If you were to speak to someone from the early ‘00s about working practices, it’s almost a guarantee they would laugh at you for saying most office jobs can be done remotely. However, it’s true. COVID may have accelerated the process, but many companies were already on the journey.
The 2010 US census revealed around 9.5 percent of people worked remotely. In 2020, that increased to around 44 percent - an almost 364 percent increase. With so many more people working from home, businesses changed practices to suit. But what about the workers? How do you go from an office to remote and maintain productivity? Let’s find out.
The benefits of working remotely
Remote working has been on the rise for years now and it's not hard to see why. When you can make it work right, it can be a game-changer for both employees and employers.
For starters, flexibility alone does wonders for improving employee satisfaction. Working from home allows your staff to create their own schedules and work how they want to - as long as they find time to meet colleagues and clients as needed. This means they can work when they're most productive, whether that's early in the morning or late at night.
It also means they can take care of personal things as they come up without having to worry about taking time off. For example, a freelance graphic designer might work from home in the morning, run a few errands during the day and then work again in the evening when the kids are asleep. They can take time to meet with clients around doing other things.
While we’re talking about flexibility, we can’t miss the fact that working from home generally improves a person’s work-life balance. In a survey by FlexJobs, 73 percent of people said remote working allowed them to better balance work with personal commitments.
When your employees are able to work from home, they can eliminate the time and stress of commuting. They also don't get constantly distracted by less important things meaning they get important tasks done quicker. This gives them more time to spend with family and friends, pursue hobbies, avoid burnout and take care of both their physical and mental health.
It’s also great for you as the employer too. Without the need for a big city center office - you can reduce costs. It’s also usually the case that people working from home will log in earlier, stay later and check in more regularly. This can see projects get completed faster and to a higher quality as your employees aren’t rushing out the door to get personal things done at the end of the day.
The challenges of working remotely
We’ve talked of the benefits, so we need to be fair and consider what challenges it can cause.
One of the biggest difficulties that you’ll likely encounter is the ability to schedule productive meetings. With everyone in different locations, it can be hard to ensure everyone is engaged. People will constantly have distractions, talk over each other and respond to messages that pop up from other colleagues, not in attendance.
You’re also relying on employees to have a good home tech setup. That’s not just the business material, like their laptop, that you provide, but a strong internet connection and an understanding of tools, like virtual whiteboards, to collaborate effectively.
Even if you get all that to work, there’s always a greater risk of miscommunication. When everyone is in different locations, it can be tough to make sure everyone is on the same page.
How to be as productive as you can
Weighing up the positives and negatives, how can you make sure you and your team maximize your productivity when remote working?
Start by making sure you have a routine in place. When you go from an office to working from home, it can be easy to get distracted. Don’t be tempted to just lounge on the couch all day. Instead, create a plan that helps you stay focused and on-task. For example, set a start and end time for your workday and be strict about sticking to it.
Avoid, as much as you can, working from the sofa or even your bed. Create a designated workspace that helps you avoid distractions. For example, set up a home office with a desk, chair and all the tools you need to get your work done. It doesn’t have to be its own room if you don’t have the space, just make sure it’s somewhere that your work takes priority. It should also enable you to schedule meetings and hold them without being interrupted.
Make the most of technology. There are a ton of tools and apps that can help you stay productive while working remotely. For example, using Doodle is a great way to organize remote meetings with colleagues because it integrates natively with video conferencing tools. Try not to be too set in the way you did things in the office. You’re working from home now, so how you work will be different.
Navigating remote meetings
With remote meetings likely to be your biggest stumbling block for remote working, let’s look at how you can mitigate the risk and be more productive.
Preparation is key. That can be said for most things in life, but when it comes to meetings, particularly if they’re remote, it’s essential. Be sure to carve out some time in your day to plan ahead and think about the meetings you have, what information you need for them and what prep needs to be done.
Make sure you stay engaged and encourage those in the meeting with you to do so too. The temptation in a remote meeting is even greater to just sit back and let others do the talking. That's not going to lead to productive meetings. Instead, be sure to ask questions, contribute to the conversation and make sure you're staying focused on the task at hand.
Own your follow-ups. It’s unlikely you’ll leave a meeting without having to do them in some shape or form. Be sure to jot down anything you need a greater explanation of or any action items you were assigned.
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean you are less productive. Be conscious that you’ll work differently, plan ahead and check in with your team regularly to make sure everything is on track. The increased flexibility for you and your team should lead to some great results.