The American commute to work keeps getting longer. Despite our freeways and bypasses, more lanes and cars equipped with better navigation technology the average commute time for an American is now around 26.5 minutes.
That’s nation-wide, if you happen to live in a major metropolitan area the idea of a 26-minute commute might sound like a dream come true. On the extreme end of the spectrum, commuters reported 90-minutes or more. Another alarming statistic reported by the US Census Bureau is that extremely long commute times were categorically increasing faster than the rest (5.1 percent faster, year-over-year).
Traffic and commuting are one of the reasons that the adoption rate for telecommuting programs is the highest its ever been. Many employees are opting-out of the “traditional” 9-to-5 grind in favor of telecommuting programs with their current employer, or employers who also embrace this.
But for many businesses, the idea of installing a telecommuting program sounds like a pipedream. But the truth is that while the installation and protection of a virtual network do present some technical challenges, maintaining and even scaling a remote workforce can be a serious challenge for business.
It’s not something to be feared, however. Our article today will go over some of the basics of setting up a virtual network for your office and provide some tips for scaling the program for maximum business value.
When getting into the mindset of setting up a VPS (virtual private server) there are a few questions that need to be answered. These may change depending on your business, but some common questions you’ll want to ask during this process may be:
- How many employees will need to work remotely?
- Will they be accessing the network simultaneously?
- What applications and/or data will employees need access to? Does your company use specialty or proprietary apps?
- What type of security will you need for the network?
- Where do you see the company in 1 year? 3 years?
Don’t forget to ask about after-hours support. Realize that some of the team members may not keep “normal” hours after the telecommuting program is implemented. If they need help desk support, it’s important to have “on-call” resources available at the minimum.
The best-case scenario is to have a team (or a partner) that can maintain your network 24/7.
Creating Goodwill with Employees
We don’t claim to be management consultants, but with unemployment rates at an all-time low, it’s important for businesses to realize that hiring top-tier talent is more of a challenge than it was a year ago. Employers are having to work harder to differentiate themselves from their competition to attract talented employees.
The ability to work from home is extremely attractive for prospective employees.
Believe it or not, implementing a telecommuting program can improve company culture and inspire engagement among employees. This might fly in the face of conventional thinking because of course, remote workers are not actually on-site.
One way to circumvent the issue of wondering if your employees are actually “working” while off-site is to implement reliable employee monitoring software. This gives on-site members of management the ability to track productivity, engagement, and performance depending on the level of need.
Depending on the type of business, implementing a remote work program can provide them with the ability to increase productivity with a global workforce. If the staff is made of up folks on the west coast, and the east coast, a business can effectively manufacture six extra hours into a normal workday.
For global workforces, a business with a remote work program can produce nearly a 24-hour productivity cycle.
Standard office tropes like meetings are easily circumvented with SaaS chat programs like Slack and video conferencing.
The Management Question
Aside from the technical implementation of a telecommuting program which does present a shift in the culture of a business – management styles also need to be able to pivot to assist employees working remotely. Given the direction that the modern workforce is going, it’s important for managers to become comfortable assisting remote employees sooner than later.
REMOTE DOESN’T MEAN INDEPENDENT
While off-site employees forgo some of the traditional elements of the office environment, management needs to be careful that the process is not lost. Off-site employees are not to be considered loose cannons.
The idea of connecting people with the process is important for any company during the on-boarding phase, and remote employees are no exception. An article in Forbes sheds some light on how connecting people with a process can be accomplished:
Perhaps a little counter-intuitively, remote workers and leaders need more, not less, structure to overcome the absence of the osmosis effect (picking up practices, processes and norms by just being around other workers). Clear, easy to find and simple to follow processes can take much of the anxiety out of completing day-to-day activities for remote workers.
Another component to connecting people with a process is giving them access to technologies that facilitate this. Today, these are affordable and in abundance: from workflow and project management tools such as Basecamp, Asana and Trello, to communication and chat tools such as Yammer, Slack, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp. Talent management tools and apps that enable real-time and continuous performance feedback, coaching and learning, and are optimized for mobile devices, are also crucial connectors for remote workers.
This is particularly important because according to data from the State of Remote Work 2018 survey respondents reported that loneliness and collaborating/communicating are their biggest struggles with working remotely.
Having the freedom and flexibility to work remotely improves an employee’s quality of life but maintaining a schedule and being able to adhere to a process helps keep that employee from feeling like too much of a digital nomad.
Saving Money with Remote Working Programs
If a business is starting from zero, there will be a budget required to implement a telecommuting program. How much will depend on several factors – our advice would be to be wary of an IT support vendor offering a quoted price without first doing a comprehensive audit of the existing infrastructure.
Your business is unique and will have unique needs and requirements, don’t trust a cookie-cutter solution for implementing a telecommuting program. Hiring a trusted partner is a smart first step.
After the right solution has been implemented, many businesses also save money in the long run, in addition to experiencing a happier, more productive staff. This kind of return on investment comes in the form of saving on overhead expenses. Having less need for space under a single roof presents an opportunity to trim expenses annually.
Depending on goals of management, a company might also recoup equipment expenses as well. Many employees are more willing to handle the expenses of working remotely on their own (BYOD devices). The same article from State of Remote Work 2018 phrased it like this:
Either way, the costs of remote work typically fall primarily to the remote workers themselves. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their company didn’t pay for their Internet (the average monthly cost for internet in the U.S. is $60) and 76% said that their company doesn’t pay for a coworking space (the average monthly cost of a coworking space in the U.S. is $195).
We hope we’ve presented a smart case for implementing a telecommuting program. You can find out more about our perspective on the issue for free with our Work From Home guide on the Continuous website.