SMEs operate on lean manpower, which often translates to the need to engage multiple work-from-home freelancers and external vendors. On top of that, employees working in the office may also have a heavy workload, which can lead to the preference for flexibility in the form of remote working. Millennials are also expected to drive flexible and remote working. In fact, 43% of the US workforce has spent at least some time working remotely, with some of the fastest-growing remote careers including, virtual administration, client services, therapy and tutoring.
With job flexibility being the main draw for employees, it is important for SMEs to learn how to ignite productivity for remote workers to retain talents and improve bottom lines.
Know the team’s golden hours
Being aware of the team’s peak productivity period within the day, week or month is especially important when they are working remotely on a flexible schedule. Employees handling regional work may also be based in, or be on a short business trip in countries that have different time zones. Having the availability schedule of teammates can help a lot in scheduling productive online meetings.
When it comes to remote working, employees may prefer to start work at different times and may also have varying working styles. For example, some may work better in sprints of 2-hour blocks before going offline for a while, while others may prefer to start work early in the morning to end the workday by late afternoon. As such, encouraging employees to make their quiet time public on schedules helps avoid miscommunication and aids in response expectations.
Communicate actively and consciously
Improvements in cloud-based technology and internet connectivity have improved real-time communications. However, body language cues that are unique to face-to-face interactions may still be lost in the process.
As such, a variety of tools supporting text, voice or video chats can be considered. In addition, having a fixed weekly meeting or scheduled call can aid in the enforcement of routine updates. To facilitate real-time work and remind teammates to stay on task, investments in project management tools and other collaboration repositories such as Chanty, Glip, Google Documents and Slack can be in place.
Over time, feedback on what constitutes the most optimal platform can be collected such that firms can decide on what platforms to drop, and what add-ons to include in future.
Many SMEs prioritize the digitalization of consumer-facing paperwork but overlook internal processes. If there are forms and documents that allow digital filing and signatures as opposed to printing it out, filling up, signing, scanning, and uploading, things can be less administratively cumbersome for remote workers who may not have such devices readily available.
Encourage leaders to model behaviour
To overcome isolation for remote workers, encouragement from top-down alone will unlikely be effective. This is especially so as remote workers are typically more concerned with their reporting supervisor and may be less connected with the rest of the firm.
As such, leaders can encourage open communication by reaching out to remote workers to share or clarify information. By engaging remote workers actively, managers can show that they are not out of mind despite being out of sight. This can be a great morale boost to spur job satisfaction.
Set a standard procedure
To prevent time wasted on the redundant back and forth, having a standard template or schedule to refer to will be useful. Basic guidelines detailing the requirements for document submission, quality checks and content revisions can serve as the first layer of guidance. Having a clear set of deliverables helps keep the team on track and accountable.
Measure productivity accurately
Remote workers’ performance should be measured differently as compared to their office counterparts, even if the job scope is similar. This is because the standard measures of being online for a set number of hours a day or being on standby for all client needs may not be an accurate representation of the responsibilities unique to remote workers.
Performance should be measured on a results-oriented basis. The quality and quantity of tasks completed on time is a fairer and more accurate measure of the remote workers’ competency as opposed to the number of hours spent. Measuring and rewarding employees right will improve morale and lead to better outputs.
Ensure equal opportunities
Hard benefits enjoyed by employees include health care screening benefits, annual leave, and more. Soft benefits, on the other hand, include dinner and dance, bonding sessions, team lunches, company anniversary gift bags and more. Managers need to be mindful of the extent in which remote workers will be excluded for soft benefits and find ways to incorporate them.
If remote workers are unable to take part in activities such as a company trip meant to celebrate the exceeding of sales targets that the remote worker also contributed to, other forms of rewards such as time off or a small bonus can also be considered. Such tokens of appreciation will prevent the remote worker from feeling left out or unrecognised.
With 7 in 10 employees in Singapore offering flexible working arrangements, remote working is no longer a foreign concept today. SMEs can afford to break free from previous geographical or cost restrictions in manpower by tapping on the gig economy.
When considering small investments for productivity, microloans or business loans to boost working capital can be considered. P2P lending is one of the business financing options available.
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