Covid-19. I’m sick of the sight of you.
You’ve stopped me from seeing my family. You’ve taken away my freedom, and you’ve filled me with anxiety every time I leave the house.
But you have done one thing, which I am grateful for.
You’ve given me more time with my partner, Mark.
Mark heads up the development team for a digital agency called Tribus. He used to spend over 3 hours a day, 5 days a week driving. Just to sit in their office.
Two weeks before the lockdown hit, Tribus had the foresight to tell their staff, Mark included, to make sure they had their laptops, keyboards, mouses, and internet connections sorted, ready to work from home for the foreseeable future.
And, although everything is starting to slowly open back up again in the UK, Mark is still with me, at home, working.
But for how much longer?
As companies are preparing to re-open their office doors and allow their staff to stream back in, many workers, 70% in fact (Mark being one of them), are feeling glum about the return to ‘normal working practices’.
Back to the stressful commute. Back to the arguments over air-con, the petty politics, the rubbish lunches, and struggling to prioritize anything but work and commuting.
If you’re one of the 70% that feels this way, this article is for you.
I work for Process Street; a fully remote company with employees spread out across the entire world. I’ve been working from home, on a permanent basis, for a while. Way before the virus hit.
I’m living proof that working from home doesn’t need to be a temporary measure to combat Covid, it can be a permanent solution.
But the decision to replace your physical office with a virtual one is a big one. And it’s one that your boss is likely to need a helping hand with.
So, with my direct experience and first-hand knowledge of how working from home works, I’ll take you through the following:
- The top 3 reasons why your boss should consider remote working
- The 4 key things your boss needs to do go remote
- How to address your bosses remote working concerns
Armed with this article, you’ll be able to present a solid case for working from home that will convince your boss that a remote workforce can (and does) work.
The top 3 reasons why your boss should consider remote working
So, the benefits of working from home are obvious. Right? No commute, more time, more flexibility, fewer distractions, less stress, and no arguments over air-con.
But what about your boss? What benefits will they get from allowing their workforce to work from home?
They will save money by shutting down the office
If they don’t have an office, they don’t need to pay for it. That means no extortionate rent, no utility bills, and no property taxes.
They won’t need to pay for cleaners or maintenance and they won’t need to provide tea, coffee, sugar, or toilet roll for their staff.
The average cost savings your boss could make, by shutting down the office, can be up to $10,000 (£8,000) per employee, per year.
In fact, IBM, pioneers in remote working, slashed its real estate costs by $50 million when they went fully distributed.
They’re likely to experience fewer absentees
I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to you or your boss, but 78% of employees who call in sick, aren’t really sick.
People tend to call in sick because of family issues, personal needs, and stress.
But these unscheduled absences will be costing your boss around $1,800 (£1,400) per employee, per year!
The flexibility that remote working offers, gives staff the chance to fit their working hours around their personal lives. There’s no need to call in sick when your washing machine breaks for the fifth time that week, and you need to stay at home, again, for the plumber. There’s no need to take half a day off to visit the dentist or doctors.
Studies have also shown that remote workers often return to work quicker, following surgery, than their office counterparts, and that when they do get sick (for real), they’re more likely to continue to work (with the added bonus of not infecting anyone else).
They will see higher productivity levels
According to research, remote employees completed nearly an extra day’s worth of work every week compared to their in-office colleagues. That’s nearly 10 weeks extra per year!
Staff naturally become more productive when working from home.
For a start, they have more time in their day. With no commute to make, remote workers can save up to 5.5 hours a day.
Going back to my boyfriend’s situation, before Covid-19, his contracted working hours were 9 am – 5.30pm. With the mammoth commute he had to make each day, he’d arrive at 9 on the dot, and leave bang on 5.30 (providing there were no live issues of course).
Nowadays, he springs out of bed at 7 am, cycles for an hour, and hits his desk at 8.30, ready and raring to go. Not only that, but he’ll happily work past 5.30, if and when he feels like it.
With no commute, he feels less stressed. He’s the most energized and motivated about work than I’ve ever seen him. He has fewer distractions like the endless tea-rounds and water-cooler gossip (which are costing businesses around $600 billion a year by the way). He can get his head down and power through his work without any pesky “can I borrow you for a sec?” interruptions.
And it’s not only him that feels this way. A massive 65% of workers say they get more work done when they’re working from home, and 80% of remote workers say they manage unproductive interruptions from co-workers better when they’re at home than when they’re in the office.
