Whether your entire workforce is remote-first or you offer your employees hybrid options, creating a productive remote environment is an important part of running a successful business today. Remote teams enjoy more flexibility and may be more productive, and companies with remote capabilities can recruit from a much wider range of possible employees. However, remote work models also present unique challenges that can hinder productivity. It’s essential to understand these challenges and put effective solutions in place to overcome them to create a remote work culture that functions for your organization.
Learn about the challenges of setting up a functioning remote work environment plus seven steps to create a productive one below.
What is a remote work environment?
A remote work environment is any work setup that allows employees to do their office work from a remote location. This could mean working from home full time, coming into an office a few days a week or letting workers be digital nomads and work from wherever they choose. It also includes allowing employees to work remotely on certain occasions, such as when they’re traveling or if they need to take time to tend to personal matters.
Why is it important for businesses to provide a good remote work environment?
Even if your organization is only allowing employees to work remotely on rare occasions, setting up a good remote work environment is important to the business and employees alike. The biggest concern is productivity. Team members who can accomplish their tasks effectively from any location are much less likely to miss deadlines or create bottlenecks for projects.
Another consideration is employee work-life balance. Remote workers tend to be happier than their in-office counterparts by 22%, according to a 2021 survey published by Owl Labs. These remote employees said that they were less stressed out than other employees while at the same time working more than 40 hours a week compared to workers who were only allowed to work in an office. They were also more likely to stay in their jobs for the long term, which is an important part of any organization’s bottom line.
Setting up an effective and efficient remote work environment has other advantages for the company, especially when it comes to security. If teams are equipped with the right tools to ensure they are less likely to get hacked or spammed, even when working off-site, the company can keep costs low and keep customer and company data safer.
Challenges of working in a remote environment
While remote work has become increasingly popular, allowing individuals to work from home or the location of their choosing has shown multiple benefits. However, this flexibility has also created unique challenges for businesses that must be addressed to ensure a balance between employee productivity and well-being.
Isolation and lack of interaction
Employees who work remotely all the time may find that the lack of face-to-face interaction makes them feel isolated and disconnected. They may have difficulty maintaining effective communication and feel disconnected from their colleagues, which can lead to a lack of company culture and job dissatisfaction. They may even experience loneliness, which is a contributing factor to stress.
Work-life boundaries and balance
Another common issue that remote workers face is the blurring of boundaries between their personal and professional lives. When working from home, it can be hard to separate work time from personal time, which can lead to potential burnout, even as employees appear to be more productive. Without the clear distinction of leaving the office at the end of the day, remote workers may find themselves working longer hours and experiencing increased stress levels.
What does the ideal remote work environment look like?
In an ideal remote environment, workers have access to tools that help them stay in contact with their colleagues and get their work done efficiently. There should be a seamless transition to remote working from an in-office environment so that employees never feel as if they can’t get their work done between settings.
The environment will also help employees and managers build trust so that they have a clear understanding of their roles, regardless of where they’re working. The remote work experience should help an employee feel empowered to be as productive as possible whether they’re in the office or not. This includes technology, accessibility and security for every remote employee in every circumstance.
7 steps to create a productive remote work environment
For employers who want to offer their teams the flexibility to work remotely, it’s important to start by setting up a remote workspace for employees. Giving employees the tools they need to create well-equipped and organized workspaces is crucial for productivity and success. Follow these steps to create a productive remote work environment for your employees.
Choose the right equipment
Employees who work remotely will need the right equipment to get the job done. This can include laptops or desktop computers, tablets, mobile phones and other tools with the right processing power. Team members may need improved access to the internet through Wi-Fi boosters or satellite providers if they’re located in rural areas. The physical office set-up is equally important, and employees will need comfortable workspaces, including office chairs, desks and ergonomic equipment like wireless mice and keyboards.
