Tips for small businesses tacking teleworking

Teleworking is set to play a key role in the small business sector, but most managers are still anxious about having their employees work outside of the office. Here's a primer on how to set up a teleworking policy and break the stigma tied to the trend.

Most small business owners will probably tell you that they actively support and implement a teleworking program.  In practice, this usually means allowing employees to work from home from time to time or giving them access to work content or emails on smart phones, tablets and PCs.

However, true teleworking – enabling employees to work anytime, anywhere – is something quite different.  When done well, teleworking programs can significantly improve workplace productivity and employee satisfaction.  Whether it’s shaving off time from the daily commute, ensuring a better work-life balance around children, or reducing overhead costs associated with having an office, the benefits are available to everyone.

Despite these benefits, there still seems to be somewhat of a stigma associated with teleworking.  “What’s on TV?” or “how was your holiday?” are the sort of jokes aimed at teleworkers from their office-based colleagues.  Small businesses need to look at workplace efficiency in a different way.  They should be measuring people on production and quality rather than the hours they spend chained to their desk.  After all, the best teleworking programs go hand-in-hand with a flexible working culture. 

Some small business owners might cite the prohibitive cost of introducing new technologies to support remote working, or reduced productivity and inefficiencies, as a reason not to embrace teleworking. However, numerous studies have provided evidence to the contrary. MYOB’s recent survey revealed businesses whose staff worked mostly from a location other than the office were 24 per cent more likely to see a revenue rise in the past year.

The initiatives emerging from the Federal Government’s National Economy Strategy should make the move an easy process. The government is running a range of programs that support its efforts to reach a target of one in eight Australian employees having a regular telework arrangement by 2020.

So, in summary, by saying no to teleworking you are actually prohibiting a more efficient workforce. The following tips will help small business employers when introducing teleworking to their businesses:

Take a step-by-step approach – Don’t rush in and make sweeping changes from the word go.  Start by introducing small changes such as allowing remote working on specific days or for a specific group of employees.

Have a Telework Policy – This may seem a little dry, but by getting things down in writing, management and staff are all aware of their responsibilities when it comes to working remotely.

Constant Communication – Working remotely can often mean working alone.  To ensure that teams are all on the same page, engaged and productive, ensure that regular calls and meetings are scheduled.  Despite working remotely, employees should always make time for face-to-face engagement.

Living in a Technology World – Technology has changed the way we live our lives.  The emergence of cloud-based software and services means that employees can access content and resource from anywhere at any time.  Make sure that remote workers have the tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability, whether it is through smart phones, tablets or task management software.

Prioritising – Managers often worry that remote workers lose sight of priority tasks by not being in the same physical environment.  Software products such as ANCILE uAlign™ can support remote workers by prioritizing tasks with questions such as: “Did you receive the message?  Did you read it?  Did you understand it?”

eLearning – Training and development are key to driving efficiency and productivity in the workplace, whether employees work remotely or in the office.  Technology means that companies can now provide eLearning modules to remote workers.  This information should be delivered in bite-size chunks of information to ensure greater retention.

Seeking Feedback – Like with any process change, businesses need to ensure that the change is having the desired positive impact on the organisation.  Be sure to conduct audits around productivity and employee satisfaction so that improvements may be monitored and tracked back to teleworking.

By following these steps, small businesses will be better equipped with the knowledge needed to implement successful teleworking plans – thus, ensuring that employees can “walk the talk” when it comes to remote communications. 

Katie Fabian is the Australia Country Manager of ANCILE Solutions. 

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