The fact that remote workers still make up the minority of the workforce in the UK shows that many businesses are still wary of remote working, but that is changing slowly but surely and the recently introduced laws that give all employees the right to request flexible working patterns will only push the trend further.
As more and more businesses across the UK face the reality of remote working, tackling the challenges it brings will be crucial. If managed correctly this really could be the key to a happy, productive workforce, but many businesses fall into the same traps again and again, so here are the top five common mistakes companies must avoid when managing a remote workforce:
Failing to lead by example
As the leader of the business, it is your responsibility to take the initiative to implement and manage any changes on an organisational level. You must make it as easy as possible for everyone to understand, so each member of your team knows exactly what any new policies mean, how they apply to them and the clear ground rules every employee should adhere to. Offering flexible working is a huge positive step as an employer, so you can communicate it to staff as such, making it clear that you are placing trust in them and offering help should they need it, which should empower them to be more productive and happy.
Out of sight, out of mind
Trust is a big issue for many employers, and it is a lack of trust, on both sides, that often drives a wedge between employers and employees. One of the keys to maintaining a level of trust when staff are working remotely is managing your team by their outputs rather than having to keep one eye on them at all times. Don’t fall into the trap of wondering if your remote employees are getting distracted watching TV on their sofa or just browsing their Facebook feed all day, and judge them on their input to tasks and contribution to the wider company objectives. The truth is many people choose to take themselves away from the distractions of the physical office to focus on the tasks they need to do.
Treating flexibility as a special case
For remote working to be truly successful it needs to be engrained into the whole company culture. By only offering certain individuals flexibility as a ‘reward’ for having different circumstances, such as having a young family, you can inadvertently create considerable friction internally. It is now the law in the UK that all employees who have been with the company for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working, regardless of their circumstances, so it is now more important than ever to have a company-wide policy and treat everyone the same. Do not fall into the trap of granting special favours to certain individuals.
Making remote workers feel remote
Working remotely – whether that is at home, on the road or in a coffee shop – can feel quite lonely. Even though team members may be working on the same projects it can be easy for them to feel disconnected from colleagues and the wider company without more active involvement than simply being cc’d into endless emails. As the business leader it is your responsibility to make sure your team feels connected and together even when they’re away from the office, so provide them with reliable technology and software that offers a sticky connection between individuals, projects, files and documents so they can collaborate and really feel like a key part of the bigger picture.
Letting face-to-face meet ups slip off the agenda
Once you have successfully implemented your remote working policy and it becomes an inherent part of your business culture, it can be easy to lose some valuable face-to-face time. Even though collaboration software and video conferencing technology have filled the gap for when everyone can’t be in the same room, it’s important to remember that we are all human and arranging a physical meeting every now and again can bring everyone together. Remote working is about giving people the flexibility to work in the way that is most beneficial to their productivity and happiness, and that usually involves a balance that includes some face-to-face interaction to share ideas and feel part of the wider company.
Bostjan Bregar is the 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 www.4thoffice.com