I. Introduction: The Rise of Remote Work
Remote work, also known as telecommuting or telework, refers to any work arrangement where the employee does not work from the traditional office setting. In the last decade, remote work has become increasingly popular due to several factors. One of the reasons is the technology that has made remote work possible. With applications such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and cloud computing, remote work is more accessible and more manageable than ever before. Another reason is that businesses are beginning to realize the benefits of remote work. These benefits include:
- Improved Work-Life Balance- Remote work allows employees to work from anywhere, giving them the flexibility to work around personal commitments such as family, hobbies, or other obligations. The flexibility that remote work provides can help reduce absenteeism, increase employee engagement and productivity, and decrease turnover rates.
- Increased Productivity- When employees work remotely, they have more control over their work environment, which can lead to increased productivity. With fewer interruptions, distractions, and no time wasted commuting, remote workers find they can complete tasks more efficiently.
- Reduced Overhead Costs- Business owners can save on facility expenses such as rent and utilities. By allowing employees to work remotely, businesses can save on the costs of building/office maintenance and furniture.
- Diverse Talent Pool- Remote work allows businesses to access a broader pool of talent without being constrained by geographic location. Companies can hire the best professionals from around the world, regardless of their location.
Remote work offers clear-cut advantages and foremost of them is the benefits of achieving work-life balance. However, managing a remote team requires a different approach than managing a traditional office environment. Clear guidelines and rules for remote work must be defined to ensure that everyone is working toward the same goals. In this blog, we will discuss tips on how to set effective rules for remote work.
II. Setting Rules for Remote Work: Tips and Best Practices
A. Provide a Clear Definition of Remote Work
The first step to setting effective rules for remote work is to provide a clear definition of what it entails. This definition should include the types of activities or tasks that can be done remotely, as well as the expectations for work hours and communication. A clear definition of remote work helps avoid confusion and ensures that everyone is on the same page. It also helps to set clear expectations, goals, and timelines for projects.
- Work Hours- Define the specific work hours for the employee in the remote work program. Remote work models come in different structures, and the hours expected of the employee might differ. Specifying specific work hours ensures that everyone is on the same page and that productivity is maintained.
- Communication- Because remote work entails working together through virtual channels, it is essential to provide a clear definition of communication. Define the required ones to ensure everyone is reachable and available when necessary, and efficient communication can be established.
- Work Environment- Ensure a safe work environment is provided-from the physical workspace where productive activities can take place, the internet speed required for seamless communication, technical tools that make the work possible, among others.
B. Establish Clear Guidelines for Communication
Clear communication is critical in a remote work arrangement. Without face-to-face interactions, it is easy for misunderstandings to occur, communication mix-ups and non-comprehensive informal communications. Establishing Clear Guidelines for Remote Work Communication is essential in ensuring that everyone knows how, when, and what to communicate. This means that regular communication should never be lacking.
- Preferred Communication Channels: Remote work defines virtual channels and information that should be utilized in communication. At times, companies have different software and tools, which might require communication across different channels. It can be helpful if the remote work team leader establishes the channels that work best for the team.
- Response Times- Establish clear expectations for how quickly team members should respond to messages or requests. It is essential when specific tasks require real-time action, and team members are unavailable. Establishing responsive expectations ensures that everyone is on the same page and that there are no misunderstandings, excuses, mixed-up communication, and missed deadlines.
- Meeting Schedules- Establish regular meeting schedules for team members to meet and discuss projects or tasks. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and reduces the need for ad-hoc meetings. Scheduled and formal meetings ensure that everyone sets strategic objectives, goals and intensifies teamwork.
C. Encourage Regular Check-Ins
Regular check-ins among team members are essential for remote teams to stay connected. Encourage team members to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with their manager to discuss their progress, goals, and challenges. Regular check-ins help identify issues before they become bigger problems, and it provides opportunities for feedback, relay essential information, coaching, and be able to foster interpersonal relationships.
- Facilitate Open-Access Communication- Remote workers often work independently, leading to fewer opportunities to interact with other team members personally. To facilitate the benefits of teamwork, it is important to encourage open-access communication either during check-ins or through virtual channels that enable communication. In this way, constant interaction of team members can be facilitated in a less formal environment but where responses are as efficient.
- Be Ready to Offer Support- Different employees respond differently to remote work programs; some take longer to adjust. Determining the progress of these employee can be challenging, which is why regular check-ins can help mores through the subjective employee engagement indicators. Remote work managers should be prepared to create a supportive culture to encourage and uplift the team as they work.
D. Set Clear Expectations for Productivity
One of the biggest concerns of managers with remote teams is productivity. To ensure that team members are productive, set clear expectations for how to measure productivity. This includes expectations for the amount of work to be done, deadlines for submission, delivery, and quality standards. Clear expectations help ensure that team members are clear on what they need to do and how they will be evaluated.
- Identify Clear and Measurable Goals- Clearly defined expectations and objectives establish the right mindset among team members. Assign clear roles, create accountability in the task, and set realistic goals that are achievable. Performance management tools can help set expectations and track and measure employee productivity and performance remotely.
- Employee Time Tracking- Employee time tracking software is valuable in monitoring employee progress since virtual work eliminates the personal control that would act as a measuring stick for the employee working physically in the office. The virtual environment reduces the probability of discretion, which can be misinterpreted. A time tracking tool allows for a regular pulse check that ensures that the employee is productive and adhering to specific remote work rules.
E. Provide the Right Tools and Technology
Remote work requires the right tools and technology to be successful. Access to the right technology ensures that work can be done efficiently and, when necessary, work can progress without hiccupping. Therefore, in defining the remote work structure, careful thought must go into identifying the right tools and other facilities that would aid work performance.
- Choose the Right Collaborative software- Working in a remote work arrangement means that communication and interactions within the team are solely on virtual channels. Therefore, collaborative software must be chosen according to specific needs. This includes the type of task or the nature of the project, the users, and the communication models of the company among others. Some example collaborative software includes Slack, Zoom, Google docs, Asana, Dropbox, and MyHours.com.
- Get the Right Office Environment- The remote work environment should be optimized to be free from distractions as much as possible, to be silent, and to facilitate a conducive climate. Equip your remote office with ergonomic-friendly office chairs that promote good posture, noise-canceling headphones and desk situated in natural lightening.
F. Encourage Work-Life Balance
One of the benefits of remote work is the ability to achieve a better work-life balance. However, remote work can also blur the lines between work and personal life. Therefore, this is an area that needs great attention to ensure that the employees are optimally productive.
- Create Time Boundaries- Encourage remote workers to identify downtime outside their work hours. This would involve defining and adhering to strict work hours and schedule rest periods in between work.
- Encourage Realistic Workloads- Working from the comfort of their own homes creates an environment that is conducive to increased productivity. However, it is important to encourage realistic workloads while also acknowledging that crossing the work-life balance line can be easy when the workplace is technically where the home is.
Remote work is not so much of a choice anymore but being part of the protocol of how organizations operate. Remote work is valuable and can lead to an intensive performance and productivity result. However, it requires significant commitment and considerable effort to determine rules and guidelines that establish a friendly remote collaboration culture. The tips that we have highlighted in this blog-post are designed to enhance the productive facets of remote work while also supporting the quality of work life among all members of the team. Effective communication, goal setting, defining clear guidelines, facilitating open-access communication, and choosing the right tools can help businesses optimize the benefits of remote work. As more businesses embrace remote work, it is imperative that clear rules and guidelines are established to ensure optimal performance and productivity.