Team meetings in bed. Write-ups by the coffee machine. Virtual hang-outs. It’s what a day in the life of a remote worker has come to symbolise; flexibility and freedom.
Employees can hide under their covers and type away, while office giants can cut down on rent and enjoy the benefits of telecommunications.
If only it was that simple!
While the coronavirus pandemic and on and off again lockdowns have made the remote work arrangement even more popular, it’s not as simple as it’s cut out to be.
Face-to-face communications are still important, but as we edge towards a more digital future, it’s time we face the facts. Remote working, AKA telecommunications, is here to stay. It offers a whole lot more flexibility than in-office working, but you’ll need to navigate it carefully if you want to be successful. Keeping a number of employees engaged from afar via homeworking is never easy.
Read on to learn more about teleworking, and the best strategies for remote working bliss.
What is teleworking?
Teleworking, also known as telecommuting, is essentially remote working. A land that was once roamed by the self-employed, the new environment of “working from home” has recently risen to far greater prevalence.
In a nutshell, teleworking is driven by the technology that enables you to work from home. ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication systems allow employees to meet up virtually, submit work on the cloud, and attend video meetings. From simple phone systems to full-blown UCaaS systems, teleworking can be done in a number of ways.
The number of telecommuters has grown substantially since the coronavirus hit. A study done by Eurofound estimates that up to 40% of respondents working in the EU began to telework as a direct result of the pandemic.
Countries in the European Union, including the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Sweden, were some of the first to make the big move to remote working (and the United Kingdom is up there with them, too).
What are the technological requirements for teleworking?
Some of the main technological requirements for a successful telework strategy include:
You’ll need to ensure all employees are equipped with up-to-date computers (good news for Microsoft and the like). They’ll also need to have all your company’s software and tech, and have all the communication platforms you intend to use integrated into their systems.
- Stable internet
Stable internet is key to a successful telework strategy. Without it, remote work crumbles. Make sure all employees are set up with a fast and stable internet connection that allows them to communicate and perform their tasks online with ease.
Some things never change, and email being a must for professional communication is one of those things. While you’ll still want to incorporate some video chat into the mix, email is a great way of firing things across quickly.
- Fax machine
Fax really isn’t dead (unless you’re still using old legacy equipment). Make sure your business is equipped with an online faxing system that hooks up to your email, so you can send and receive documents online.
- Mobile phone
This shouldn’t really be a problem in our day and age, but mobile phones will become super important in remote work. Though most things can be done via the computer, there might be times when an employee needs to make an impromptu call—make sure their mobile has all your company software installed to make the job easier.
- Video conferencing equipment
A must for any remote working team, video conferencing equipment is key to keeping your team together and creating a sense of companionship and social activity. Though it’s not actually face-to-face, it gives everyone a chance to see each other live in the moment. It’s also a lot easier to pick up on body language and physical cues during a video call.
Pro-tip: Toggling between different applications is time-consuming. Instead of shifting between a video conferencing tool and messaging app, have all your communication needs met from one, central location with RingCentral. A global cloud platform, RingCentral provides access to a range of communication channels from video and SMS messaging to your business phone system.
Teleworking presents a wide range of benefits for employees and employers:
1. Reduces office running costs and overheads
One of the great things about teleworking is that it cuts your office rent. This is especially true if you decide to go fully remote, as you’ll be able to give up your office space completely and save on rent expenses each month (particularly useful where real estate is expensive, like London or New York).
You’ll still cut costs even if you choose to go down a hybrid route. The fewer people there are working in the office, the less money you’ll need to spend on running it and maintaining it.
2. Minimises travel-related problems
Ever run into problems when an employee turns up late because of a long commute? Teleworking virtually (yep, that’s a pun) eliminates this problem as employees will be at home, ready to get to work on the dot.
3. Wider choice of candidates for recruitment
Another great thing about teleworking is the talent pool and labour market it opens up to your business. With an office environment, you’re limited to the talent within your region.
Since teleworking can be done from anywhere, it opens up the possibility of recruiting a global team—more diversity and more talent! This means you can snap up great candidates from remote locations and explore talent that’s beyond your usual scope.
4. Increases employee productivity
Teleworking gives your team members more flexibility and versatility. They get to choose where they work from, making for a more comfortable working environment. This is particularly crucial to workers with young children or other non-work commitments.
And when they’re more comfortable, they’re more likely to get work done efficiently and fast.
