How to Make Remote Working Work

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woman working at home on her laptop
According to the 2013 State of American Workplace Report, remote workers are more engaged in their work than those who work on site. Telecommuting has become a trend in America’s workforce with more people requiring flexible work schedules.

Gallup Study Highlights:

  • 39 percent of employees surveyed have worked remotely
  • 32 percent of remote workers are engaged in their work
  • 28 percent of traditional office workers are engaged in their work
  • Remote workers log an average of 4 more hours per week than traditional workers

Gallup determined that working remotely has a “slightly positive effect on workers’ employee engagement levels.” Remote workers are working longer hours, which may be viewed as an indicator of increased productivity.

Remote workers may be more engaged in their work than the average 9 to 5 office worker, many will question the “logging more hours” thing. Call me crazy, but of course remote workers are logging more hours. Let me share my personal remote-working experience with you.

As I sit here working from home, I’ve done countless things that I wouldn’t normally do at the office. While I’ve researched material for this article, I’ve checked my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter an extremely inappropriate amount of times. I’ve planned a theoretical Spring break trip to Maldives. I’ve searched endlessly for the Tiffany & Co. robin egg blue inspired Nike tennis shoes (that I just saw on Instagram), Googled why female hyenas are higher ranking than male hyenas (don’t ask why), and coincidentally have even read a lengthy but ground-breaking article on why writers are procrastinators. All of this has happened in-between working on my article, and considering the fact that I’m beginning my article with all of the things I’ve done BUT write my article, makes it clear that remote working can be a problem for me and possibly others.

My boss allots me two hours to log per week to work on my blog posts from home. That way if I take four hours to do what I could have done at work in two, that’s my own problem! I’m not saying every remote worker is like this (let’s hope not) but there’s no argument that it’s much easier to get off task while working at home.

More hours? Maybe. More work? I don’t think so.

Why Is This?

Working in my office forces me to stay on task. I wouldn’t dare shop for Tiffany blue Nike’s if I was at work. At my firm, I’m a social media marketer, and I’m on social media sites all day. I don’t venture off when I’m in the office, but I do at home.

Why is this? Well, it’s not just because my boss can see my computer screen from her desk (yes it is). It’s because I would just plain feel guilty and embarrassed for being a horribly distracted employee, I wouldn’t get any of my work done, and I’d consequently get fired. Not so at home.

I’ve Figured Out Why

Do you want to know why I feel comfortable getting distracted? Because I have been allotted a maximum amount of time that I can log for my work. I think this is genius! Here’s how this works:

  • Discuss an appropriate amount of time to complete a task

For example, my boss and I have determined that two hours of uninterrupted work is sufficient to complete a blog post. To determine an appropriate time for other tasks, take into account how long it would take you to complete at work.

  • Accept and agree to the given timeframe

Realize that you’ve been allowed an appropriate time to complete a task at home that you would normally complete in the office. If you can get this done at work in x amount of time, you should be able to do so at home too! If you get distracted and end up taking more time to complete the task, then that’s on your own time. If perhaps you are a productive genius that day, cheers to you, you’ll be awarded with extra time! See how this works?

The Gallup study also found that remote workers who work less than 20 percent from home are the most engaged. After that, any more time starts to affect worker engagement and makes them feel disconnected from their company and other coworkers!

If you’re thinking about implementing remote working strategies into your company, all of these things need to be considered.

How to Make Remote Working Work

  • Choose select tasks that can be completed at home in minimal time (ideally less than 20 percent of the week’s workload).
  • Determine an appropriate amount of time to complete each task by recording the amount of time it takes to complete at work.
  • Allot a specific amount of time that each task can be logged per week.
  • Schedule a time for remote workers to meet with supervisors, and openly discuss the positives and negatives of this method and change allotted times if necessary.

Eventually, this will help establish an allowable time for each task to be completed, and will hopefully increase productivity. After remote workers get the hang of knowing the amount of time they’re expected to finish a task, they may be dissuaded from becoming distracted as easily. Plus, if employees increase their productivity and finish the tasks in less time than allowed, what’s so wrong with rewarding them with a little extra pay?

How has remote working worked for you?

Read more in Telecommuting

Shaley McKeever is a digital media coordinator at Red Branch Media, a full-service B2B marketing agency, primarily focused on human resources and global workforce vendors.
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