Companies are increasingly starting to offer flexible schedules and work from home days. Some are taking it a step further and employing a 100% remote workforce. This exciting new trend comes with many benefits, such as increased schedule flexibility, no long commutes, and a team who can be online 24/7 thanks to different time zones.
Even if your business doesn’t employ a remote workforce, sometimes life happens and employees need to work from home. Many businesses worry about how this may affect quality of work, but a telecommuting team member doesn’t have to stop work from getting done or healthy collaboration. This article puts together 5 working from home tips to keep your entire team productive, no matter where they are or in what time zone.
Benefits of allowing employees to work from home
Before we get into our working from home tips, here are some reasons to allow your team to telecommute from Remote.co.
- Remote work boosts productivity. Employees can work during their most productive hours and take care of errands during the rest of the time. They also get to work from whatever environment they are most comfortable and productive in, so no more loud colleagues or constant interruptions.
- Telecommuters experience less stress. Working from home means you don’t have to face rush hour traffic on your daily commute, plus there’s less preparation needed to begin your workday.
- A Stanford University study found that workplace burnout reduced by half in a remote work setting, making for better employee retention.
- Companies see lower operating costs, since they save on rent, supplies, and general overhead of maintaining an office.
5 Working from home tips
1. Invest in a project management tool
There are numerous project management tools out there that you can choose from, but it’s important to choose one that’s suited to you to keep your toolkit lean. If you’re using two or three PM tools, it won’t increase efficiency or speed, it’ll just cause confusion.
We use Trello for our content processes, and standard emails for the rest. So far this has worked for us, but as we continue to scale and grow our team we may have to shift more into Trello to ensure everyone can find what they’re looking for. When someone works from home, it’s harder to get information when it’s scattered in different places. We don’t want Jim emailing the whole team asking who has the order progress of so-and-so.
Some other popular PM tools for remote teams include Basecamp, Redbooth, and Mavenlink. They’re all great options with slightly different features and interface, so decide what feels best for you. It’s not about getting the most features for the cheapest price, it’s about getting the features that your unique team needs, and ignoring the rest (which is just clutter).
2. Use video conferencing
Video conferencing saves time, allows you to record your meetings, increases productivity, and is surprisingly affordable. It enables you to bring your team together live in one shared digital space, where you can see each other, discuss, and brainstorm from different geographic areas.
Even if you don’t have a remote team, video conferencing should be a default for meetings, since you can record them and have them ready for review whenever someone needs to get caught up.
Video conferencing is a great productivity tool, since everyone is more acutely aware of how long the meeting is going. In-person meetings can stretch for hours, whereas it becomes painfully obvious when a video conference has gone on longer than 45 minutes. Recording your meeting will also encourage everyone to choose their words carefully and keep things succinct.
If you have a team member who is remote, or someone who is telecommuting for the day but needs to attend a meeting, video conferencing will also save time. Instead of waiting for one person to commute to the office, just dial him or her into a conference.
3. Document your processes
Working from home is all about independence, and having well-documented processes helps remote and on-site workers get their jobs done properly on their own time. As long as they follow a process, results will be fairly uniform in quality.
You can use your project management tool to document these processes, keep them handy in Google docs, or have a folder of training videos ready for review. Use these tools to quickly onboard any new hire, and keep them available to your existing team members who may want to refresh their memory.
- If you have your processes in a Google doc, make sure you only share viewing permissions, not editing. This will allow new hires to read and review the process, but not make changes to the document.
- Use your video conferencing recordings to add to your training materials. For example, if you’re chatting with a new hire and explaining how to do something, keep that recording for the next person.
- Record your screen with software like SRecorder to create training videos that show exactly what someone has to do, step-by-step.
4. Have them use a time tracker
If you see a dip in productivity or are concerned about lower output, test out time trackers and see if they help. Free time tracking tools like Toggl and RescueTime should give you insight into how long your remote workers spend on your tasks, how productive they’ve been, and what they’ve worked on during a period of time.
I recommend doing this if your telecommuters aren’t performing, since it can reveal surprising problems (ie. they may be working with multiple companies without telling you). Otherwise, if you’re happy with their output and the quality of their work, time tracking may not be necessary.
5. Focus on results
This final tip is possibly the most important. Focusing on results to gauge performance should be the case for both in-office and remote workers. When you’re trying to boost productivity while working from home, put special emphasis on results. If your remote workers are getting you high-quality work within budget and on time, that’s all you need to worry about. Develop a company culture that focuses on results, and results you will see.
Any other working from home tips?
Do you work with telecommuters, or do you work from home yourself? Send us your advice on staying productive and what strategies you use to ensure success.