Home and remote working have been talked about for years as a way of giving employees better working conditions and lowering travel costs – in fact, a lot of job seekers these days actively look for roles where it’s available. For employers, home and remote working can help cut office costs, reduce sick days and help businesses stay functioning when bad weather and transport problems make travelling difficult. But many employers still aren’t getting the most out of home working and remote staff. Some businesses worry about employees ‘slacking’ if they’re not in the office during working hours. Others find it difficult to set up reliable technology solutions without spending a fortune. So how can you make home and remote working a success for you and your people?

Formalise it

Having home and remote working guidelines or a formal flexible working policy can really help both you and your staff see the benefits. You’ll need to take into account the legal requirement for employers to consider flexible working requests when developing these (there’s more information at Gov.uk). When you’re writing your guidelines, think about how you might want home and remote working to function in reality. Ask yourself questions like:
  • Can everyone work remotely or from home, or isn’t it appropriate for some roles?
  • Do you want people to have been with the business for a certain length of time before they can start home or remote working?
  • How much can people work remotely or from home each week/month? Do they need to be in the office for certain days or core working hours?
  • What hours do you expect them to be working when they’re not in the office? (For example, some people might want to do the school run and then carry on working after the kids have gone to bed.)
Your guidelines should also make your employees’ responsibilities clear too. They might need to respond to phone calls, messages and emails as quickly as they do in the office, say, or you might always expect them to be involved in certain meetings (either in person, by video conference or phone). Regular appraisals and meetings with line managers can help make sure that things are on track, or tackle any problems quickly. Finally, it’s absolutely vital that your staff know about your home and remote working policies and guidelines – nobody will see the benefits if these aren’t properly communicated.

Choose your tech

A lot of businesses take an ad hoc approach to setting up home and remote working comms, which often means that there’s no budget set aside and the technology doesn’t work properly. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make home and remote working a success, but setting aside some cash for investment makes the whole process easier. Here are just a few of the technologies that can make it work, none of which have to cost a fortune.
  • Cloud computing. If you’ve got apps, data and documents stored in the cloud then your people can access them from pretty much anywhere – and there are plenty of other benefits too.
  • A Virtual Private Network (VPN). This gives your workers secure access to your office network from home or a remote location.
  • Video conferencing. When only face-to-face will do, video conferencing can provide that link. Various business solutions are available with different price tags, as well as several well-known and inexpensive internet-based services.
  • Instant messaging and social media. Apps like Twitter and Skype let your staff communicate immediately with colleagues and customers, wherever they are.

Make connections

However clear your guidelines and whatever technology you’re using to help your employees communicate with the office, home and remote working can be completely derailed by an unreliable broadband connection. The same holds true for people working at home as in an office – if your comms are slow, your connection cuts out or your internet-based services can’t work at their best, your business can’t be productive. Look for a business-grade service that’s fast and robust while still being cost-effective, such as Demon Business Lite+ which is ideal for home workers. And let us know in the comments how home and remote working works for your business!