The lockdown and social distancing made necessary by the recent pandemic has taught us all some hard lessons – not least the unique difficulties of working remotely from home rather than the familiar business office.
If you are struggling to run your business remotely; are starting up your own business from home; or, if you employ staff who are working from home, here are some tips and suggestions for making those arrangements a success.
In April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that around half of the UK workforce worked remotely this year – and this data was even before the pandemic took hold. So, remote working is not only spreading; it is here to stay.
Remote working is likely to revolutionise former working practices – for better or for worse.
To make sure they are for the better, you need to be clear – both to yourself and to your staff – about what you expect to be done during the working day. When there is no face-to-face contact, you need to specify exactly how work will be measured – in terms of time input, work output, degree of engagement and application, and end results.
There are also a number of online tools you can use to track your employees’ effectiveness such as Time Doctor, Toggl and Everhour.
Hire a virtual assistant
Whether you are working in your office or remotely, it doesn’t make sense to spend time doing the administration side of things yourself. While your business cannot operate effectively without having a solid foundation, doing these tasks yourself can easily eat into your day, taking you away from other, more pressing, work.
The answer is to hire a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant (VA) can do anything you want, from answering calls and emails to managing your social media. They usually charge by the hour, meaning you are only paying for their time when you need it.
To find out more about VA’s, you may wish to read this useful guide to hiring a virtual assistant.
Effective communication means giving serious thought to how you communicate when you are all working remotely.
You can email and instant message, for example, but videoconferencing is likely to prove a more effective form of getting your message across and understanding another’s point of view than either written communications or audio alone.
The very definition of remote working relies on technology – so, make sure that you have invested in suitable and reliable technology.
Compared to the cost of physically traveling to and from your office or business premises, even quite sophisticated technology may be considered highly affordable these days. You are likely to need it to ensure that communications, video calls, and electronic transactions proceed without a hitch.
The virtual water-cooler
Just as when you and your team had an office to work from, the days are never all work to the exclusion of normal social exchanges, pauses and breaks – those famous water-cooler moments that enriched any working day.
Remember to build those moments, breaks and periods of social relaxation into your remote working schedules.
If your business is just you, join business groups or local networking groups online, to stave off any feelings of isolation. Along the same lines, don’t sit at your desk all day – build in coffee breaks and lunch breaks and get away from your desk!
All dressed up
You are working remotely. You are probably working from home. But that’s no excuse for you or your team to spend the working day dressed only in your pyjamas, warns the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
By maintaining a reasonable dress code – perhaps with greater flexibility than usual – will help to instill a sense of the need to get things done in a professional and work-like manner and also keep some valuable separation between “work” time and “home” time even when the places are the same.