As businesses count the cost of Snowmageddon, Jason Downes, MD of Powwownow, looks at the potential upside of emergency remote working.
Weather is often a challenge for commuters, particularly over the winter, with icy conditions and cold temperatures affecting roads and public transport across the country. However, the severe disruption caused by this week’s snow storm shouldn’t be seen as an inconvenience to employers, but an opportunity to increase their productivity.
Not only can flexible working increase motivation, it can improve productivity and profitability by allowing people to work from a location that is convenient for them. As an employer, there is no better opportunity to reap the benefits of a flexible workforce than when travel chaos is creating havoc for commuters.
While many business leaders remain uncertain about how to manage a team working remotely, there are simple things you can do to ensure that your team remains motivated and productive.
Check in, but never micro-manage
One common concern shared by business leaders is how to ensure their employees remain focused and complete all of their tasks. However, it is important that managers refrain from micro-managing their teams - trust is a crucial component of any flexible working strategy. If leaders lose faith in their employees’ ability to stay productive, remote working practices are less likely to be a success.
Setting clear expectations from the start is key, as is making sure employees have the opportunity to ask questions about how to manage their tasks and responsibilities while away from the office. It’s also always worth scheduling in a brief catch-up during the day to check in and make sure everyone is kept up to date.
Keep up communication
While micro-managing is certainly something to avoid, establishing how you will communicate with team members while they are working away from the office is fundamental to an effective flexible working plan. Many leaders’ doubts arise from concerns about breakdowns in communication between managers and team members when they aren’t all in one location.
For many, implementing a more formal communication plan is an effective solution.
This plan should clearly set out how employees are expected to keep in touch with the rest of their team throughout the day, whether that be over the phone, over email, or using instant messaging platforms. While instant messaging platforms might seem like more informal methods of communication, they often prove beneficial when team members need to ask quick questions or give timely updates.
Utilising new technology
With the technology needed to implement flexible working strategies now readily available, employees have little excuse to refrain from offering employees the opportunity to work in an environment that suits them and allows them to work more productively. Conferencing technology, and instant messaging platforms all allow employees to collaborate and communicate effectively.
Measures to maintain team rapport
For companies where some team members work flexibly for the majority of their time, it’s important to consider how to build and maintain team rapport.
While it may seem like a daunting task, simple measures such as having regular video calls, or arranging weekly meetings for the whole team can help to build relationships between office based and remote workers. Leaders implementing flexible working strategies should agree on a time and location for at least weekly face to face catch ups, and take the time to arrange regular team bonding events or activities.
When it comes to creating, implementing and maintaining a flexible working structure, organisation is key. It’s vital to trust employees and inspire them to work productively and efficiently when they’re working outside of their normal working environment. Leaders can create structure by introducing a formalised flexible working plan that is well communicated to employees, and making sure that the entire team understands what is expected of them.
With research from Stanford University finding that on average remote workers are 13% more productive, take fewer sick days and benefit from a quieter working environment, the business benefits are clear, and employers should take the disruption caused by the severe weather as an opportunity to improve efficiency.