Remote working: The circle of trust

Remote working: The circle of trust
12th May 2016 Sean Murphy

Remote working: The circle of trust

THE KEY TO SUCCESSFULLY ESTABLISHING REMOTE WORKING IN YOUR ORGANISATION.

The Circle of TrustThere are many reasons why you may find some of your workforce located somewhere other than your office. You might even feel the need to locate your own office remotely from the location of the majority of your workforce when you need time to engage in some strategic thinking away from the noise of your hive of worker bees buzzing at the coalface.

It is pretty much the norm for workers to have the option to work from home or to demand access to their usual suite of office technology when out on the road. Remote working for large high tech organisations has been operating for more than 20 years, originally with a convoluted set of technologies allowing access to internal networks, but the advent of Internet-enabled sharing software has made successful remote working available to all.

REMOTE WORKING ADVANTAGES

Research by Stanford University has found that remote workers are 13% more productive, take fewer sick days and enjoy a quieter working environment than their commuting colleagues and a survey of business owners by Virgin Media Business recently predicted that 60% of office-based employees will regularly work from home by 2022.

More than this, you may have realised that you need to look outside of your immediate location to find the right skills for a particular project, or to find high level skills at an affordable price. Many companies located in the major technology hubs such as London and New York are finding it increasingly difficult to hire highly skilled IT staff (Developers, Business Analysts, Testers, Architects, Project Managers/Scrum Masters) without paying increasingly high contract rates and risking knowledge walking out the door when a higher offer is made. But with rent and living costs in the big cities rising almost daily, pressure on wage inflation is increasing and high level skilled workers start to become too expensive for smaller companies to employ.

Economic advantages include reduction of commuting time and the related environmental impact the company can realise, and reduced costs associated with the workspace itself: the size of the office, the furniture, the electricity used, the cost of heating and cooling the office space and so on. In fact, studies indicate an employer can save $8,000–$11,000 per employee when that person works from home even half the time. Moreover, at least in theory, workers can be shielded from much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload. And money saved on commuting is more money in their pockets – Hey Presto an instant pay rise and no cost to you!

SO WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?

There is one overriding consideration when allowing your workforce to locate themselves outside of the office – and ignore it at your peril! The issue that will keep you awake at nights is not whether the technology enabling your remote workers will fail, it is that somewhere deep inside you suspect that your team members are not beavering away in their respective back bedrooms but rather they are hunched in front of daytime TV with a cold kebab in one hand and an Alka Seltzer in the other.

YES, THE KEY ISSUE IS TRUST

How can you be sure that next time you make a quarterly progress report to the board they aren’t blinded by a sea of red traffic lights and sliding timeline bars that have disappeared beyond year end.

In 2013, Yahoo! sent shock waves through Silicon Valley by deciding that remote working was to be no more and in a memo concluded that “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. … We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

On closer examination of the problem, however, it seemed Yahoo! had lost control of their workforce. Various reports on feedback from the Yahoo! HR commented that there are a “huge number of people … who just never come in … there were all these [remote workers] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo!.” The bottom line is remote working only works within a structure of control and good team management, and the principles of good team management are the same whether or not you check up on your team by pacing past their desks 4 times a day making sure that all heads are down.

THE FACTORS THAT WILL LEAD TO SUCCESSFULLY MANAGING A REMOTE WORKFORCE ARE THESE:

      1. Establish which functions can be performed remotely i.e. those which have clear objectives and delivery criteria. The modern remote worker is likely to be highly educated and in the high-tech or financial sectors. They will typically be providing services that need clear guidance but not minute by minute supervision. They are people who can work to and meet a clear set of objectives and are happy to interact with other staff using enabling technology.
      2. Establish the right management model with clear measurable performance criteria and a structure within which you can manage your workers.
      3. Have a clear understanding of the amount of time and effort the project or tasks allocated to these workers should take and make sure that you monitor their output against this expectation on a regular basis.
      4. Establish a clear timetable for communication with individual team members and stick to it. That could be a 10 minute catch up at 9 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon, a weekly face to face meeting, a bi-weekly summary report, or all three. But make sure you are available to be communicated with, don’t be tempted to bump your regular slots for other last minute demands, and make sure you respond and give feedback.
      5. Last but not least is establishing the appropriate technology that allows your workforce to communicate effectively with you and with each other enabling conversation, document sharing, messaging.

Get all the above right and what you will be reporting to the board is increased productivity, increased staff retention, smashed deadlines, lower overhead and operational budget savings.

Marrable provide bespoke software development services across sectors such as financial services, Media, education and digital start-ups.

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