Commentary By Linda Sanazaro, CFO, Non-Insurance Businesses and Corporate Services at Farmers Insurance
When the idea of working remotely comes up in a conversation, I find that people tend to respond in one of two ways: total dread or utter delight. Some professionals recall the risks and difficulties of working away from the office, while others rave about having the flexibility to create their own schedule and work environment. Regardless of how you work best and where you personally stand on the topic, it's worth considering the benefits of offering remote working opportunities to your team and organization.
With clear expectations and guidelines in place, remote working can bolster productivity and build trust within your team. In fact, in a 2016 survey of American remote workers, 91 percent of people who work remotely revealed that they're more productive than when they're in an office.
In some ways, remote working is similar to having teams in different locations or spread across various parts of the country. However, establishing telecommuting protocol isn't always intuitive and the practice has yet to be considered or implemented at many organizations or in some cases has been implemented and retracted at some others. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are considering this as an option for your team.
Set clear expectations
I originally started offering remote working options as a way to help increase flexibility for my team following a transition of the Farmers headquarters from Wilshire to Woodland Hills, California. One of the fundamental keys to success is that the team clearly understands the expectations up front, and that the requirements and expectations of the job did not change. Also, to ensure everyone remained connected, we set a limit to working from home to two times a week and agreed on which days would be remote days. This allowed the team to come together on set days each week and helped maintain a strong sense of team and closeness.
If you're considering working remotely, remember that it is your responsibility to make it work and put in the extra effort to stay connected with your colleagues. Use instant messaging, email, phone, video conferencing platforms, etc. to make yourself available to those in the office. If you get the feeling that you're being left out of opportunities or meetings, it's critical to redouble your efforts to maintain and strengthen critical professional relationships. Keep in mind that it takes extra effort to keep connections strong when you are not interacting face-to-face with people every day.
Maintain structure and a routine schedule
Making sure that you don't get distracted when working remotely can be difficult for some. If you find this to be true, remote work may not be for you. Setting a routine similar to the one you have in the office and remaining disciplined is most helpful for avoiding distractions. Whatever your routine is when working in the office, try to maintain a very similar one when working from home. Also, make sure you're keeping normal office hours and taking breaks. I sometimes find when I work remotely that I eat lunch late in the afternoon and log off well past the time I know I should. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is essential to making remote working effective.
Remote working does require some extra effort, but the flexibility it offers appeals to most people. It may be too early to tell what the long-term effects of this might be, but the more people begin to embrace the idea, the more we can learn from it.
I have found that the ability to work from home has afforded my staff flexibility knowing they have more control over their personal and professional lives. It's certainly not a solution for everyone at every company. But with the right mindset and clear expectations, it can help many teams thrive.
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