As Australian businesses implement work from home arrangements as part of their business contingency plans, managers need to consider how to accommodate telecommuting arrangements without sacrificing productivity and team dynamics, says one recruitment firm.
According to Robert Half Australia director Nicole Gorton, modern workplaces must allow for flexible working arrangements and uphold a high standard of professionalism and productivity regardless of where the team is situated.
“Although implementing telecommuting may prove more challenging for organisations that have not previously supported remote working options, it is a necessary consideration to ensure business are able to uphold productive workflows, clear communication and positive working culture regardless of external forces,” she said.
In order to assist businesses to establish a framework for successful telecommuting, specialised recruiter Robert Half has prepared five work-from-home management tips:
1. Establish regular catch-up meetings
Communication is central to any working relationship, Ms Gorton said.
“Setting aside time for regular communication is a powerful way to work together – it’s also a faster way to address issues than typing emails on the fly. Moreover, biweekly status calls and regular feedback allow telecommuters know that out of sight is not out of mind,” she argued.
“A regular Skype meeting or phone call can help the team to connect, discuss the progress of projects, share new developments and resolve any issues that could potentially arise. The start of group meetings is also a good time to acknowledge birthdays and encourage people to share personal updates, which in turn helps to uphold staff morale.”
2. Set clear expectations
When it comes to quality and deliverables, Ms Gorton continued, there “should be no difference” between the work an employee performs remotely or when that person is present in the company's office.
“Set equal standards for on-site and off-site professionals in areas such as client service, deadlines, office hours, and response times for emails and phone calls,” she said.
3. Choose the right tech tools
In a virtual environment, technology is everyone’s communication lifeline, she said.
“Slack, Google Hangouts and Skype for Business are some of the platforms employees can use to reach out to colleagues and employers throughout the day. File-hosting services like Dropbox, Google Drive or an in-house system also foster virtual collaboration and information sharing in real time,” Ms Gorton said.
4. Keep virtual team members in the loop
As opposed to remote working, Ms Gorton mused, unscheduled meetings and brainstorming sessions as well as impromptu moments of team bonding can often occur in office working arrangements.
“Managers can do much to help telecommuters and other remote workers feel like part of the team by encouraging virtual discussion boards or video meetings to conduct spur-of-the-moment conversations,” she said.
5. Don’t overlook the needs of on-site workers
“Employees who don’t have the option to telecommute — or may simply prefer working at the office — may miss out on some of the same conveniences of their telecommuting colleagues. For those who are working from the office, consider easing the office dress code, allowing flexible scheduling or offering commuter benefits like subsidised parking or transit passes for those workers,” Ms Gorton concluded.
“To make telecommuting work well for the workforce, employers need to make sure that remote team members never feel left out. Likewise, don’t overlook the need for in-office employees to maintain a better balance between their professional and personal lives and to work in a more relaxed environment.”