Male Mountain Climber with ComputerWe don’t need surveys to know a lot of people work from home these days. The real challenge is knowing how to make it work — for both employees and employers.

Starting today, CMSWire catches up with three business leaders in the Remote Working World who have each discovered strategies that work and others that don't. 

We begin with Rebecca Tann, vice president of marketing for Regus, which conducted a flexible workspace study this fall.

Industry Surprises

Rebecca Tann 2 (2).jpgWhen asked by CMSWire which numbers from her organization’s survey surprised her, Tann cited a few:

  • Managing people at a distance works. Almost most half of US workers (47 percent) work remotely for at least half of the week. But managing those workers is an art that requires special training. Half of respondents (49 percent) report that seamless remote management is only achievable with additional training.
  • Trust is huge. A total of 54 percent of the managers responding worry about the ways remote workers spend their time.
  • Work-life balance rewards. Respondents (52 percent) believe remote working at least some of the time helps people switch off at the end of the day, which ultimately improves work-life balance. “This is a bit counter-intuitive to our always-on, plugged-in lifestyle,” Tann told us, “but having quick access to work also makes it easier to walk away.”

Tann said the survey is unique because it examines managers’ perceptions of remote working, remote management and what practices their business uses to facilitate remote working,

More than 26,000 respondents from more than 90 countries were interviewed for the survey this past January. Sourced from Regus’ global contacts database of more than 1 million business people worldwide, they were primarily senior managers and business owners.

What’s Working?

To establish a successful remote working environment, managers need training and reporting systems to monitor the efficiency of remote teams. 

What are successful companies doing for their remote staff? To help remote employees, some companies provide staff with access to drop-in professional workspaces close to their homes or at locations that fit their travel itineraries. This provides them with the combination of locality and a professional working environment that may be necessary to complete certain work, Tann said.

Of course, it is worth noting that Regus is a provider of flexible workplace solutions including temporary offices and meeting rooms.

“In addition to a space, companies are ensuring that employees have the most up-to-date technology,” Tann said. “They’re also encouraging them to use video conferencing to provide more continuity than phone calls.”

Managers: Establish Goals, Communicate

Managers have to set clear goals and measure outputs to analyze which elements of the remote work process are most important and how optimal outcomes are achieved. “Reporting systems that allow employees to effectively monitor their work have proven successful,” Tann said.

Additionally, as a leader with her own remote team, Tann told CMSWire she lives by these simple rules:

  • Engage and communicate. Keep the lines of communication open because dialogue helps to  mitigate miscommunication and failed outcomes.
  • Motivate and encourage. Cultivate a team environment, especially if your team is geographically dispersed. Having a sense of belonging to something larger than a one-man island promotes accountability, responsibility and provides a sense of support, rather than an “every man for himself” attitude.
  • Become goal-oriented. Goals should be specific and reflect quantifiable end-results rather than processes or hours devoted to a specific project.

Employees: Establish Boundaries

Remote employees must do their part, too, to establish successful environments that will benefit their organizations.

“There are a lot of distractions to consider when working from home,” Tann said, “including children and family wanting attention, pets disturbing phone calls, limited or no access to office equipment (printer, fax, photocopier), household noises such as the washing machine and the temptation to have the TV on as company.”

Create parameters with your family/friends by keeping home office hours. Let them know when you’re not available.

“This also helps establish a routine,” Tann said, “and keeps you from working around the clock and avoids a burnout.”

Again, Tann promoted the Regus solution: use of flexible workspaces, which gives you access to office equipment and provides a professional place to meet with clients.