Working Remotely

Working Remotely: The Starter Pack

Do you know what the original title for this blog post was? “5 Places to Work Remotely Other than a Café.” We even got all creative and actually came up with possible locations for working remotely if (somehow) you’re unable to find a Starbucks.

And then we realized something. Who cares?

Seriously. Does the location for working remotely matter? It’s not like you’re driving around aimlessly, hopped up on caffeine, ready to pound out some work but resolved to do it somewhere other than your office or a coffee shop.

No one has done that in the history of ever.

It doesn’t matter where you work remotely. It matters that you’re able to work remotely if and when you need to. So we scrapped our (pretty lame) first draft and decided to change focus.

Let’s talk about why working remotely is important and what it takes to pull it off.

Why does working remotely matter?

Jason Fried is the co-founder and CEO of Basecamp. In a recent interview for Forbes, he explained why working remotely is important for both employees and employers.

From the employee side, some people really do work better in solitude. If you could get significantly more high-quality work from one of your employees just by letting them log in from home, why not do it? It’s a win for everyone.

For employers, hiring remote staff means dramatically increasing the available talent pool. You’re no longer limited to skilled workers in the Hill Country. You could hire someone who lives in Seattle if they’re the right person for the position. You get to pick from the best, not just the best who happen to be local.

We’ll add a third reason why working remotely is important. Sometimes it’s a pragmatic necessity. Someone’s kid is sick. The AC repair guy is coming by. You’re on the road for a conference but still need to take client calls.

Whether you intend to embrace working remotely as a standard, all-the-time policy or only as needed, it’s a viable and increasingly recommended business approach.

The challenge of working remotely.

Even as epic as working remotely can be for employee and employer, it’s not without its challenges. All kind of things can go wrong when telecommuting, from technical issues to team isolation and fragmentation.

Zapier has a great article on some of the most common challenges, along with tips for overcoming them. We highly recommend it if you’re new to the idea of working remotely. As for this post, we’re a managed services provider. We tend to think of the technical side of things.

In terms of IT solutions, the hardest thing about working remotely is making sure you have the right tools. The growing trend of business-class cloud solutions makes that possible hiccup a lot easier to deal with.

Cloud-based tools make working remotely as easy as working from the office—if the right bases are covered. Before you let members of your staff work from home for even one day, make sure they have remote access to the basic tools they use every day (like Office 365), as well as some kind of plan for communication with the rest of the company. That can range from a simple chat program to a full-blown unified communications solution.

Take working remotely to the next level.

If you’re serious about setting your employees free to work remotely, you’re going to need more than Office 365, cell phones and Slack. You’re going to need a complete strategy for telecommuting.

Make sure you take into account the following areas.

Formal Written Documentation

Every employee needs to know what the rules are for working remotely. Include expectations, accountability and any form of monitoring you intend to utilize.

Employee Feedback

Ask managers and employees about their experience of working remotely. Find out what’s good about it and what could be better.

A Complete Technology Toolbox

You can get away with random work-from-home days with piecemeal technical solutions. But if you’re going to make this a regular occurrence, you need to ensure that folks are just as well equipped out of the office as they are there.

Regular Reviews

Track employee performance, cost, retention and any other related metrics. You might even consider bringing in a technology consultant to help evaluate what works and where there are opportunities for improvement.

Do what works for you.

We’d like to close with something we think of as a given. Just because working remotely is trendy right now does not mean it’s something you have to embrace. If it works for your company, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Employees tend to like the idea of working remotely, but that alone doesn’t make it a good fit for your business.

Like any other business decision, think about the pros and cons. Employee satisfaction is a factor, but so are other critical aspects like productivity and collaboration. There’s no right or wrong approach to working remotely.

Ultimately, whatever works best for you is the best solution for your business.