One of the biggest recent shifts in corporate culture is the rise of remote working—otherwise known as telecommuting. “Clocking in” is now, for many, a figurative phrase, as technology enables more people to avoid the commute, and work from home instead. Research from IWG shows that 70% of people around the world work remotely at least once a week, with others predicting this practice will rival traditional offices by 2025.
This way of working has numerous benefits, such as greater productivity, reduced costs for both businesses and employees, and a better work-life balance. However, certain issues can still arise, from loneliness to a lack of accountability among employees. Luckily, these aren’t insurmountable and can be easily solved if you adapt as a business owner.
With telecommuters often spending their working days all alone, they are more likely to feel lonely than office workers. In fact, according to Buffer’s 2018 State of Remote Work report, it is the joint biggest struggle faced by remote workers, alongside a lack of communication. This can have a knock-on effect, leading to stress, depression and various physical health issues.
To counter loneliness, you should aim to reduce your business’s reliance on communication methods like email, instant messaging, and texting, all of which can create invisible walls owing to the lack of face-to-face interaction. Arrange regular conference calls using applications like FaceTime and Zoom, while encouraging staff to actually meet in person from time-to-time.
This is possible even if you don’t have a permanent physical office—why not get employees to convene in places like cafes or libraries, or even hire out professional spaces for more important meetings? Many companies also offer monthly memberships for professional business lounges located across the UK, free for your employees to use whenever they need. With dedicated collaboration and social spaces included, they are another way to counter the loneliness often experienced by remote workers.
Remote working can also put valuable business data at risk, particularly when employees use their own devices, networks, and cybersecurity methods instead of those set up by the company. In fact, statistics from Apricorn show that almost all (95%) UK organisations have experienced cybersecurity issues related to remote working. For instance, some individuals may use public Wi-Fi, which is much easier for hackers to target than a private network, while others simply don’t implement basic protective measures, such as using strong passwords. The Apricorn survey also found that almost one in five businesses don’t believe that their employees care about cybersecurity.
However, there are certain steps businesses can take to ensure telecommuters keep company data safe. The first port of call is to establish—or update—the company’s acceptable use policy. This should outline what the employees’ responsibilities are when accessing company data on personal devices, and how exactly they can protect it. Effective strategies include prohibiting the use of public Wi-Fi, restricting exactly what they can access on personal devices, and utilising multi-factor authentication. This is where two or more forms of proof—like a password, a pin and biometrics—are required to access company resources. You should also invest in mobile security software that detects and prevents threats like malware, phishing, and crypto-jacking, remote wipe technology to let you remotely delete valuable information if a device is compromised, and device encryption to prevent unauthorised individuals from accessing company data.
Lack of accountability and transparency
It is much harder to create an accountable and transparent company culture when employees don’t work in the same office. You’re unable to physically see if they’re actually working, or visit their desk to gain their attention, which can leave you in the dark as to exactly how employees are spending their time. Conversely, the desire among remote workers to be visible and prove they’re being productive can actually cause them to overwork, causing unnecessary stress. How exactly do you create an accountable and transparent culture without resorting to micromanagement?
A simple technique is to ask employees for regular deliverables, such as a written summary of their day’s work, or screenshots of their progress on a project. A project management system is another great way to create accountability, as this lets you assign specific tasks to individuals and monitor how they’re doing. This also gives the whole team an overview of what everybody else is working on at any given time, thus helping to create transparency. Another useful approach is to get employees to use time tracking software that shows you precisely how their hours are being spent. This makes workers accountable and prevents them from feeling obliged to do more than they need to, by providing concrete evidence of the work they’re putting in.