When Remote Work Doesn’t Work

Remote work has become more popular than ever, with both businesses and employees embracing its many benefits: increased flexibility and productivity, reduced commute times and operational costs, and happier workers.

But with remote work becoming more widespread, these same employees and businesses may also be discovering the potential downsides of remote work.

The truth is, remote work isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. If you’re wondering if it’s right for you, here are some things to consider.

Remote work isn’t for every business

Offering remote work isn’t always possible. There are plenty of companies who simply can’t function without having their people onsite. Examples include restaurants, retail outlets, and other service-oriented businesses. From production facilities to shipping companies to construction firms, many organizations need their employees to be physically present. 

Other companies have the capacity to offer remote work in a limited capacity for certain kinds of employees or under particular circumstances. These businesses will need to determine where telecommuting will and won’t work and then strive to make it available where, when, and how it makes sense.

Some organizations place a very high value on the connection that comes with sharing ideas, successes, failures, and yes— space— on a day to day basis. While these companies may be well-suited to providing remote work options, if there is a strong commitment to building a culture of in-person collaboration and teamwork, they may not want to.

Business owners will want to carefully evaluate their situation to determine whether or not remote working is a good fit.

Remote work concerns for employers include:

  • Employee accountability
  • Performance management
  • Creating/enforcing remote work policy
  • Logistics (training, technology, etc.)
  • Data and device security
  • Low engagement
  • High turnover

These are all valid concerns. In order for a remote work program to be successful, each these things will need to be addressed through the following.

1.) A well-thought-out policy 

Dealing with remote work in general terms or on a case by case basis may work for a while, but this will eventually lead to more questions than answers. A policy that has set parameters is much easier to execute, enforce, and promote. If you do decide to offer remote options, make sure you’ve designed a plan that is in line with your company values and doubles as an effective recruiting and retention tool.

2.) Plenty of manager and employee training

Managing a team can be difficult no matter where you are, but supervising remote employees brings additional challenges. Make sure anyone who has direct reports receives training on how to effectively support, mentor and evaluate remote employees. You’ll also want to establish clear guidelines for holding remote staff accountable. Your remote employees will need to have expectations spelled out for them. Are they expected to have set hours? How will they track their time and accomplishments? What metrics will they be measured on? Make sure they get full tutorials on all of the technology required to do their jobs. If they are struggling remotely, it will affect performance and morale. And you may never even know about it.

3.) Enhanced communication and technology strategies

Remote teams aren’t just in different offices or departments. They can also be in different cities, countries, and time zones. This makes communication more complex. Make sure you have a variety of ways for your team to reach out and stay connected. Project management, video conference, and instant messaging platforms can all be very helpful additions to your technology toolbox— as long as people are trained and committed to using them.

4.) Finding ways to create and maintain a sense of team cohesion

Depending on just how remote your team is, this may require a significant amount of imagination, creativity, and investment. If your employees are close enough, consider requiring regular meet-ups either at your office or offsite. If your team is more spread out, try getting them together for annual or semi-annual team meetings, retreats, or planning sessions. You may also want to try:

  • Hosting local team events that encourage nearby employees to meet in person.
  • Sending small groups of employees to relevant industry conferences together
  • Assigning internal mentors to new employees or those who have recently joined a new team, project, or department.
  • Having regular video chats and calls. Video can also be a great tool to introduce new employees, send messages from leadership, announce company news, recognize team members, or just have a little fun.

If your leadership isn’t ready to tackle these four areas, remote work may not be a good fit for your business. At least not right now, anyway.

A telecommuting strategy isn’t something you can throw together in a haphazard way. Doing so is sure to get you haphazard results. If that’s what you’ve done and it’s not working for you, perhaps it’s time to get a bit more serious about your plan.

When it makes sense and is executed well, remote work can be a great option for many employees and businesses. Why not take the time to find out if you’re one of them?


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Photo by belchonock