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Remote work is on the rise. An Otago University study of more than 2500 Kiwis last year found nearly 40% of those who worked remotely during the Covid-19 lockdown had never worked from home before. Not only that, but 89% wanted to continue to work remotely, at least part time.
And it’s not just Kiwis heading home for work. The same trend can be seen around the world, with the number of remote workers rising by 159% since 2009, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
This has its benefits, with most remote workers finding they’re more productive without the commute and distractions that come with heading to the office. But there are plenty of challenges, too – and if left to fester, they can put your business at a disadvantage.
Here’s how to use smart technology and strategies to keep you and your team working well, no matter where you are.
Working remotely means colleagues can’t stop by your desk for a chat and you won’t happen to overhear what’s happening with another project. That’s great if it helps you get more done, but not if it means you miss out on important information.
Luckily, you don’t need to work on your own just because you’re outside the office. Having the right tools and technology helps keep teams connected when it matters, and means you can stay informed from a distance.
Cloud-based tools, such as Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace , mean co-workers can collaborate more easily and access information and documents they need from anywhere, at any time.
The right software can also save you significant time. For example, Burger King saved more than nine hours a week by digitising their purchase order and dispatch processes, using Olympic’s cloud-based DX2.
Keep in mind your organisation will change over time, so it would be a good idea to find a solution that can grow alongside your business and adjust to your needs. For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central helps manage day-to-day business activities from accounting to project management, and suits most medium to large businesses in New Zealand.
Remember, having more tools isn’t always better, so be careful not to go overboard. By keeping technology streamlined to just what your organisation needs, you’ll avoid overwhelming your team and improve productivity.
Some people find it easy to be productive when working from home. Others find the extra freedom daunting, and are prone to check social media every 10 minutes or stop to see what’s in the fridge (again).
To help you stay focused when working remotely, try taking the structure of office life home with you.
Keeping the same start time, break times and finish times can help, as can having a ritual that marks the beginning and end of the work day. For instance, you might start your day with a coffee, and end it by making a list of what you want to accomplish the following work day.
It’s also important to still feel professional while working from home. That means getting dressed properly each day, rather than staying in your pyjamas until lunchtime. While you might not dress exactly as you would for the office, looking presentable enough to answer the door and hop on a video call can help you stay productive at home.
Working well remotely isn’t just about staying on task – downtime is important for productivity too. Unfortunately, being constantly connected to work emails and notifications can make it hard to switch off, especially when your home is also where you work.
To create distance between work and leisure time, it’s helpful to have a set office space at home.
This could be a home office in its own room, or simply a desk that’s only used during work hours. This makes it much easier to switch off at the end of the day than if you’ve been working at the kitchen counter or dining room table.
Wherever you set up your workspace, take time to make it your own. Adding plants, art and other decorative items makes it a more enjoyable place to work, helping you feel energised and productive.
Finally, having an after-work ritual can help you transition from work to being off the clock. This can be as simple as noting down your top priorities for the next day. A change of scene can also work wonders. For example, heading outdoors for some fresh air or going to the gym helps signify it’s time to relax – helping you recharge so you can continue to work effectively the next day.
Being part of an office is more than just work – there are coffee breaks, morning teas, birthday celebrations and after-work drinks. So working from home can feel a little lonely – and it’s easy to lose some of the team interactions that help you feel fulfilled in your work and stay productive.
But it’s possible to keep socialising with colleagues, even at a distance. You can still ‘meet’ your team for a casual morning tea or drinks on a Friday with a social video call.
It’s also important to make an effort to connect with people one-on-one, despite the distance. So if there’s someone on your team who you get along well with, book in some time for a video call to get to know each other better. This is the virtual equivalent of asking if they’d like to grab a coffee with you.
For remote workers to have a thriving relationship with their teams, it’s important for their managers to encourage this.
Social interactions at work aren’t a waste of time – they improve productivity and communication, and help keep people happy in their jobs. Remote workers should be encouraged to interact with their team members outside of conversations about work, to help keep the company culture ticking.
Without the green-light from their boss, people can easily feel guilty for having friendly banter with a colleague on a video call. So if you’re in charge of managing remote workers, make sure they know you support these connections.
Designate online forums for discussions that aren’t work related – like a place where everyone can share photos of their pets while working from home. You can also ask everyone to book in one coffee chat a month with a co-worker they don’t interact with day-to-day, or have someone organise regular social calls with the team.