The essential business guide to establishing a remote workforce

It can be with some significant fear and trepidation that small and medium-sized businesses take the plunge and introduce a culture of homeworking for some members of their workforce.  The key to the success of such a sea change is advanced planning and preparation.

Choosing the right workers

Not all people and tasks translate well from the collective office or work environment to the individuality and isolation of working from home.  Try and pick staff who are naturally more self-contained and self-reliant and work activities which would actually be well served by the peace and quiet of a remote space.

Planning and organisation

Digital technology makes the step from office to remote work relatively easy for most organisations.  What you will need to collaborate on is the employees’ workspace.  As an employer, you still have responsibility for the wellbeing and mental health of your staff wherever they are.  This becomes particularly important if working from home is going to continue for an extended period.

Start by writing a protocol for home working which can be incorporated into the organisations’ standard policies and procedures booklet for employees.

Key areas to focus on when setting up a home working space

  • Home organisation is vital so a dedicated work area with a proper workstation and ergonomic furniture – sofa working just won’t cut it but a work area can be created in a dining room or living room or even on the kitchen table.  small space is not a problem providing it is properly laid out
  • Aim for a location with as much natural light as possible
  • Consider installing an air purifier or a true HEPA filter to promote a hygienic working environment indoors
  • Ensure secure internet access from a reliable private network
  • Install appropriate firewalls for all devices and restrictions so that only relevant drives can be accessed remotely to protect other data and personnel
  • Create adequate physical storage so an appropriate supply of lever arch files, box systems like MyBox and shelving to ensure documents and paperwork are kept safe and stored
  • Use colour to create a fresh and vibrant workspace, this isn’t about redecorating an entire room but colour can be used very effectively in much smaller ways such as office stationery and storage and desktop accessories.  The WOW stationery range offers a selection of bold, primary colours with something to suit everyone – bright statement colours uplift and enhance the mood

Environmental considerations

It is important for mental wellbeing that homeworkers have a light, pleasant and motivating environment to work in and that they do not succumb to feelings of isolation and depression due to the lack of social contact with colleagues.  This is paramount if they are going to be working in a small home office for a long time.  Policies can be implemented which will assuage the known drawbacks of home working which mainly centre around isolation:-

  • Make sure that you or a colleague speak to the home worker daily on the phone, the sound of the human voice is crucial – email is not a substitute.  Once a day is the minimum amount of contact, more is preferable
  • Keep a constant dialogue open about both the challenges and upsides of home working as this will vary and change, don’t just speak to your employee about their job, check out that they are happy and have everything they need
  • Create employee groups on platforms like Slack which allow a real-time engagement with other members of staff
  • Review the success (or otherwise) of the arrangement regularly especially if it is set to continue for a long period

Home working can be hugely successful both for the business and the employee but only if it is properly managed on an ongoing basis and the employee is adequately resourced and feels well supported.

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