Remote workforces create problems, but these problems are not the ones that firm leaders are concerned about right now. I have never seen so many people terrified of a working environment, as I’ve seen over the past month with employees sent home to work. Firm leaders are panicked about productivity and work ethic, which I find hilarious because you are essentially saying that you don’t trust your employees. You don’t trust them to do the same job at home because you aren’t there to monitor their every move. If you don’t trust your employees, why did you hire them in the first place?!
As someone who has worked remotely and managed teams remotely for almost 15 years, I can honestly say that not only do I get more done at home, but I also work way more than I do in an office environment, seven days a week. Sure, someone might take a break to go throw a load of laundry in, or their afternoon break is now a jog around the neighborhood, but these “breaks” happened in the office environment too. Now, individuals have the opportunity to be just slightly more productive with their workday breaks. Additionally, it is so much easier to be productive without someone at your door every five minutes asking questions or the typical office distractions. As a firm leader, you should be thrilled with the increase in efficiency from those working from home.
Even with all of the positive changes to productivity in a work from home environment, there are some hidden dangers in transitioning to a remote workforce not considered:
1. Culture – So many firms have culture as their top priority for their firm, yet when anyone transitions to a remote workforce, this is one of the first areas to struggle. Culture is all about open communication and your staff buying into the firm’s vision as their own. Culture is all about feeling like you are part of a larger goal and that your work plays a role in that vision. When your entire workforce is at home, sure, they are getting more work done, but this puts them on an island where communication because sparse. To not lose out on the culture that your firm worked so hard to build, you must ramp up communication. Communication must increase at all levels so that no one is left to feel like they are on their own on an island.
2. Accuracy – Yes, people might be getting more done, but without the resources that they are used to inside of an office, the accuracy of the work may start to fall off. Establishing ways to communicate questions, when those should be delivered, and to whom is extremely important when you no longer have the infrastructure of an office. Utilizing options like instant messaging can become cumbersome to the one responding to the questions if there aren’t rules put in place on communication. Firms have to find a balance in providing resources to those at home and not overtaxing those resources as they try to work.
3. Burnout – This is a massive problem with a work from home environment that does not seem to be on anyone’s radar. When individuals transition to a remote environment, it is hard to set boundaries, especially if the firm does not appropriately set them. When your work is always there, you can find yourself always working. When a manager or partner sends an email late at night, the recipient may feel the need to respond because they see the email or hear the ” ding ” of it coming into their email box immediately. Firms need to communicate what the expectations are for working from home. Do you expect people to work certain hours of the day? Do you expect a particular productivity and are not concerned with the hours in which it gets completed? What are your expectations for a response outside of regular business hours?
Setting up a remote workforce can be a challenge, but many companies have worked successfully in this environment for years. One of the biggest keys to a successful remote workforce is communication. I can’t say this enough; over-communication is the key to success when working from home. This can be extremely difficult as it is a significant change for so many from the office environment in which they are used to working, but setting up more individual calls where open dialogue can take place is incredibly important.
If a remote setup is in your firm’s long-term plans, make sure to consider these three overlooked areas when developing your processes and procedures. Once you communicate these steps correctly, the last request is to trust your people. You hired your employees for a reason, so trust in that reason and trust that they will continue to provide the same level work as they did in the office until they give you a reason not to trust them.
The bottom line, if you want success from a remote workforce, the two things you need are TRUST and COMMUNICATION. Build your foundation on these two pieces, and you may find that your remote work environment is even more successful than your office environment!