Before Covid-19 brought the world to a screeching halt, chances are pretty high that you didn’t work from home. For most workers, the average weekday used to involve a morning commute, nine or ten hours of work in the office, then yet another commute back home before dinner.
Nowadays, though, the vast majority of people are working from home. Instead of business casual dress codes and informal chats in the break room, millions of workers around the world are now enjoying the little luxuries of a non-existent commute and Zoom meetings in our pajamas.
However, sudden changes to a well-established work routine can make people a bit uneasy and there are surely people who aren’t quite convinced that working from home is all it’s cracked up to be. But remote working is better.
Don’t believe me? Here’s everything you need to know about how remote working can help your business.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I want to talk a bit about my professional experience with remote working. While the concept of working from home has really exploded in the months since COVID-19 shut down the world, I actually started writing this piece long before the word “coronavirus” was part of our collective lexicon.
In fact, I’ve been working remotely for years. When I left my job as the COO of a large company to start 10Adventures, I recognized the benefits of working remotely, and did that from day 1. The main reason to pursue this was it was more efficient as a commute took time, and I wanted to be more available to my young family. To me, the easiest way to do so was to work from home.
While staying home to prioritize spending time with my family was the initial motivation behind my decision to work remotely, I’ve been blown away with how much more efficient it is for my business. These days, the entire 10Adventures team works completely from home, so when coronavirus closed down offices around the world, we didn’t even skip a beat.
Why Remote Working Is Better For Your Business
If you never worked remotely before the pandemic, then it’s possible that you think of this as a temporary situation until things get back to some semblance of normal. However, working from home is almost always better for your business and for your employees. Here are some of the many benefits of remote work:
Lower Overhead Expenses
Offices are expensive. Not only do you have to pay the cost of rent and utilities, but you also need to furnish the whole place with desks, chairs, and tables. You also need to outfit the office with printers, computers, and other standard business-related fixtures, and find people to manage all of this.
An office costs money, a lot of money. If you have a small business or a start-up, these financial resources can be way better spent on something that drives growth in your company. Ultimately, if you don’t have to spend this money, why would you?
Offices Create Endless Meetings & Wasted Time
For some reason, when we humans work together in a single physical space, we always want to fill our time up with meetings. Often, these meetings are just to keep our least engaged employees informed even though they could’ve just read their emails or talked to their colleagues.
Take a second to think about your weekly team meetings or pretty much any regularly scheduled meeting that takes place even if there’s absolutely nothing to talk about. You’ve probably sat through hundreds of these types of gatherings where organizational leaders seem to come up with the most random things to talk about just to fill that time.
You’ve probably also worked with quite a few people that seem to drop by your office to tell you a story for the umpteenth time just because they can. People like this are ubiquitous in traditional office culture and it’s because they use work as a method to fill their time, not to contribute to the organization.
Your work life doesn’t have to be this way. Offices create the perfect conditions for wasted, unproductive time, whether that’s the result of unnecessary meetings or unmotivated colleagues.
When you work from home, you’ve probably noticed that you get way more done and that the workday goes by much more quickly. This is not a coincidence. By getting away from the seemingly endless series of workplace interactions that don’t help us personally or professionally, we can be more productive and grow our business.
Offices Are Inefficient
The whole idea of working in an office is horribly inefficient. When you have to drive in rush hour traffic to get to the office at the exact same time as everyone else each day, you end up wasting hours of your life that could’ve been spent with your family or on something productive. Even if you take public transport or have a modest commute, you’re still taking valuable time out of your day just to physically move your body from one place to another.
When you work remotely, you don’t have to spend all that time just going back and forth to the office. By getting rid of your daily commute, you can spend your non-working hours on things you actually like to do.
Remote Working Allows For Flexible Schedules
People work better when they can choose a schedule that best fits their natural internal clock. Some people are just more productive during the morning while others excel later in the day.
I have lots of early morning meetings with colleagues in Europe, Africa and Asia. Working from home means I can easily walk upstairs and make these 6am calls. Consider the alternative, where a regular office worker gets ready from 6am to 7am, then commutes from 7am to 8am. How could you connect with colleagues on the other side of the world if you had to get to an office?
Another benefit is for people who naturally live different hours. I have a colleague that works from 4 pm to midnight every day because he is most focused during the afternoon and evening. Others on my team sleep in a bit and start working around 10 am, which allows them to consistently deliver quality performance.
For so many people, starting the workday at 8 am just doesn’t make any sense. When you work from home, schedules can be way more flexible, leading to better all-around performance from your staff.
Top Tips For Working From Home
Since transitioning my professional life completely into the virtual world, though, I’ve learned quite a lot about what works well when in a remote office and what doesn’t. These are my top tips for maximizing your company’s efficiency and potential for growth without ever setting foot in a traditional office building ever again:
Make Sure You’re Ready To Work Remotely
Although most businesses didn’t really have a choice when they switched to a remote workspace due to Covid-19. If you’re considering making the switch full time, be sure that you’re actually ready to do so.
While I truly believe that remote office work is better, you do lose some of the social aspects and camaraderie that are typical in a physical office space. You also lose some cool benefits like free coffee, in-office gyms, instant tech support, and the like, so this may have a negative impact on your team.
The key is to figure out what your systems for remote working are before you start working from home. That way, there are fewer issues down the line and better overall working conditions for any staff that are more accustomed to office life.
