With new technologies coming to the surface every day, yesterday’s impossibilities are today’s reality.

 

No longer limited to a certain place in time and space, we are able to instantaneously send a message across the world, or watch an event taking place in another country. With these new possibilities, it is easy to see why “traditional” working arrangements are being shaken up.

Now, remote working is easier and more common place than ever. In fact, 57% of companies have formal policies allowing employees to work remotely. The increased flexibility has phenomenal advantages for both the business and its people. With this in mind, it is worth considering the subsequent opportunities for global teams, long-distance commuters as well as businesses seeking cross-cultural talent.

 

“A remote workforce can only be as good
as the tools and systems allow
.

 

The truth is, remote working allows an organisation to look beyond its geographical location and reach for new heights. For many businesses, this opportunity comes as a huge advantage.

In saying this, a remote workforce can only be as good as the tools and systems allow. This is why careful preparation is absolutely crucial to assure a positive outcome. When this is done properly, remote working arrangements can have a fantastic impact on the company, the culture, and its people. So, it’s important to get it right.

Here are just some of the benefits of remote working (for both employees and businesses).

 

What Can Remote Working Arrangements Offer?

 

Greater Productivity

If you think your employees will take advantage of their new work arrangements, think again. In fact, research shows you’re thinking is seriously at odds with what actually happens. In fact, a massive 77% of employees report that they’re more productive when working outside of the office. Now that’s what we call good odds. Interestingly, a study from Stanford also showed that employees actually log more hours when working from home.

 

Lowered Stress Levels & Increased Engagement

There’s some seriously convincing stats here. A survey from PGi showed that 82% of employees experienced a reduction in stress levels. In addition, 80% said that their level of morale improved. Which brings us to our next point…

 

Improved Staff Retention

The study from Stanford also showed that “job attrition rates fell by over 50%” when remote working options were introduced, and it’s pretty clear why. After all, a great number of employees will benefit from remote working conditions to enjoy a good work-life balance and sustain their career long-term. Examples includes new mothers and fathers, team members who live far away from their work place, etc. In fact, 36% would prefer remote working options over a pay rise.

 

Great Employer Branding

When it comes to attracting talent, flexible working conditions are a popular drawcard. After all, nothing says “we trust our employees” more than the option to work from home. Introducing more flexible working arrangements will give your business a competitive edge against other employers.

 

What’s the Catch?

 

Plenty of aspects which are straight forward in the office become complicated for employees working from afar.

This is especially true for cultivating effective communication. Let’s have a closer look how collaboration can become more complicated when working from outside the office.

 

The Trouble with Distance

 

Working remotely means working outside a shared context. For this reason, effective communication requires deliberate and thoughtful effort.

The complication to the “usual” flow of communication can take a heavy toll on things like collaboration, project management and task prioritisation… nobody wants to interfere with those cornerstones.

Another aspect which becomes complicated is understanding each other’s workloads. Transparency in this regard requires a lot of work in conventional working arrangements, let alone in remote arrangements. When teams are separated geographically, it can be especially hard for colleagues to appreciate one another’s workload, and delegate tasks accordingly.

At the end of the day, missing out on important information can be frustrating for all involved. So, how can we bridge the barriers to effective communication?

 

How to Establish a Flow of Communication

 

Believe In It!

One of the key methods to encourage effective communication is helping your team to understand its importance. After all, you may implement first-rate communication systems, but their effectiveness will always be in the hands of the user. As such, it is vital that employees always take the time to communicate with remote workers and never assume that something is known. A great rule of thumb is, if in doubt, over communicate! It’s better to inform an employee of something they were aware of than have them miss some important information altogether.

 

Choose the Right Channels for the Right Conversations

Can you imagine trying to explain a long and complicated problem over email? Or, can you envision receiving constant phone calls about minor updates?

While it may seem commonsensical, too many employees waste time communicating over the wrong channels. The fear of interrupting other’s work can see employees steer away from picking up the phone. Likewise, the value of face-to-face communication via video chat is oven dismissed when it comes to remote meetings.

Overall, communicating is a multifaceted concept, so the channels must cater for that diversity.

 

Don’t go AWOL

When working in the office, employees consistently encounter interruptions to their regular workday. No one is constantly fixed to their desk.

This is absolutely the same when working remotely. The problem is, the rest of the team may have no way of knowing what is going on. Why wasn’t that urgent email answered? Why isn’t that project getting done? These are the sorts of questions that lead to misunderstanding and disillusionment.

The remote worker simply needs an easy and quick way of notifying others when they’ll be unreachable or tied up with some other engagements. Having knowledge of other’s movements promotes transparency and understanding.

 

Get the Right Tools

 

You may have noticed that the above methods to effective communication rely very heavily on technology. For this reason, implementing the right software for remote working arrangements will be one of the most important tasks. So, let’s take a look at what tools are on offer for you and your team.

 

Project Management & Collaboration

Asana

Asana is a fantastic tool for encouraging accountability when collaborating on a project. Asana breaks down entire projects into smaller tasks, which can then be delegated to individuals.  It also showcases each team members’ progress, allowing the team to better track, prioritise and coordinate timely tasks.

 

Productivity

iDoneThis

For remote teams, iDoneThis provides windows into one another’s progress, thereby enabling easy collaboration and understanding. It works through a number of appraisals, including daily check-ins and progress reports.

 

Communication

Slack

If you’ve found that remote teams are having to send copious amounts of emails to communicate, then it’s time you looked at Slack. Using different channels and one-on-one threads, Slack is the ultimate software for quick and efficient communication. The chatroom style format means that entire teams can be messaged in one place. What’s more, it integrates with other services such as Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, Heroku, Crashlytics, GitHub, Runscope and Zendesk.


It’s a Mountain Worth Climbing

 

The idea of having employees work remotely can strike up a lot of fear. The thought of managing their productivity, communication and collaboration across the world can seem intimidating.

Whilst remote working arrangements is not for everyone, it’s certainly a window of opportunity to be considered. With access to global teams, international markets and remote talent there’s little wonder why the future seems to lie in the hands of flexible work. So fill your suitcase with the latest software (and some courage), and discover what it means to take on the world!

Jacqueline

About the Author:

Jacqueline is a talented content writer. Mesmerized by the power of words, Jacqui's passionate about sharing our team's greater knowledge so as to help individuals all over the world with their HR challenges.
Read more about Jacqueline Harding.