When I first started my business, I was pregnant with my 2nd child and had a four-and-a-half-year-old. I needed to work, yet I wanted a flexible work schedule. I started JB Consulting Systems around my philosophy that employees could work from home just as well as the office, and that they would be happier if they didn’t have to spend hours on the road to drive to and from work. I started JBCS on a tiny budget. I started with a phone, a computer, and internet service which I already had. Additional reasons I went this route were to skip paying the overhead of renting an office space as well as to better balance my family commitments with work and avoid being stuck in heavy commutes to and from an office. I knew that there were other people out there who would appreciate a similar working arrangement, and I created my business plan around this idea.
During the last two decades of remote work, I don’t think I have ever heard a client express any concerns about the fact that my team works 100% from anywhere. Oftentimes for the services that we provide, we occasionally need to be on-site at a client’s business. Pre-Pandemic we would arrange in-office hours or visit our clients for training or meetings. We will likely do that again once we get through Covid-19, but if nothing else Covid showed the world that a remote business model works and that employees can be productive from home.
A question that I am most often asked is, “But do your employees do their work and get their jobs done?” I acknowledge that remote work is not for everyone, but I have also learned that employee retention is much better when the team can balance their work-life and their personal life. I trust my team to get their jobs done.
We have had a few employees who weren’t a good fit for our model. It can be an adjustment that some are not able to make. Some needed an office to go to for social interaction and a space to work away from home. Some had problems staying motivated or self-directed with work. It takes someone who will reach out for work if they don’t have enough or who will speak up when struggling. Those employees usually discovered that it wasn’t working for them and moved on to a job that worked for them. I never felt like anyone took advantage. It would be difficult to take advantage in our model as I can see the work they produce for clients in billable time and product.
Hiring and managing a team remotely requires a few things
- Hiring the right people and explaining what it is like to work from home. Working remotely isn’t for everyone. Some people need to go to an office and need social interaction.
- I have to place a high degree of trust with my employees that they will get their work done. I do not micromanage my team. They know what the work is and what needs to get done.
- Check-ins – I find out what works for each employee with regards to check-ins and feedback from me. For the most part, my team will just call me when they have a question, and I will contact them if there is an issue. I try to give real-time feedback both positive and corrective. Pre-pandemic I would meet with them in person and we would have in-person get-togethers. We will likely resume these when we are able as it was fun to see everyone.
- Let the employees decide what they need to do their jobs – my consultants wanted a way to touch base with each other to discuss workloads, upcoming laws, share personal stories, etc. They set up weekly meetings to share information. I try to make most meetings, but I don’t have to be there for it. One of the consultants runs the meetings and someone takes notes.
- Communication tools – We use Slack for our whole team to share information and contact each other. This cut down on emails and we have channels for employees to share or vent frustrations, struggles, and happy moments.
- Share celebrations, struggles, and praise – I try to make sure we are recognizing what is important to employees whether it is birthdays, work anniversaries, kudos from clients. I also gave a “state of the company” for the first time this year, and I will likely do another this fall. It was well received and the feedback from employees was that it helped them feel grounded and comfortable that the company was sound and healthy.
When I began this company, my “why” for working from home was clear and direct — my kids. I didn’t want to miss events, games, or other special times with them. They have now grown to be well-adjusted productive members of society. Now my “why” is different. Today, I need flexibility. I can go visit my elderly parents knowing that if I needed to I could log in remotely to work. I don’t typically plan on it, but there have been some emergencies that have required that I do so. I want to travel more, but I also like my work. So I enjoy the ability to travel and have the freedom to check on the business from time to time. It also is very important to me that I don’t commute and spend upwards of 3 hours a day of my life stuck in traffic. I like being able to provide work to employees who want flexibility for whatever reason they need. I also have a bigger pool to recruit from as our employees can work from anywhere in the country. We have employees in Washington, Missouri, Montana, and South Carolina and clients in states all over the country. In my heart, I am a roaming, free spirit that doesn’t like to be tied down, so working remotely gives me the freedom to fly.
Remote work may not be a solution for every company, or perhaps it may not be for every position in the business. Industries like manufacturing or production where workers are required to make the product do not lend themselves to remote work. Additionally, those who work in the construction trades where employees are needed on-site to build their products cannot perform their roles anywhere except on the job site. However, if you have a company that includes more traditional office work, and you struggle with the costs associated with office space, finding good employees, the long commute for you and your employees to get to your physical location; remote work is something to consider as a viable solution. You could also migrate to a hybrid option between work from home and in-office a couple of days a week. Either option you decide can be used as a recruitment tool to meet the needs of your organization as well as your employees.
Now is a great time to make the organizational shift permanent. As a society, we’ve been forced to test this new way of working, and it has proven to be successful. Open your candidate pool to a nationwide search, reduce your employee turnover, and continue to grow your business with top talent. Hire the right people, and trust your employees to get their work done.
If you would like more information about how to implement remote work or would like to update your current employee handbook to include a remote work policy, we would be happy to help. Contact us today, to learn more about how remote work could help your business succeed with future growth.