Additional monitors can boost productivity by 42% according to some surveys. Noise-canceling headphones and microphones for video calls and team meetings can also help employees be more productive in their remote workplaces. Many organizations provide their employees with these tools automatically when they start work, but they may also try a stipend so that employees have some choice in the tools they buy for their home or remote offices.
Explore different remote work technologies
Providing your employees with the right productivity tools can help them get their work done regardless of where they’re located. Project management software, task management and to-do list apps, communication and video conferencing tools and file sharing are all important aspects of work today. Employees should be able to access their tools from any device or location to provide maximum efficiency. At the same time, cloud-based technology needs to be easy to use while balancing security concerns.
Different solutions work better for different teams, so it’s important to monitor technology usage and change tactics if the technology you’ve provided is hurting more than it helps. Productivity tracking software like ActivTrak can help you make data-based decisions on what technology to implement for your remote teams and give you insights into when teams may need more training or a new platform.
Organize your workspace for productivity
Organization can help employees work more effectively and improve focus. This isn’t just true for physical workspaces – filesharing and document management systems need to be just as organized for employees to be able to access the tools they need when they need them. Employees also need to be able to access important information such as HR forms, timesheets and processes.
Whether you’re providing employees with organizational tools to keep their physical workspaces functional or providing a framework to keep digital spaces accessible to everyone, it’s important to establish good organizational hygiene for the whole team.
Implement effective remote work policies
For anyone to succeed in a role, they need to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, goals and measures of success. But establishing clear expectations is particularly important for remote workers. Team members need to know their deadlines and deliverables without having to rely on in-person meetings to remind them. They also need to know when remote work is appropriate or how to request it. Having a written remote work policy that employees read and sign before they start work can help team members understand expectations. They can also refer to the policy when they have a question about expectations when working remotely.
At the same time, employees need to be able to communicate their availability, working hours and response times to foster accountability and avoid misunderstandings. Because it can be so easy for remote workers to work well beyond regular hours when they’re working from home, leadership should establish clear boundaries and encourage team members to shut off when they need to rest or attend to personal matters. Good routines and self-care can help prevent burnout and boost overall productivity.
Ensure cybersecurity in remote work
Cybersecurity is a major concern when it comes to remote work. Remote workers may handle sensitive company information or customer data, making it essential to have robust security measures in place. Encourage your employees to use secure virtual private networks (VPNs), strong passwords and multi-factor authentication to keep bad actors from sensitive data.
You should also make sure you have good training around security measures. Many organizations hold regular training sessions for employees so they understand what they should look out for in terms of spam or phishing. Employees are also more likely to follow rules around security if they understand why it’s important.
Use data to make changes
Remote work is a changing atmosphere and it may take time for your organization to get your remote environment right for everyone. Monitoring productivity through tools like ActivTrak can help you see where your employees may be struggling when they work remotely, allowing you to pick better tools or provide more training. You can also determine if remote policies are working for your team members through real data.
Asking employees how they feel about remote work can also help you provide better policies to support their needs. Sharing productivity data and remote work reports with team members can also help you explain decisions on remote policies so that everyone is on the same page.
Nurture a positive remote work environment
A positive remote work culture fosters motivation, engagement and job satisfaction, but it takes time to make one grow. Encourage open communication and regular team interactions, especially team-building activities among remote team members. You can also provide remote opportunities for professional development, such as virtual training workshops, that can help cultivate growth-oriented work cultures.
Leadership should also live by the rules and values that are outlined in the company’s remote working policies. Team members should feel free to use remote time per the company’s policy and not feel that they may be punished if they decide they need to work from home more than they need to come into the office.
Provide a better remote work environment with insights from ActivTrak
Gain insights from ActivTrak to help you establish or improve your remote work environment. Find out when employees are at their peak productivity and how remote employees use their time with ActivTrak’s remote workforce management tools. You can easily see bottlenecks and inefficiencies to help employees and teams reach their goals and improve overall processes.
Get a free demo today to see how ActivTrak can help you set up or maintain a positive remote work environment.