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Ergonomics of a home office: ensuring productivity in remote workers

Remote working is something that has changed the workplace environment. However, alongside its many positives, the concern is how to promote productivity in remote workers who are away from a typical office environment on a day-to-day basis. Due to this, some large firms have been moving their teams back into an office environment. There are many drivers behind this, so the stats are slightly misleading. However, given remote working is here to stay, the key challenge of productivity must be tackled.  

As a 2017 poll shows, part-time remote workers have risen from 39 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2016. No doubt, some of your teams work remotely some or all of the time. The good news is that technology and culture have evolved to breakdown the barriers to really effective remote working.

"Finding the right remote workers can be challenging, and when you do, keeping them motivated and excited can be hard if you don't have strong communication channels. I recommend interviewing them well, and starting with a test project before hiring them for ongoing work. 

When you do find someone great, it is a real win-win. Today, more and more people want the freedom of working from where they want when they want, and for your business it saves the expense of providing office space and equipment." -  David Pagotto Founder and Managing Director of digital marketing agency SIXGUN 

Communication culture

Communication is key. Clear, effective communication is more vital to remote workers than it is to those in the same workplace. Nuances that are picked up in a face to face conversation can be lost over email, chat or phone.  

Instructions must be clear, and tasks should be clarified and checked by both the employee and the delegator. It is not only important to establish good communication early on, but throughout the various stages of all tasks.

Process can aid communication. Using workflows, project management tools and automation can deliver huge benefits in consistency and outcomes.These benefits can only be realized, however, if they are backed up by an open culture where questioning inputs and inconsistencies is welcomed.

 

Technology stack

Continuing with the theme of communication, it is essential to provide the same technology ecosystem to home works as to office bound teams. This means when employees do travel between offices or the home and office, they can focus on their job, and not on working out how to connect!

"A core element of the modern work environment is solid internet connection." - Aodhan MacCathmhaoil, waster.com.au

Fiber and Copper Ethernet or T1 will have SLAs that enable better uptime and fixes if sites do go down. Over the last few years, companies have been rolling out SD-WAN with the infrastructure cost savings being pushed into remote workers. The virtual overlay that allows the company network to be managed using software alone.This means that security and control is as effective as it would be if the employee was onsite.  

Additionally, a VOIP telephone service now doesn’t differentiate between onsite and remote users. Employees can log into physical handsets or desktop clients and have thefull suite of functions and correct Hunt Groups.

The move to cloud computing is another crucial part to managing a remote workforce. Most critical applications are now available as SaaS and having a document management system (DMS) provides a mutual place to store work and collaborate. Some great examples of this include Google Driveand MicrosoftOneDrive. These are fantastic as they allow colleagues to save and edit in real time.

Cloud services also provide a great back up platform,ensuring all important documents are stored securely.

 

Social

In addition to general communication, keeping remote workers social is crucial. Regular meet ups, group calls and video conferences ensure the team is on the same page and that they are working together efficiently. This boosts moral, and allows all workers to participate at all times, which in turn improves their productivity. Chat platforms, such as WhatsApp or Slack are particularly useful for communicating quickly, and they can also be linked to project management systems mentioned below.

 

Management

Trello or Teamwork are great systems that allow employees and employers to communicate and manage their time, workload, and targets. This is essential, as well managed work from all parties is very important to successful remote working. Time management is key and can be made easier by using the apps mentioned above. However, it is also important for employers to manage their own expectations and progress.

Setting targets based on outcomes, rather than inputs is vital for remote management of teams. Regular updates using methodologies such as AGILE have also shown to be effective.

Remote working is on the increase and due to developments in technology it’s only going to become more popular and more capable. When bringing remote working into the office, it is important to make sure you’re prepared to manage the workforce. 

What the experts had to say...

"There are pros and cons to do so and it's not easy to manage. But we do and we've grown the business and won many national and international awards for it. Pros - I get access to amazing talent at an affordable price with minimal overheads. We deliver quality results with impact." - Natalie Chapman, MD and Co-Founder of gemaker

"As an employee who is allowed to work remotely, I'd love to share my thoughts on remote working. First of all, remote working is great for anyone who dreams of working in a certain company but can't travel to the country this company is located in. Also, people who want to travel and keep working can greatly benefit from remote working." - Jakub Kliszczak from CrazyCall

"The hype around remote work is real. For employers it enables you to access a broader and more competitive talent market. While there are challenges managing remote employees, the benefits more than outweigh the cons once you get a handle on the right management strategies and are able to build a strong culture." - George Hartley, Co-Founder and CEO of SmartrMail

"Remote working isn't for everyone. It takes a great deal of motivation and fo cus to do so, I am fortunate that my last full-time role required me to travel frequently, so I was used to getting tasks done on my own schedule. But if there is any doubt in whether an employee has this attribute, make sure you set very clear boundaries and expectations and trial the work style before committing to it being a long-term solution." - Megan Nolan, Director of PivotPoint Business Consulting

"We have 6 remote workers dotted around the world, while in the main it's a good thing for us one of the cons is cybersecurity. Cybercrime is a huge problem globally, and if you have a remote team, it's tough to find a balance between productivity and security." - Brandon Ackroyd, Founder of Tiger Mobiles

"We employ staff that work with us remotely. So we are both the employer, and in a sense the employee of a remote workspace. In my opinion, it definitely helps productivity as long as you're in an environment that allows for it and you've got a mindset of success." - Joshua G Lewis, Director of Dorks Delivered

"For the remote team, communication is critical but there can be a sense of overwhelm and excess communication can backfire, leading to confusion and frustration for the team." - Natasha Hawker, Director of Employee Matters

"From my perspective, working remotely is almost all positive. I get to live where I want, work at the times and places that suit me (I spend a lot of time in cafes) and I really enjoy that flexibility." - Sean Morrissy, Marketing Manager for Flowers Across Sydney

"We love the flexibility and from a business owners point of view I find productivity is higher. They work when and where they want as long as they meet their deadlines." - Cara Stewart, Chief Storyteller, The Long And The Short Of It

If you would like to know more about how we have helped other businesses support their remote teams, please contact us.

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