Going Remote: Transitioning Your Team to Telecommuting

Are you considering switching to a fully remote business model? According to a report from Owl Labs, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 70% of full-time employees to work remotely. Even though remote work has its challenges, the report shows that 77% of workers would be happier if they had the option to continue working remotely, and one in two people said they’d leave a job that didn’t allow them to stay remote. Before you transition to remote work permanently, review the pros and cons and have a transition plan to make it easier.

 

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Pros of going remote permanently

Being realistic about running a completely remote business helps you decide if it’s the best model for your company. The pros of working with remote teams can give you the push you need to make the transition.

 

Some benefits of a transition to remote work include:

  • Lower overhead: When everyone works remotely, you can eliminate or significantly downsize your commercial space. You might want to keep a small commercial base or have a warehouse to hold products, but the smaller space saves on monthly facility costs, including loan or lease payments, utilities, maintenance costs and insurance.
  • Attractive to employees: Remote work is appealing to employees, which can help you with recruiting. The transition to remote work permanently also helps you retain current employees who might look for a new job that does allow remote work.
  • Reduction in office politics: When everyone works remotely, it can help cut down on the gossip and passive-aggressive jabs that sometimes happen in the office. It can still happen virtually, but you might find a reduction in negativity.
  • Ample technology: Many types of collaboration platforms and online tools make it easier to work with your team when everyone’s in a different location.
  • Staffing increases: A remote model often makes it easier to increase your staffing. Lower overhead fees increase the budget for salaries, and you’re not physically limited by your office space.
  • Increased talent pool: When you hire new employees, you expand your options when you’re completely remote. You can hire someone living in another state who wouldn’t relocate for an in-office job, which allows you more talent options.
  • Work-life balance: Working from home makes it easier for employees to balance work and home life, especially if you allow some scheduling flexibility. Even if your employees work the same hours, they eliminate the commute, which gives them more family time.

Cons of going remote permanently

Part of being realistic is looking at the drawbacks of a completely remote company. Acknowledging challenges can help you prepare for them and have solutions ready, which can make the transition to remote work smoother.

 

Some of the drawbacks of remote work include:

  • Recruiting and hiring challenges: The remote recruiting and hiring process is a little more complex than traditional in-person hiring. Interviewing and training are often easier when the person’s in the same room.
  • Increased tech demands: While the ample tech solutions make remote work easier, they also increase your tech budget and the chances of tech issues. You might need more tech support to keep up with the demands.
  • Management and communication difficulties: Managing employees who are in different locations can be a challenge. It’s difficult to check in and monitor progress. It also takes more effort to communicate when you can’t just pop into someone’s office.
  • More distractions: Employees are surrounded by distractions in their homes, which can interfere with productivity. If they communicate with clients, suppliers or other people, background noise can make the situation seem less professional.
  • Company culture challenges: It can be challenging to stay connected with coworkers and feel like a team when everyone’s remote. It can be difficult to maintain the company culture.
  • Marketing needs: Having a storefront or commercial location gives you built-in advertising through your signs. When everyone works remotely, you lose that walk-by and drive-by traffic that helps promote your business.

How to decide whether to transition to remote work permanently

Before you make the permanent transition to remote work, make sure it works well for your company. Consider the regular business activities your employees do and how compatible those activities are with remote work. If most work takes place on computers, the remote model works well. If your employees work with physical items, such as products, remote work can be more difficult.

 

Consider what your employees want. Remote work can save you money, but if your employees prefer to work in the office, you could see more turnover. Factor in how well your employees can work remotely to ensure the decision won’t hurt productivity.

 

Look at the steps you need to complete to go remote. You might need to invest in new equipment or tools or change some of your policies. Compare the costs of going remote to remaining in person to determine if it’s a financially feasible option.

 

Helping employees transition smoothly from in-person to remote

Once you decide that remote work is ideal for your company, planning the transition well can make it easier for your staff. Establishing a transition plan can reduce your downtime and help your employees feel successful and productive more quickly.

 

Establish a remote work policy

Having a remote work policy in place before you transition to remote work helps set expectations and guide the process. Many of your current policies will still apply, but you’ll need to adjust some of them. Define the expectations for working remotely within your policy. Address communication, responsiveness, availability and other essential components. This might include best practices for communicating online and safety and security processes to protect company data and equipment.

 

Establish a remote transition point person

Having one person in charge of the transition to remote work can improve the process. This person is the go-to resource when questions arise. This can be a temporary position during the transition, or you can hire a full-time remote work director who helps with onboarding new employees and addressing issues that come up in the future.

 

Transition slowly

If all your employees currently work in the office, consider a gradual transition to remote work. You might transition a few people or one department at a time. This gives you a test run with a smaller number of people and helps you identify potential problems to make the move easier for the rest of the staff.

 

Build trust

When you can’t monitor your employees in person, you have to give them a certain amount of trust to create a positive working environment. If you constantly question what your employees are doing or try to micromanage the situation, you can negatively impact morale. Being transparent and allowing your employees to have autonomy when working from home can help build trust.

 

Help employees set up

Distractions at home can hurt productivity, so helping your employees improve their home workspace benefits you. Send out a guide for ideal home office setups to help your employees optimize their space. Offer the tools and equipment your employees need in their home office. Establish guidelines for the home office space, such as setting up in a quiet room where the door can be closed and having high-speed internet access.

 

Implement collaboration tools

Using online collaboration tools can make managing remote employees easier. A videoconferencing program is essential for communicating and holding virtual team meetings. There are also many online collaboration tools, such as Basecamp, Asana, Monday.com and Slack, for sharing information, collaborating and keeping track of your team. These tools make organization much easier than simply using email to communicate.

 

Communicate more

Increase your team communication when you’re remote. In the office, you can touch base quickly when you stop into someone’s office or pass each other in the hallway. You miss those in-person interactions when you’re virtual. Have regular check-ins with your team, and establish a regular schedule of meetings and communication. Ensure everyone knows the communication expectations. It’s important to have regular team and one-on-one communication with employees.

 

Establish remote training and onboarding processes

Your in-person onboarding and training processes might not work well remotely. Establish a way to onboard new employees and help them feel like part of the team. Consider how you need to change ongoing training to work with the remote setup. Online training options can help keep everyone current on issues and best practices.

 

Maintain company culture and a sense of community

Being in different locations physically makes it more difficult to bond with coworkers. The company culture can suffer when you don’t have opportunities for interaction. Actively pursue team bonding through virtual team-building activities. If everyone lives in the same city, consider in-person meetups occasionally, or organize an overnight retreat if everyone is scattered.

 

Encourage open communication

Establish a virtual open door policy to let your employees know they can bring concerns to you at any time. Encourage them to talk to you if they’re struggling with the remote work situation. Following up with those concerns and finding solutions for them shows your employees you’re committed to making the situation work.

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