So hopefully your boss can see the direct benefits that they’re likely to get from enabling their staff to work from home.
But the next question they’re likely to have is; how can they sustain running a fully remote company successfully, fulltime?
The 4 key things your boss needs to do go remote
The uncertainty we found ourselves thrown into, when we first went into lockdown, must have made decision making at the top of the tree incredibly difficult.
Many bosses might have found themselves emotionally and physically scarred by the whole remote working experience.
Having to suddenly, and quickly, find new ways to communicate, keep track of employees, ensure tasks get done, and keep the company profitable must have been daunting, not to mention stressful.
But remote working doesn’t need to be tough or overwhelming for your boss.
Not if they research, plan, and build a solid structure that harnesses the benefits of remote working.
To help your boss do this, there are four key areas they should put into practice:
Instill core company values
Some organizations see company values as nothing more than a tick box exercise. A way to create some sort of identity and culture.
To be honest, as an employee, I never paid much attention to company values, until now.
For a remote company, they’re an essential way to keep employees on the right path. Having strong company values, that everyone knows and understands, helps employees become self-sufficient. It keeps them focused on doing the right things, at the right times.
For instance, Process Street has the following six core values, that we’re taught when we first join the company and are reminded of on a regular basis, to keep them fresh in our minds and focused.
- Act like an owner: Be accountable and responsible for your work and your actions.
- Practice prioritization: Focus on the important tasks that drive the biggest results and don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Default to action: Be proactive, if you think you maybe should do it, just do it!
- Pay attention to the details: Actively look for mistakes and make your work the best it can be.
- Over-communicate everything, twice: Communicate more than you feel is normal, pre-empt questions, and practice asynchronous communication.
- Focus on the process: Make sure you follow the process. Without processes, tasks wouldn’t get done, mistakes would be made, people wouldn’t know what to do, and the company would be a mess.
I’m constantly reminded of these values, and if I’m ever struggling with something, a quick review of them sets me right back on track.
Create and monitor processes
If your boss is trying to run a company remotely, they’ll need to make sure their employees are a) completing their tasks, b) completing them in the right way, and c) completing them as efficiently as possible.
They need to be able to see how the organization is progressing, without having to ask each and every one of their staff.
If they don’t have this reassurance, they’ll never get any sleep (and you’ll never get a pay rise).
So, how do they get this reassurance?
By creating processes for employees to follow, and finding a way to easily manage and keep track of their progress through these processes.
Processes establish how important tasks should get done. They form the structure of an organization. Processes keep mistakes to a minimum by making sure that everything is done in a systematic, organized, and efficient way.
So, if your boss creates processes for how tasks and activities should be completed and they’re able to keep track of their employee’s progress through these processes – they’ll rest easy.
How do they do that though?
There are hundreds of ways to create, manage, and track processes. From using free tools like Google Docs, to easy-to-use business process management (BPM) platforms, like Process Street.
I’d suggest researching what’s available and shortlisting the top three process management platforms and tools that are affordable, easy to use, and can be accessed by everyone in the company.
Show them to your boss…and await your imminent payrise!
Install instant messaging software
Emails are used by 95% of organizations as their primary form of internal communication.
I have no idea why.
Emails are slow and they encourage unnecessary waffle.
Well, I’m being a little harsh. There is a time and place for emails, like if you’re communicating with customers or outside suppliers, but they have no place in internal comms.
Most internal communication at Process Street is done via the instant messaging platform, Slack. The WhatsApp of the corporate world.
Why do we use this over email?
Because it’s instant. It’s like chatting to someone. Without the ability to physically talk to someone in the office, instant messaging is the next best thing.
You can chat one-on-one or in a group. You can attach files, documents, and images. You can add emoji’s to convey emotions. It’s safe and secure. It’s cheaper than facilitating phone calls and it’s less disruptive.
It’s the best way to communicate with the team, and it’s a must for any remote company.
Trust their employees
“If I can’t see you, you’re not really working”
This is one of the biggest reasons companies shy away from remote working. If you’re at home, you’re not going to do any work. You’re going to spend all day watching TV, or sunbathing in the garden, or doing chores…you’ll be doing anything but work.
But, at the end of the day, the work needs to get done. Regardless of where you do it. If it’s not done, there will be consequences – whether you’re at home or at work. It makes no difference.
So bosses need to let go of this mentality and not drive themselves crazy trying to monitor what their employees are doing every minute of the day.
