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Most people dream about having the chance to work remotely. Working in your pajamas with a pet on your lap — what is not to love about it? However, some employees may not be completely sold on the idea. Worst-case scenario visions may pop into their head: employees slacking off due to at-home distractions, employees complaining about not having a work/life balance or miscommunication when you rely on video conferences. As an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience managing teams, I can vouch that your concerns are legitimate.
However, it does not have to be that way. I’ve changed my mind, and perhaps you will too. I’ve embraced the fact that working remotely is productive when you have the right processes in place. You can smoothly transition from a full office staff to a remote environment. And you may be glad you did, once you see how well technology can support your business.
Here are some tips for entrepreneurs wanting to create a stellar work-at-home environment for your business and make working remotely a success.
1. Make sure your employees are well-equipped.
For your workers to work remotely, they need to have the means to do their job. Confirm each employee has access to workplace tools, like computers and scanners, and communication platforms like Google Calendar, Zoom or Dropbox. There should also be a computer tech on board, and all employees should have his or her cell number. If you want to go the extra mile, you can provide employees with chairs and desks that are ergonomic friendly. When employees have all the makings of their office at home, you can be confident they will do a great job.
2. Communication is king.
When people are not working side-by-side, it can sometimes be challenging, and misunderstandings can happen. When speaking over the phone or in Teams, clear communication is a must. Keep the lines of contact open with regular phone or Zoom meetings. Let your team know you are there for them if needed. It can be an effort to get employees to have team spirit when they are not working face-to-face. But you can create unity by engaging with your workers and encouraging workers to connect. Make jokes during meetings. Ask employees about their weekends or vacations. These actions will inspire them to be more productive because it will create positive morale. During non-verbal communications (email, Teams), use emoticons to express enthusiasm in conversation. Gifs are also great to use, especially when sending praise to your workers. They are cute and lighten the mood, easing the stress of an online business meeting.
3. Structure and goals.
Consider what work needs to be done to run your business remotely. Will your employees be working 9 to 5, or is flexibility allowed? Use Google Docs or Sheets to plan out weeks and illustrate what you expect from each employee. Allow some wiggle room for unforeseen crises. When employees expect to be held accountable, they may work harder than they do in person.
4. Trust the process.
Your employees will do a better job if they are not micro-managed. Regular check-ins and giving your workers the chance to provide feedback is the best way to go. Trust that they are being productive and meeting goals to do their jobs commendably. Also, consider that the employee may be willing to put in extra hours, especially since they are not commuting to and from the office. That’s a plus to working at home.
5. Set up boundaries.
Work-from-home guidelines are essential to running a business remotely. Give a time frame for answering emails. Let your employees know that you will not accept calls or texts after a specific hour. Tell your teammates not to work overtime unless it is pre-approved.
6. Be a good listener.
Successful entrepreneurs are good listeners who respect their employees. If you’re new to running a business remotely, you may want to hear what your workers have to say about it. Ask them for feedback. Let them know you are there for them. If there’s a problem, you will do something about it. By having an open-door policy for your team, you will build a great connection with them.
7. Be compassionate.
Be aware of employees who may appear distressed. Employees may be worrying about job security or a parent who is ill. Be supportive of them, be available to listen and allow for time off if necessary.
8. Celebrate hard work.
Working remotely means that employees miss out on some of the perks of going to an office, like water cooler breaks, special occasion business lunches and holiday parties. However, your hardworking remote team must receive motivational recognition too. Let them know how vital they are to the company by saying some positive words in the next Zoom meeting. You can also send an employee a gift card for a job well done. Celebrate important events in their lives such as birthdays and work milestones. Investing in your employees will keep them encouraged — and happy!
9. Continue to provide opportunities.
Treat your remote employees like you would treat an in-house employee. Don’t hesitate to give a thumbs up to an innovative idea or a promotion. If a motivated remote worker shows you that they are up for the task, why not gamble on a good thing?
10. Get together in real-time.
Meeting a remote worker for lunch at least once a year is a great idea. It will create a bond that you cannot get from a Zoom meeting.
Transitioning to a remote workplace can be challenging. But in the long run, you may realize that working remotely can be equally as productive as going to an office when you have your workers set up for success.