help you convince the other participants in the call that you are fully immersed in the discussion.
Use the “Mute” button: We have all been on a call where you can hear everything and everyone but the person speaking. As a courtesy, always press the “mute” button when you’re not speaking.
State the meeting agenda: This is especially valid for video calls with more than two participants calling from multiple time zones. You want to make sure that everything is coordinated so when the call begins, introduce yourself, set the meeting agenda and encourage others to do the same. This will help everyone get a visual sense of who is present, who is involved in what and will also allow them to prepare their questions and talking points.
COVID-19 compelled companies en masse to adopt remote working. As we said back in the beginning, most companies seemed to have done a pretty successful transition, but there still are many signs that work-life balance and productivity are coming under pressure. As it seems for now remote working is here to stay and is more than ever becoming an integral part of the way businesses operate.
We are a leading outsourced contact centre and BPO service provider with global ambitions driven by our local expertise. Founded in 2008 60K is one of the leaders in its field.
We strive to provide high quality services and act as an extension of our client’s business. Through the years, we have proven ourselves as a trustworthy partner that works with global clients who are known as worldwide leaders in their respective business sector. As a professional outsourcer and a reliable business partner, we are boosting the performance of some of our smaller boutique clients as well.
For us the key to a successful business comes from within and is directly related to how positive, satisfied and successful everyone who works for us is.
Want to learn what are 60K' tips for staying productive at home? Feel free to read more here: 7 tips for staying productive while working from home .