At Process Street, no one cares how many hours I work as long as I attend my meetings, and I hit my deadlines. That’s it. It’s up to me how I manage my time. I find this attitude refreshing, rewarding, and incredibly motivating.
It makes me work more, not less.
So, those are four key areas that your boss will need to wrap their head around and put into practice if they want to set-up a successful remote workforce.
But, despite knowing the benefits of having a remote workforce and how to set one up, they’re bound to have lingering concerns over this ‘new’ way of working.
The trick is how to address those concerns.
How to address your bosses WFH concerns
Time for the truth.
Your boss probably understands and likes the benefits of working from home; afterall, what’s not to like?
But, they may have read, experienced, or heard a few horror stories about remote working that they’re struggling to ignore.
Let’s address the three biggest concerns that your boss is likely to have, so you can be ready to counter-argue them when they come up.
Which they will.
What about loneliness?
Despite what your boss might think, only 42% of remote workers feel lonely.
Thankfully, I’m not one of these.
I think that’s because the team regularly checks in with each other. We communicate daily on slack, we have meetings and 121’s each week, and I feel connected to my team – even though I’ve never met them.
So, if communication is encouraged, loneliness won’t be an issue.
What about a lack of productivity?
We’ve already established that productivity increases when people work from home. But it’s bound to remain a niggle in the back of your boss’s head because it plays such an important part in the success or failure of an organization.
As we now know, remote workers find it easier to ignore distractions from their co-workers, but what about ignoring the distractions they face at home?
Distractions such as the TV, the weekly shop, the washing up, family members popping round, or the dog wanting a walk.
It takes discipline to physically shut the door on those distractions. But that’s what employees who work from home do.
Show your boss that you have what it takes to manage distractions. Try the following:
Get yourself a routine
When I first started working from home, I felt liberated over the freedom it gave me. Noone was monitoring my time. No one cared if I started work at 9 am or 3 pm. It was up to me.
But I soon realized that I needed a routine. I needed structure, otherwise, I’d sort of drift through the day feeling out of sync and unproductive.
So I found myself reverting back to the old routine, that was enforced upon me, when I was office-bound.
I now start at 9 am and finish around 5.30 pm every day. It means I can get up, do my work, and get through my day without thinking about time, which allows me to focus on writing.
Learn to manage your distractions
Studies show that interruptions can take up to 238 minutes from your working day.
I know I can’t settle if my kitchen is a mess. So I do the washing up every morning before I start work.
I know if I don’t go for a run first thing, I will spend the day obsessing over it. So I get up and run as soon as I wake up.
I know if I start watching an addictive TV show on my lunch break, I’ll find it difficult to stop. So I limit myself to 20mins and watch something only vaguely interesting.
Learn what your distractions are, and put preventive measures in place to stop them from ruining your productivity.
Post a mid-day work update
Each day I post an update to the whole team, to let everyone know what I’m working on that day, and what I plan to work on the following day.
It not only gives them reassurance about what I’m working on, but it also makes me feel better. I’ve committed to something and if I don’t get it done, I’ll be accountable. This pushes me to stay focused.
Use a time management app
I don’t personally do this, but I’ve heard from others that this works wonders. If you have a weakness for social media and can, sometimes unknowingly, spend hours scrolling through Reddit, Facebook, or YouTube, install an app like Time Doctor that limits your time on social media.
What about collaboration?
This is a good one. Getting people together and collaborating on projects and tasks is an essential part of everyday work. The best ideas, plans, outcomes, and results are achieved when people work together.
So your boss is probably wondering how they can expect to achieve the same collaborative results when the team is working in different locations?
This is how:
Store everything centrally
They will need to make sure that all files, documents, budgets, and plans are stored in one central place that everyone has access to. This makes it easy for people to work together on the same things at the same time.
Use communication tools
As we discussed earlier, tools like slack make collaborative communication flow easily and naturally. Utilize video calls too so that teams can see each other and talk freely.
Create an open environment
During one of our weekly team calls, we have an open forum where we review and discuss each other’s work. It feels exactly the same as if we were all sitting together in a meeting room. We share our screens, we can see each other, and we feel able to give honest and open feedback and work together to improve our work and get better results.
So that’s it! My aim with this post was to give you some honest, practical insight into what it’s like working from home and how you and your boss can make it work if you want to.
One last thing to remember before I go; it takes time to research, set up, and cultivate a conducive virtual environment, so don’t expect your boss to say yes to remote working immediately.
They may want to phase it in gradually or trial it for 6 months. Either way, I hope this article has given you and your boss somewhere to start.