One of the most prominent, if unintended, consequences of the new role cloud services play in contemporary IT is that remote work has become more possible and popular than ever before. A new array of hosted unified communications (UC) technologies is allowing companies' most critical interactions to take place via the Internet rather than through resources that are housed and maintained within the physical office. This means that no matter where an employee is, he or she can access the business's most important tools and workloads on any Web-connected device. As cloud PBX and VoIP become the phone services of choice for today's firms and online meetings have taken over as the standard collaboration tool, telework has grown increasingly easy.
The benefits of remote work for both employer and employee are clear: Staff members get to carry out their duties in more flexible ways, decrease commute times and find the right work-life balance, while the business benefits from the resulting increase in employee productivity and satisfaction. But telework has its own set of challenges, and although the issues that may arise are different than those of the traditional office setting, they demand just as much attention from managers.
Here are three ways you can help employees at your small or mid-sized business who telework on a permanent or occasional basis to get the most out of working remotely, while also ensuring that your SMB gets the optimal return on its flexible policies.
1. Give them mobile capabilities
The habits of today's professionals have been deeply impacted by the business mobile trend. The ability to work on smartphones and tablets has provided a new level of speed and attentiveness, as emails and other critical communications can now be accessed, read and responded to from virtually anywhere. This development can be a considerable boost to employee output - but your SMB must have the technologies in place to promote mobility, and this applies just as much to remote workers as to in-office staff. Without mobile capabilities, telework can be just as confining as more traditional settings and fail to achieve the flexibility your employees want.
Providing all staff, including teleworkers, with business mobile phones can help ensure that your entire team is empowered to work as effectively as possible and ready to meet the challenges of today's always-on professional culture, where clients often expect instantaneous responses.
2. Help them establish a rhythm
For employees who have just made the transition from being in the office full-time to teleworking, establishing a schedule and meeting productivity goals can be difficult, as the parameters of the traditional workday are suddenly stretched. The New Zealand Herald recently spoke with Jochen Daum, who founded Web development firm Automatem and now works exclusively from home. Daum noted that while he finds it surprisingly easy to stay focused while teleworking, digital distractions like social media can be problematic.
"To cope with this I keep a detailed track of my time and and review this at least weekly, with the help of a time tracking tool called WorkflowMax. It has also helped me ensure my work hours are regular - from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, as this establishes clear expectations," Daum told the news source.
While it may not be necessary to insist that teleworkers follow the typical nine-to-five schedule, workflow applications can help them manage their time effectively.
3. Use the right collaboration apps
In telework environments, your employees' ability to collaborate is contingent upon them having tools via which they can connect easily and work productively. As such, small business phone services that are integrated with online meeting tools can be a key asset. And if your staff members share projects frequently, you may need more specialized collaboration apps than consumer-grade tools like Google Docs.