1. Comfortable environment
Teleworking empowers employees to work from a location that best suits them. This could be their own home office, their favourite coffee shop, or even their child’s daycare—the point is, remote work gives employees greater flexibility and versatility.
Not only does this improve their productivity and sense of well-being, but it also enables them to better juggle their private, family life with their working responsibilities.
2. No work-related travel cost
Since teleworking is done from home, employees will save a lot of money they would otherwise spend on long commutes!
It might not seem like much, but commutes can really add up at the end of the month, so remote working makes a huge difference in this arena (plus, workers won’t have all that commuting time to browse LinkedIn for new jobs closer to home!).
3. Eliminates the need to relocate
If an employee is moving house or location, they won’t need to leave their job behind or go on a crazy search. Teleworking can be done from any location, giving them the safety of a secure job no matter where they move.
Equally, if your business decides to pack up shop and relocate, then employees won’t have to worry about making the trek to the new office.
Despite the benefits, it’s not all roses when it comes to teleworking. You’ll still face a few challenges and roadblocks, but with the right equipment and approach, you’ll learn how to overcome these obstacles.
Some of the most common challenges include:
- Security of company assets
Since teleworking can be done from anywhere, your business information and company assets are spread out. Instead of being within one single office, they’ll be found in a range of different locations.
While this isn’t always a problem, it can pose a slight security risk. If employees store sensitive company information on a laptop that isn’t their own or use public wi-fi, there’s always the chance of a security breach (though this isn’t common).
- Scaling up employees effectively
Employees need to be set up with the right information and tasks to work from home (or anywhere) efficiently. This can make things like virtual onboarding particularly difficult, as things can easily get lost in translation.
You might find that you’re spending even more time setting employees up than actually getting the job done.
- Implementing employee devices
Another challenge that’s often presented is employee devices (or the lack thereof). Not all employees will have the tech they need to do their job properly, so you’ll need to make sure they’re set up. This will probably cost you, but it’s an investment worth making if your company is teleworking.
Best practices in teleworking
While teleworking does have its challenges, with the right strategies and working arrangements, you can be successful:
1. Prepare to design new approaches
You’ll have to rethink your approach to work if you want teleworking to be successful. Now that your employees are working from a space they find most comfortable, lines can get a little blurred.
Some will excel at getting work done early in the morning, while others might be night owls and prefer to get work done in the evening. Clocking everybody’s working hours will prove to be a little difficult, so make sure deadlines are clearly communicated.
You’ll also need to keep in mind your employee’s personal life and working conditions away from the office. Some might have to juggle childcare and looking after their family while doing work, so try to adopt a more flexible working approach.
Keep options open for full-time and part-time work, and don’t be too stringent on working hours. As long as deadlines are being met (and it’s made a clear expectation), it will all work out.
2. Design appropriate training and development opportunities
Working remotely requires new skills and a slightly better handle on tech. Make sure your employees are up to speed with the tech they’re using so they can do their job properly.
Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean training opportunities should fly out the window, either! Continue to give employees training and development opportunities so they can upskill and become experts in their field. It’s also important to show them that you’re supportive of their journey and career development.
3. Ensure enough social interactions
Social interaction is one of the main niggles you’ll face when teleworking. This won’t be that hard for some (like introverts) but everyone needs a little bit of face-to-face interaction to function.
Be sure to work in virtual events and in-person meet-ups where your team can bond. During regular workdays, make sure you’re using a range of channels to communicate with your team, and use collaboration tools, too. Don’t just rely on phone and SMS. Incorporate things like video calls and video conferencing to keep everyone feeling connected.
4. Train workers to cope
Teleworkers won’t always have it easy. There’ll be times when they’re juggling their family and private life with work, and days when they experience burn-out. Reassure them that it’s completely normal to feel that way and that your door is always open.
Train your employees to create a great work-life balance, so they can feel refreshed in their day-to-day work routines. Talk about healthy habits and be open about the importance of mental health—it will show them that you care.
5. Monitor teleworking and act quickly
Above all, continue to monitor your team’s teleworking journey and how they’re responding to the new challenges. Send out regular surveys and try to get as much feedback as possible.
As soon as you spot any niggles or disturbances, be sure to address them and let your employees know that you’re always open to suggestions.
The pandemic might have made teleworking more popular, but it was a trend that was already taking hold. Its flexibility, versatility, and ability to widen doors for recruitment make it an enticing choice for many businesses.
Are there challenges? Telework has a few, but with a solid game plan, you’ll be able to do it successfully.
Originally published Nov 25, 2021