With modern communications technology and collaboration tools, the stereotypical office environment is now seen as an unnecessary expense by many of today’s top companies. In addition to the overhead of running a full-fledged on-site company, the in-office model limits staffing to locally available talent within commuting distance. It is little wonder more organizations are opening their eyes to the potential of the remote, off-site dynamic.
That being said, a journey into the uncharted territory of remote staffing can be a daunting one for managers new to the concept of off-site offices. As an experienced professional who has been part of such a transformation, here are six suggestions to consider:
While this might not always be an option depending on your circumstances, try to plan far in advance so you can lay a solid groundwork for your move. This will allow you to fully consider such factors as potential personnel changes, necessary tech implementation, communication strategies moving forward and other important considerations.
Try a Test Run
Arrange for a week or other period of time where you have staff work remotely. This will be helpful in a number of ways, including revealing any possible challenges, pinpointing which staffers might not be ideal ‘remote workers,’ and gauging whether or not such a move will impact your company’s efficiency. It will also help illuminate what tools and platforms will be crucial if and when your team makes a full-time move to remote working. If any unpleasant surprises come to light during this tryout period you’ll at least have time to iron out the issues—or reconsider whether or not you should necessarily be making the move right now.
Set Clear Goals
As you enter the unfamiliar arena of working off-site, it’s more important than ever to let your staffers know exactly what is expected of them, both individually and as a group. While nobody likes to be micro-managed, you’ll be doing yourself and your employees a favor by delineating clear short-term and long-term goals that must be met. Accountability is key, since your staffers will be granted a sudden freedom and flexibility they might not be familiar with during their work week. And the bottom line is a good employee will actually appreciate knowing exactly what is expected of them.
Focus on Communication
One of the key challenges for teams moving to a remote working dynamic is keeping the lines of communication open and making sure everyone is on the same page, since you can no longer walk down the hall to chat with someone or quickly gather in a conference room. However, with today’s technology, platforms for meeting online (such as gotomeeting.com) and collaborating online (like basecamp.com) are easily accessible and usually effective; most of them are quite affordable and some of them are even free. While the need for numerous conference calls will almost certainly dissipate as you move forward, err on the safe side initially by arranging regular phone meets.
Consider Personnel Changes/Additions
While most employees have the mind-set to make the move to off-site—and most, in fact, will appreciate the flexibility and other pluses of working remotely—there may be the rare staffer who just doesn’t thrive without the daily structure of an office routine and the accompanying input of their bosses and colleagues. If this is a concern, better to pinpoint the predicament early on in case some personnel moves turn out to be necessary.
Schedule In-Person Meets If/When Possible
Even for teams ‘going remote’ it’s important to foster a bond between your employees. If some of you are in the same geographic area, try to arrange some luncheon get-togethers now and then, even if they’re simply casual meet-ups for friendly conversation. For groups that are more spread out in mileage, think about an annual company retreat or summit if your budget allows. As meetings tech expert Corbin Ball often remarks about face-to-face gatherings, “There is no such thing as a virtual beer.”