It can increase staff morale by allowing them to achieve a better work-life balance, while potentially cutting the overheads of running a large office. Get it right and everyone’s a winner, get it wrong and the working from home dream could be shattered by mismanagement, lack of trust and poor collaborative practices
Inefficient use of email
Whether in a flexible working environment or not, many of us fall into bad habits when using emails. In many ways, email is quite an antiquated communication tool that has been around for over 40 years and changed very little in this time. Most of us spend our mornings battling through endless (and often pointless) emails which take up too much time and provide a distraction from more important tasks.
Think about the amount and kind of emails you send, and encourage staff to do the same, and you can again become the master of your inbox rather than having it rule your day. Collaborative cloud platforms can be a more effective means of talking together, with a whole team sharing a conversation in real time, rather than countless ccs on endless confusing email threads. Many of us seem to have forgotten that phones can pretty useful too, pick it up and you might just resolve an issue in one conversation, rather than 100 emails!
Over monitoring and lack of trust
When someone’s not working in the same building as you it can feel like they’re out of your control and potentially filling their days surfing Facebook and watching day time TV. If people aren’t doing their job properly, however, tasks will be left incomplete and company objectives not met – this is how you should measure people’s work rates, by input and output.
Flexible working should be ‘flexible’ which means fitting it round family commitments or working when you’re feeling most productive, and that is not always necessarily between nine and five. By allowing people to do this, it is more than likely that input and output will increase, providing you with a more productive workforce.
Lack of staff communication
When someone’s not physically ‘there’ it’s easy to forget about them but communication is the key to ensuring the day job’s completed efficiently and effectively, while helping staff to feel like they’re still part of a team.
In a flexible working situation good communication is essential. You have email for occasions when it really is the most suitable option, but chat software and platforms like Skype can make all team members more accessible. Occasional face to face meetings and social events will help keep human communication (and company culture) alive and, crucially, utilising shared, cloud-based workspaces, will create a ‘virtual’ office that everyone can contribute to.
Cloud technology has been a real game changer for the homeworker; with documents, conversations, calendars all available in one place, people can feel like they are working together, even though they’re not in the same building.
Lack of client communication
If your business offers services to clients, such as PR, marketing or design, human relationships with these clients are essential. In any agency or business of this type, the rapport between account managers and customers is key, but it also important that those higher up the management food chain don’t lose touch with their customer-base. Even if you’re at the top of the organisation you must get involved in order to keep your own relationship important to the client – it may not be the ‘done thing’, but there is always a danger that if a client’s experience of your business is solely with one person, if that person leaves, the client may too.
Apart from phone calls and the occasional meeting, customers can also be kept in the loop via the cloud. Setting up a dedicated area or workspace online just for them will allow them to ‘see’ everyone working on their behalf and feel part of the whole process – not just connected to the person they have day-to-day contact with.
Lack of organisation
With a number of people accessing things remotely, it’s imperative that all documents and information are well organised and in one accessible place. When working from home, you can’t just nip across the office to ask a colleague where something is filed and if people don’t share information, keeping it all on their own PCs, that’s when miscommunication and trust issues can occur.
An organised, shared workspace is essential. Cloud storage can grow with your business and become an invaluable asset to every member of your team, as each individual will quickly learn where to find files and documents within its logical structure.
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