After nearly three months of remote work, you probably have a good sense of how productive your employees can be from home. If you’ve found that your business has been functioning optimally even without the in-person interactions, you may want to consider making working from home (WFH) permanent to unlock its benefits ranging from real estate savings to a broader talent pipeline.
“The business models that can achieve long-term WFH success are business-to-business companies or tech-based business-to-consumer companies that create digital items such as apps and online platforms and shopping portals,” says Tony Kalka, founder of the Kalka Law Group, which specializes in personal injury. He often manages his employees remotely.
Other industries well-suited to remote work include digital advertising and marketing, graphic design, publishing, transcription, billing and administration.
Determining if your company is suited to long-term remote work is often the easy part. But challenges may arise once you start assessing the skills and roles necessary to keep your company successfully running remotely.
To understand whether your business should consider making WFH permanent, take a look at what would be needed in the areas of human resources, technology and leadership and management to decide.
HR Skills and Procedures Necessary for WFH
Ensuring that employees have access to quality human resource services is critical to the long-term success of remote work for your company.
“Your HR team must clearly communicate expectations and protocols with employees regarding remote work,” says Jason Craparo, CEO and founder of virtual event and networking platform Hio. “This communication should include HR informing employees of their work hours and the type of remote work environment they’re expected to maintain.”
Transparency is also vital, believes Ximena Hartsock, co-founder of Phone2Action, a platform for digital advocacy and public affairs technology. Her employees work remotely.
“HR needs to provide WFH employees access to a system where they can log in and check their personal information, including paychecks, accrued paid time off and retirement,” says Hartsock. “Such a system should also allow employees to update personal information and request time off.”
Due to the distributed nature of remote work, your HR staff may find that their workload will increase. This could require hiring more HR staff or outsourcing these services.
“In an office environment, employees can walk down the hall and ask HR questions, but that isn’t possible with remote work,” says Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha, a moving service that functions remotely. “HR staff working remotely need to anticipate employee questions and reach out on a regular basis via multiple communication channels, including email, chat and phone support.”
Technology Required for Long-Term Remote Work
Ensuring that your remote employees have the technology necessary to perform at their best and most productive takes resource and financial investment.
“Shifting technology procurement priorities to equipping at-home workers requires resources,” says Kahl Orr, founder of fully remote digital agency Rise Marketing. “Your IT staff will need to build out internal network infrastructure, handle secure remote access and prepare and install work from home desktops and other devices. This may mean hiring more IT support staff or outsourcing with an IT firm.”
In addition to well-functioning, secure home workstations, remote employees require excellent communication and collaboration tools.
“When there's no central point of contact, it's difficult, but necessary to maintain the high-level team dynamics your business needs to succeed,” says Charlie Terry, managing director of CEEK Marketing, a digital marketing and social media consultancy. “To avoid employees detaching from their coworkers and managers, it’s important to heavily invest in your company communications system.”
Leadership and Management Skills for Remote Work
Perhaps the most challenging task for leaders is keeping remote employees focused on company goals and connected to culture.
“From a management perspective, supporting remote work staff is a different animal than a conventional office structure,” says Terry. “Overall visibility decreases, so it's harder for managers to take the temperature and pulse of their departments. Leaders must learn what effective oversight looks like for WFH employees.”
As a company leader, it’s important to realize that if you decide to go remote long term, you’ll need to shift your perspective, says Craparo.
“Let your employees get the job done on their own in their own ways," he says. "The goal becomes about achieving, not about face time.”
Keeping your teams in sync and pulling toward the same goal can be difficult in a virtual environment, adds Orr.
“There is a great deal of natural interplay and give-and-take between employees in an office setting, which positively impacts their output and creativity,” he says. “Remote leaders must find ways to replicate that experience for at-home staff. There's no one-size-fits-all approach. Success relies on using your intuition and ingenuity.”
It’s also necessary to ensure that you are well-suited for remote work as a company leader, adds Arjun Reddy, founder of Grow Your Staff, a company that specializes in remote work and outsourcing.
“Be honest about whether leading a business remotely works with your leadership style,” he says. “For this arrangement to be permanent, you must be comfortable with the shift.”
To avoid employees detaching from their coworkers and managers, it’s important to heavily invest in your company communications system.
—Charlie Terry, managing director, CEEK Marketing
Also consider if you and your managers are up to the task of social management.
“One of the key challenges with remote work is that workers lose the regular social interaction that comes with working in an office,” says Terry. “Managers need to take on the added responsibility of social director. This involves creating virtual gatherings and other opportunities for employees to socialize. In many ways, this role is the antithesis of what leaders have been trained to do, so it's not always an easy transition to make.”
It might not be a role you’re comfortable with or trained for, but ensuring that employees remain connected to the company, leadership and each other is vital to running a cohesive, successful business.
Read more articles on leadership.
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