How to Build an Effective Remote Working (RW) Plan
Conduct a needs assessment to determine if the activities and work tasks are conducive to RW. If the answer is yes, determine how much time is needed for RW. Is it full-time or 2-3 days a week? Once you identified the amount of time, consider if you are transitioning current employees to this new role or hiring new employees. If it is current employees, include their input in the decision-making for a better outcome and create a flexible RW schedule. Setting expectations is important to drive the work and maintain productivity. Without expectations, some employees may flounder, find distractions, and/or lose track of time and could result in a decrease in productivity. To be successful, employees need to have structures in place. Structures include but are not limited to setting up a home office, technology devices and software, Internet, and cell phone. A home office helps to provide a private space to conduct work without distractions. Mimicking the workplace, ergonomically suitable furniture will ward off bodily injuries due to chairs and desks not being the right height or correct fit. Access to the correct technology and the security of that technology are important. A computer and printer are the basic tools. A VPN connection may be required for security to log into the company’s network. Systems to centralize work and communicate with each other are also needed such as Zoom where you can see and talk to people while working collaboratively. Of course, there are a variety of tools to choose from. Internet and cell phone are important to conduct business and companies sometimes choose to reimburse employees for a portion of the use of their personal services. Software is specific to the occupation and can range from the free version to very expensive. Productivity is important and if technology choices are well thought out and measured, the choices should outweigh the costs. In addition to the correct and secure technology, IT support is needed. There is nothing more frustrating than the inability to work because there is a problem with the technology. However, IT support can be provided in a variety of ways. Help Desk provides troubleshooting and possible solutions. Training employees on issues that are common and within the employees’ ability to solve helps to diminish the level of downtime and the number of Help Desk calls. Cyber-security training is also very helpful to ward off bigger problems like identity theft.With all of the structures in place, it is important to focus on creating an RW company culture, which is critical to the success of the plan. Without it, employees feel isolated, not valued, and the level of productivity diminishes. Ultimately, they leave the company. Again, if this is a transition of existing employees, include them in the culture discussions and create company culture guidelines. Important elements to consider in creating the guidelines include several options to communicate, structured daily check-ins, a life-work balance, and methods to track work progress – especially if it is team-based. An RW policy is also important for many reasons. Decisions regarding processes and money need to be clearly identified in the policy. Long after the policy is written and employees have been replaced, the documented decisions are needed for continuity.