How can SMEs best phase in remote workers?


A third of business leaders expect over half of their firm’s full-time employees will go into the 2020s working remotely.

That’s the finding of a recent poll at London’s Global Leadership Summit.

A further quarter predict that more than three in four of their workforce won’t be office-based in the traditional sense by the end of the decade.

Allowing staff to do their duties from home sees advantages for both bosses and workers alike, but the practice isn’t entirely without risk.

We look at how small businesses can phase in remote workers in the best possible way.

Stagger an exodus towards remote working

If this trend is going to happen, you obviously don’t want huge swathes of staff exiting stage left all at once. This would be too big an upheaval, especially in a small company.

This is where staggering comes in. If you have a staff of, for example, 49, then trickling out three or four employees a year over five years would seem an appropriate amount. This sum would avoid a change that is too sudden to avoid a damaging knock-on effect on your productivity.

Another way of staggering this process is to invite your first batch of remote workers to come into the office once a week, say, on a Friday. This will not only help to prevent a sense of isolation that several of them experience at the start, it will also combat any alienation between remote and office-bound staff.

Implement a trial

Many bosses may feel suspicious about the switch towards remote working – and understandably so. Sometimes it’s difficult enough to keep an eye on staff and influence them under your own nose, let alone remotely, unsupervised and miles away. Bosses just have to cross their fingers and hope that the quality of self-responsibility kicks-in.

They will soon be able to measure by results. This is where a trial run comes in handy. You may have willing volunteers who want to be “guinea pigs” for your experiment. Pregnant women, parents who have just had children, or staff who want to combine childcare with work may all want to be among the first batch of staff to volunteer for remote working.

Set a fixed time – for example, four months, to monitor if the trial is functioning properly and that remote working is for your company. Such a trial beforehand will also help you tweak and iron out any glitches before you commit to the project large-scale.

Ensure the kit is in place

This is a fine balancing act. Obviously, you need to ensure that home-based employees have all the kit they require to execute their duties.

Simultaneously, you don’t want to spend a small fortune on equipping them with every nugget of office kit they enjoy at the office, much of which they never use. Just furnish them with the essentials.

Regular virtual meet-ups

Get into the rhythm of staging a teleconference at the same time on the same day each week, whenever possible. This will become part of the office routine and help you keep tabs on workflow, grievances, planning, etc. This practice helps knock down barriers and cements teamwork that can sometimes be difficult to achieve with remote workers.


Posted by Julie Tucker