Although the topic of managing a remote workforce is in the news because of coronovirus quarantines, it’s not new. In 2018, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on an average day, 23.7% of employed persons worked from home. On average, they worked just 2.94 hours at home, most likely catching up on email or editing a report. Concerns about COVID-19 are increasing the number of people who work at home. New ways of working require new types of management. We have some advice from our own experiences and those of our customers that can help.
Why It’s Even Possible
Allowing employees to work remotely has become easier each year. Digital telephone services allow people to answer customer phone calls no matter where they are. Electronic documents eliminate the need for people to have their own printers. Thanks to the Internet, people can access their work from almost anywhere in the world. Fewer jobs require people to be at the office every day to get their work done. Many of our customers have employees who work in the field every day, so they already know how to manage a remote workforce.
What’s new is the sheer expansion in the number of jobs that can be done remotely. Simply cutting out commuting time gives people more time for family obligations. Parents can stay productive during school weather closings. People can be home for deliveries, pace their workday to fit their preferences, and take care of personal errands without requesting personal time. There’s evidence that remote workforces are more productive, so you may even see an uptick in your business.
Check-Ins and Controls
Although most people working remotely will adapt quickly, some will have a bigger transition. One way to help people be organized and accountable is to set up a daily check-in. It doesn’t even have to be a meeting; simply start an email or chat thread once a day to ask people what they are working on and what help they need. Just make sure that your organization is using the same platform. You may need to set standards on such matters as how long it should take people to return emails or how to share information when you can’t pop your head up over a cubicle or have a chat in the hallway.
Second, think about network security. You may very well want your staff to use a VPN to log in, given that remote workers may not have access to secure networks. Ideally, all the policies will be drawn up ahead of time, but you may not have that luxury if your town closes its schools and asks families of teachers and students to self-quarantine for two weeks.
You may need to give workers spending power, too. They can’t pop in to the supply closet to get pens and legal pads. They may have to pay for printing, postage, webinar registrations, and other things on their own. With Bento for Business, you can give employees controlled purchasing power through physical and virtual Visa debit cards. You control them where you are, your employees use them where they are, and it all syncs with your accounting system—no need to wait for receipts to be submitted for reimbursement to find out how much money people actually spent. For example, if you want everyone to subscribe to a VPN, they can pay for it on their virtual cards, and you can monitor how much in total you spend for this service.
Other Best Practices
People who have long worked from home know two things: first, it helps to get bathed and dressed before going to your home office. Despite stereotypes about working in your pajamas, successful home workers take the time get ready for the day. It helps you get in the right frame of mind. You may not dress as well as you would for work, but you surely want to avoid humiliation if you forget to turn off your computer’s camera.
In addition to setting up a check-in system, you may be holding a lot more online meetings. Harvard Business Review has some great advice for running better remote meetings along with other ideas for running better remote teams.
Remote work is a big change, but it can be successful. Whether you have technicians working on customer sites instead of in the office, a freelance graphic designer based in Sweden, or accountants working at home because of a school closing, the work can still get done. Bento can help make sure all the payments get made, too.