by Sasha-Lee de Bod

The term “business as usual” has been disrupted and all franchise and/or business owners are facing challenging times that requires adopting strategies to ensure sustainability and operational efficiencies for those that are fortunate enough to remain operational through remote-working environments.

Working Remotely is a Global Trend

The remote-work trend has been growing over the past few years as digital advancements and tools have created possibilities and opportunities for various industries. As with any concept, remote working has its limitations and challenges, however, the benefits and opportunities it provides are great.

The workforce structure is surely changing, and more Millennials are moving into positions of power and Generation Z is on the verge of entering the workforce. A research study indicated that 85% of millennials prefer working from home

Remote Employees and the Associated Benefits

  • One would think employee productivity would decrease if offered the opportunity to work remotely with all the modern comforts at home, however, the opposite has been proven.
  • Various research studies have indicated that employees working remotely are more productive, with statistics ranging from as much a 20 – 40% increase in productivity.
  • Other than productivity, work performance and satisfaction improves as well.
  • On average remote employees:
    • Work 3 weeks extra per year compared to office-based employees
    • They take less time away from the office i.e. less annual leave and sick leave
    • Are less likely to pursue other employment opportunities, resulting in higher employee retention
    • Saves time and energy by not having to commute to work everyday
    • Are prone to a healthier lifestyle and environment – which is beneficial for “flattening the curve”
  • Remote employees value the freedom, flexibility and convenience associated with their position; therefore they are more likely to go the extra mile to make it work.
  • In addition franchises and/or business can reduce their operational cost in terms of travel expenses, rental and maintenance.

Change and Disruptive Concept for Some Franchises and/or Businesses

Even though this isn’t perceived as a new concept, it might be perceived as disruption for some franchises and/or businesses that need to adapt and scale through learning experiences. Amidst the uncertainty we are currently facing, businesses have the opportunity to rethink strategies and adjust their mindset to a more productive and effective “future-work environment”.

Remember that:

  • every employee works differently
  • not everyone can work from home
  • for some, the shift might be stressful
  • some might be change averse
  • and some employees may struggle with their work-life balance

Thus, it would be very important for franchises and/or business owners and managers to communicate as much as possible and empower their employees by giving them information and knowledge to ease the transition caused by disruption or change.

The Rules of Engagement for Remote Working for the Employer

  1. Learn, adapt and leverage the continuously developing situation to ensure that you are building a strong foundation with a structure to support it
  2. Set expectations upfront
  3. Be transparent, understanding and attentive in times of change and uncertainty
  4. Maintain normal order of business practices i.e. only the work premises and/or platform has changed, not the way we conduct business operations
  5. Provide encouragement and support to all employees
  6. Empower employees to take responsibility, direction and control of the situation and their work commitments
  7. Provide different platforms for communication – email only is not enough, investigate other platforms e.g., instant messaging and calls can be used
  8. Invest in secure and reliable platforms, software and equipment that will enable remote working activities, e.g. Virtual Private Networks, internet access and laptops
  9. Schedule regular check-ins for individual employees and teams to keep on track and to stay connected
  10. Provide opportunities for social interaction i.e. remote working can be lonely so don’t only discuss work, be invested and interested in your employees’ wellbeing

The Rules of Engagement for Remote Working for Productive Employees

  1. Be self-disciplined and take responsibility for your work
  2. Your health, time and wellbeing are top priorities for remote working
    • Adhere to normal working hours to not only avoid extended working hours and fatigue but to stay connected and available when required
    • Take allowed breaks and don’t skip meal intervals to remain refreshed, focused and productive
    • Switch-off and disconnect after hours
  3. Create a protected and comfortable work environment
    • It is important to separate your work and home environment
    • Set up a space that mimics a work environment i.e. a desk and chair with good lighting, do not lounge on the couch
    • Stay away from areas that could tempt you to direct attention elsewhere
  4. ‘Prepare, plan, schedule, execute and monitor: enabling you to accept and acknowledge a clear path to success
    • Stick to a normal routine i.e. get ready and dressed in the morning as if you are going into the office, to put you in a working mindset
    • Know your priorities
    • Set time aside to prepare and schedule activities in order to be productive, efficient and goal-driven.
    • Keep to-do lists to keep track of your progress
    • We are all human and working from home during the lockdown might mean being around family and having some background noise. So it is important to let them know what your working hours are so that they can respect it and be understanding
  5. Be transparent and provide proactive feedback
    • Pro-actively reach out to colleagues, team members, management and/or clients – don’t wait for them to contact you first
    • Inform management of tasks being worked on and the progress thereof
    • Be ready to report on what you have done and how much time was spent on it. As you aren’t having regular face-to-face conversations, it is important to provide more updates than usual
  6. Stay connected, always
    • Not everyone has unlimited access to high-speed network connections, so it is important to know your bandwidth security, limitations and usage
    • If possible isolate internet connection from personal devices
    • Limit other internet usages during busy times or when you know you have a virtual session/meeting scheduled to ensure that your connection is faster and more reliable
    • Working remotely requires constant communication, so you need the right equipment and accessories to stay connected and to improve the quality of the interaction e.g. to be heard clearly, you would need a microphone, webcam and potential headphones to cancel out any unexpected noises or echoes in the background
    • Use the prescribed online platforms for remote conference calls, webinars, podcast and doing presentations when needed
  7. Communication is crucial for success
    • Frequent, ongoing communication is required to discuss and prioritise project needs and deadlines, align direction and to stay on track
    • Do not rely on a single communication tool, there are various options that can be used (if approved by management) e.g. WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts, MS Teams, email and a phone call, etc.
  8. Invest in self-development – You are in control of your time and it is important to invest time and effort in professional development by learning new skills and ways to be more effective and productive.

Sources:

Achievers.com – 25 Key remote working statistics for 2020

Business News Daily – Working from home increases productivity

Harvard Business Review – A guide to managing (newly) remote workers

Inc. – A new study reveals why working from home makes employees more productive

NBC News – Here’s how to stay productive and connected when you work from home

Remote.co – 17 Stats about remote work in 2020

TimeDoctorBlog – 9 Research-Based Facts That Prove Remote Teams are The Future of Work

Time – 5 tips for staying productive and mentally healthy while you are working from home