First step is to get your home office setup so it’s as good as an office, and you aren’t working off an old laptop at a tiny kitchen table. Then step up the beverage game (with good coffee, tea, or whatever you like). Finally, fix the social issues and find a gym and start to schedule regular lunches with friends to get you out of the house.
Have Good Communication Tools
When you work from home, you can’t just pop into someone’s office and ask them a question. So, you have to ensure that you have solid communication systems in place to facilitate seamless dialogue between team members.
Personally, we use Skype for text chatting, Asana for task management, emails for discussions, and actual phone or video calls when we need to solve problems.
It’s important to note that everyone in the team needs to have solid written communication skills for this to work. Otherwise, errors in communication and simple misunderstandings can create big problems for your company down the line.
To ensure that everyone can communicate well in your team, you need to rely on strategic recruitment. When I’m hiring new team members, I purposefully give candidates email-heavy tasks to test their written communication abilities. That way I know that they can communicate effectively before they ever get the job.
Use Project Management Software
Working from home has a lot of benefits, but it can be tricky to stay on top of tasks and to-do lists if you don’t have those quick conversations with colleagues around the coffee machine. That’s why using project management tools is so important.
Project management software can help you better organize various tasks and sub-tasks to ensure that everything gets done on time and in the right order. Otherwise, it’s easy to have lapses in communication that end up delaying or completely derailing a project.
In my company, we use Asana, which seems to work quite well. But there are dozens of great options out there to choose from, so the key is finding the right management tool for your organization.
Schedule Group Meetings Only When Necessary
When office life switched to remote working seemingly overnight at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it seemed like everyone magically discovered group video chatting platforms, such as Zoom and Google Meets. All this means, though is that instead of spending time in meetings at the office, people now just spend their whole day jumping from one Zoom meeting to another.
But this isn’t what your remote workday should look like. The whole point of working from home is that everyone is able to manage their own time and communicate effectively without having to sit through endless full-team meetings for hours on end.
Sure, there is a time and a place for small video chats, particularly if you need to share your computer screen with others on your team. But, most of the time, information is better disseminated in small groups, not in huge office-wide video chats where one person is half asleep and another is busy playing with their cat.
We use a lot of short one-on-one chats or calls to quickly solve problems. It’s best to just call people when it’s the best way to coordinate on a new project or for a quick check-in a couple of times a week. If everyone maintains a constant stream of communication, you probably don’t need to schedule a long team video conference every other day. This allows people to spend more time working and less time staring at others while they talk in a Zoom meeting.
Recruit Team Members That Work Well In A Remote Environment
Although I believe that remote working is the best option, your company can only be successful when working from home if you have team members that function well in this environment. In the past, I’ve certainly hired people that either can’t manage their own time so they’re horribly unproductive or they just take forever to complete a simple task.
So, we now spend a lot of time purposefully recruiting people that enjoy working remotely and are skilled at managing themselves while outside an office. However, as a manager, you also have to have a realistic idea of how long it takes for someone to complete a task.
It can be helpful to actually do a given task once on your own. This then lets you better estimate an employee’s productivity and set tangible monthly and quarterly plans.
Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that low performing staff don’t get better at their job when they start working remotely. If they’re unmotivated, working from home will just exacerbate the issue. It’s also harder to mentor people or check-in on their work when you’re not in the same physical location.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to build a team of people that can actually deliver results as this set-up only works when you have great staff working for you. Most people are honest and can routinely put in a full day’s work, even while at home, so it’s critical that you get the right people for your remote team.
Consider The Impact Of Kids And Families
In an ideal world, you can easily get 8-10 hours of very-high productive work done during a standard business day when working from home, a lot more than you would in an office. However, if you have family or kids with you all day, you need to realize the impact that this has on your ability to stay focused.
You can usually expect kids to cut your productive hours by at least a third. Hopefully, your kids will be at school during the day, but if they have to be in the house while you’re trying to work, be realistic with how this will affect your daily productivity levels.
Have A Good Home Office
If you’re going to work from home, you need a solid home office. Get yourself a comfy chair, dual monitors, quality computers, and fast internet connection. It’s also worth investing in the little things that make office life better, such as a good coffee or tea station. Anything you can do to make yourself more productive while at home is a plus.
Don’t Forget About In-Person Meet-Ups
Even though you’re working remotely, you don’t need to stay cooped up at home. Whenever possible, find ways to meet up with someone in your organization or network for a lunch or coffee every few weeks. This can help ensure that you still get the social time that you crave while also helping to grow your business.
Take Breaks When Necessary
When you work from home, it’s easy to get so into a task that you end up working 6 or 7 hours without a drink or anything to eat. I find I like to schedule in breaks to keep my energy up, and with so much more flexibility with my time this is important.
I’ve personally found that going out for a run or a quick bike ride is a great way to clear my head and refocus my energy. If you’re working from home, take advantage of the innumerable different ways you can relax and recharge in the middle of the day.
Working From Home Can Help Your Business
At the end of the day, working from home can make a huge positive impact on your company – when done correctly. Successfully remote working comes down to managing the human side of thing. This includes managing your own time, and that of your staff, all while creating a great team that functions well without a lot of personal interaction.
There are huge benefits to working remotely, both in terms of financial savings for your business and for your overall well-being. For me, one of the greatest benefits of my work from home lifestyle is being able to be fully present as a father to my children. There is really no better remedy for a bad or stressful day at work than to head downstairs and spend time with the people that love you.
If you want this to be your reality, the key is putting together a team that is driven and eager to work from home. When you have the right people working with you, remote working can completely transform your business for the better.