Working from home is all about adequate communication and seamless data sharing. If your workers are feeling “out of touch” when they work from home, or unable to perform certain regular tasks because of a communications problem or a lack of infrastructure, then everyone would be better off if they just came in to the office.
Here are a few ways you can handle communications with remote staff:
- Keep them in the loop – Make sure that nobody feels they don’t have to attend a meeting because they’re working from home. Make sure it’s easy for them to dial in or Skype in, and put in place desktop sharing software (many free options are available). Don’t wait for someone to come back in to the office to give them information. If you build a culture of treating remote employees like they are in the office, it will spread.
- Schedule regular conference calls – Once a week will do, but make sure there is still some time when your entire team gets together to talk about current projects, issues, or admin. This is important not only from a communication point of view, but also to keep teams working effectively together.
- Remember your telephone/email manners – Tone of voice is not carried by emails, and body language is not conveyed over the phone. It’s very easy to take something said off the cuff in an email or phone conversation out of context – this makes it a challenge not to alienate remote workers, and not to make enemies of people working in different locations.
What internal services should you put in place to support them?
There are a number of infrastructure points you need to make sure are in place. Some of these are:
- Email Exchange Server – This is an essential component of flexible working. POP3 will simply not provide enough flexibility and collaboration – you need to be able to share email, calendars, lists and data all the time, and you can’t wait for someone to forward you a document you need before you can start working in the morning.
- Virtual Desktops – Also as important as centralized email and file serving, a virtual desktop allows people to log in to their “work PC” wherever they are in the world, from a variety of devices. This technology, more than all others, has made it easy for people to be as effective at home as they are in the office.
- Give everyone a Blackberry – It doesn’t have to be a Blackberry, but they are relatively inexpensive to issue to staff in large numbers, and you pay very little for services like email and messaging (nothing, to be exact). They are also powerful tools, and with the right business mobile plan you can pay very little for your employees to be completely connected via email, phone and instant messaging, wherever they are in the world.