Working remotely or not even remotely working: how to ensure effective remote working

Maximise the potential of your remote workforce by engaging, trusting and empowering your employees to avoid the dangers of the dreaded sofa slump.

Effective remote working: A man at his desk distracted by a football and his watch

Remote working presents a series of challenges for employee and employer alike. How can you be sure your staff are working as hard or as well as they should be? And do employees feel supported or smothered?

The key to effective remote working is to establish a dynamic far from the helicopter parent approach – a crippling technique employed by bosses that leaves employees feeling demoralised and insignificant – but not so far that you allow a stray dog to run amok.

Both extremes cost time, and therefore money, and ultimately create a culture of hostility, disillusion and failure.

What you need is trust, engagement and transparency. They may seem like hollow buzzwords, but applied properly they are what enable really effective remote working in a virtual business.

Trust in your worker’s method: there’s more than one way to skin a cat

‘The staff that are unproductive at home tend to be the same ones that are unproductive in an office environment.’

-Steve O’Reilly, online meeting expert at MeetingZone

Managers need to realise that a good employee is a good employee, wherever they work. In a recent Regus poll 85 percent of workers-at-home felt that their bosses needed to be more trusting of them.

Being a ‘trustworthy’ manager includes bearing in mind that:

Of course deadlines and a degree of observation are necessary, as in an office environment.

Whether you achieve this through performance-related analysis, goal-orientation or other metrics is up to you.

Hourly deadlines and persistent demands for updates on progress, however, are detrimental. It specifies how your employees must work and takes the flexibility out of flexi-working.

A flexible penci in orange to indicate that flexi-working is essential to the ethos of remote work. It allows for productivity to be redefined on an individual level

As my mum always told me, ‘everybody works in a different way not a worse or better way’ and this is certainly an important mantra to remember when managing a remote business.

How we practise effective remote working

‘Teach me and I’ll remember but involve me and I’ll learn.’

-Ben Franklin

Formulating guidelines for ‘how we work’ that can be refactored and reproduced in tune to the needs of your workers is essential for effective remote working. And it’s something we do over at our sister company Articulate.

Articulate Marketing runs a collaborative writing programme that disregards hierarchy within the company.

As an intern, I am just as likely to proofread and offer productive criticism on the writing Matthew (our lovely CEO) produces as he is to give feedback on mine.

This pair-writing keeps everyone fully engaged in the writing and research process from start to finish.

It fosters a desire to work conscientiously.

In marketing our writing reflects on the company. Through a collaborative process this means that every piece submitted in the name of Articulate also carries personal weight as we are all involved in the development of our writing.

Two people learning to write together and colloborate a key practise in Articulate's ethos on effective remote working

On the one hand this means there is no hiding from shoddy work (the chief fear of marketers and readers alike); on the other it gives us the motivation to produce remarkable content.

Engagement is more than 24/7 observation – it is about getting your employees invested in the work they complete.

To further their involvement keep them:

  • Happy: happy workers are harder and better workers.
  • Invested: nobody wants their own name or reputation tarnished.
  • Aware: company targets and goals inspire people to contribute to the bigger picture.

A hidden agenda is often perceived as a sinister ulterior motive

As FIFA are learning (or rather as we are learning from them), transparency has become increasingly important in business.

A lack thereof is cause for suspicion, resentment and a feeling of exclusion.

This runs from within to without.

Buffer, a social media management company, has made all of its employees’ salaries public as well as the formula it uses to calculate them.

While this radical step may seem above and beyond the call of duty, it nonetheless follows a trend of increasing transparency that is essential in modern business.

By implementing an ‘open’ philosophy, remote companies can bring in all members of the workforce from the ‘fringes’ that may exist.

Be clear and open with the following and employees will feel engaged and a valued part of the company, which in turn will boost productivity:

  • Immediate company goals
  • Financial strategy
  • Plans for the future of the company
  • More personalised objectives 

Articulate’s philosophy on open book project management delineates the benefits reaped from clients, bosses and employees alike when businesses remain transparent.

Working hard or hardly working?

ConnectSolutions found that 77 percent of employees felt more productive working remotely, away from the distractions of the office.

Effective remote working does not correspond with an ‘easy’ job.

A wealth of distractions exist at the fingertips of any worker – home or office based – but the idea of effective remote working is that bosses let their employees to find a context for themselves within which they can produce remarkable work within a reasonable time frame.

When implemented right, remote working allows distractions to become a healthy way of taking breaks and maintaining a good work-life balance. After all, productivity is not the same as workaholism.

Control-freak bosses squeeze the life and joy out of their remote staff so make sure you give them the room they (and your business) need to succeed and grow.

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