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How to Build a Feedback Culture When Working Remotely

September 4th, 2018 | Posted by ATS in HR | Productivity | Scheduling | Telecommuting Employees | Time and Attendance Blog, Workforce Management Software - (Comments Off on How to Build a Feedback Culture When Working Remotely)

By Jock Purtle

A lot of things are changing about the way we work. The traditional 9-5 workday is slowly disappearing, or at the very least changing. And every year it seems more and more people are working remotely—currently around 43 percent of the workforce performs their jobs remotely in one way or another.

In general, there are a lot of advantages to remote work. Not only does it make it easier for people to achieve the coveted work-life balance, but remote workers actually tend to be more engaged and productive, when managed correctly.

How to Build a Feedback Culture When Working Remotely

But there are some things from a traditional office setting that remote work struggles to recreate, such as the ability to gather feedback from employees. Hearing people’s opinions about the way things work and the ideas they have for improving them is key to improving your business. But with less-frequent and less-personal digital communication replacing face-to-face interaction, some are wondering if feedback culture is in jeopardy.

In short: it’s not. Yet to make sure you can maintain this all-important feature of a successful, business, you do need to change some of your management techniques and adapt to the nature of a digital work environment. Consider the following to help you build a feedback culture when working remotely.

Hold Regular Meetings
In a remote work environment, efficiency is king. Having flexible work hours means people want to organize their days in the manner that makes them the most productive. And we all know people’s opinions of less-than-productive, something that makes people want to cut them out completely.

But you’ve got to avoid this. Just because people are working remotely, it doesn’t mean they are less important. You still need to maintain constant contact with them, especially if you’re hoping to build a culture of feedback into your remote work environment. You can certainly reduce their frequency, choosing to hold them once a month instead of bi-weekly, for example. Less contact discourages people from speaking out and making suggesting, stunting the development of a feedback culture.

During these meetings, make sure to actively solicit feedback. Ask people questions about your processes and about their jobs so as to encourage a dialogue. Saying just “Anything on your mind?” doesn’t promote dialogue, so you need to work extra hard to fight make it happen.

Give People an Outlet
No matter how often you tell people they can feel free to speak their mind, they are going to be more hesitant around management. You could have an incredibly open organizational hierarchy, but people will rarely say exactly what’s on their mind.

As such, to really develop a culture of feedback in your remote work, it’s important to establish another way for employees to express themselves. For example, you could set up an ombudsman program where people can discuss what’s bothering them under the protection of anonymity. Or, you could outsource your entire HR organization to a professional employer organization, streamlining this aspect of your business while also giving people an outside entity to speak to.

When you go this route, you can have this third party report on the general thoughts and feelings of your employees, which will make people, feel more comfortable that they won’t be singles out or reprimanded for speaking out against the way things are done.

Follow Through on Suggestions
If you want people to feel as though their opinions are valued—something critical to creating a feedback culture—then you need to make sure you follow through when people bring things to your attention. Of course you don’t need to implement every suggestion, but you do need to try.

In the cases where change just simply is not possible, make sure to discuss why this is the case. During your monthly meeting, let people know you’re aware of their concerns, and then explain to them why their suggestions cannot be accommodated, perhaps indicating at the same time that you’re going to continue to look for alternatives.

If you do this, then your employees will be able to see your words as more than just words. It will become clear to them that you care about what they have to say, and that your request for feedback is not just lip service but rather a genuine attempt at including them in the running of the business.

Work Hard to Build Trust with Remote Workers
Remote workers tend to fall out of the loop. Since they’re not in the office, it’s common to “forget” about them. And when this happens, you can be sure that they are not going to want to offer any feedback.

But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Make sure to spend time getting to know your remote workers by asking them about things other than work. Learn about their families and their hometowns, and do your best to cultivate a relationship as if saw this person in everyday in the office. Sure, it won’t be the same, but if you show people you care and that you trust them, then you can expect them to open up more when it comes time to solicit feedback.

Another way to build trust is by managing remote workers in a hands-off manner. Telecommuters value their flexibility, so if you harp over them at all times, then they will interpret this as an encroachment on their autonomy, which can create feelings of resentment and distance. Try to let people do their thing and enjoy the benefits of remote work, and you’ll soon see how this can open up the flow of communication and make it easier for you to learn about people’s thoughts and opinions.

Remote Workers Can Do It All
The most important thing to remember is that remote workers are the same as traditional workers in every sense. They may operate with different schedules and you may need to manage them a bit differently, but they are fully capable of doing everything your in-office employees can do, including offering feedback that can help make the company better.

About the Author: Jock Purtle is the founder and CEO of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He’s been an internet entrepreneur since he launched his first business when was 19-years-old, meaning his entire career has taken place online. He’s an expert on managing remote teams and enjoys sharing his experiences to help others.

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Is Traditional 9-5 Sliding Towards Irrelevance?

Here Are Three Ways To Keep Your Remote Workforce Engaged

Building A Business Case For Telecommuting

The traditional way of work is on its way out and is not coming back, much to angst of some. Many North Americans, in particular, millennials are ditching the traditional approach to work which usually involves driving one or two hours to an office. Today’s workers and are instead looking for companies that offer flexible work options and if yours does not, good luck in attracting a range of talent.

Here Are Three Ways To Keep Your Remote Workers Engaged

If your company has embraced the new way of work and has a remote workforce, you probably know it can sometimes be hard to make sure they feel part of the team.  Here are three ways to keep your remote workforce engaged:

  1. Consistently Communicate

A consistent line of communication between you and your remote team members is vital to ensuring workers are engaged, getting the work done are motivated. Occasionally e-mail your remote workers during the day or schedule one or two phone call during the course of the day. Not only does this help them to feel part of the team, it also means you are always accessible and this can help to avoid problems.

  1. Made Good Use of Technology

The latest workforce management solutions and HR applications can help with remote employee engagement.  In addition, cloud-based tools like Skype can provide your company and its remote workers to access a variety of presentations, or obtain important HR and data related information-thus, ensuring team members can remain up to date with the latest and most critical information wherever they are.

  1. Share Feedback

Include your remote workers in important decisions that are part of your company’s overall strategy and/or growth plans. When remote workers are not included in the decisions then can quickly become disengage, and begin to can feel unsupported and unsure of how much their efforts are appreciated by the company. As an organization, you should have faith that your remote staff can work independently and meet operational objectives.

If you work in the white-collar world, you will undoubtedly end up working with or supervising a telecommuting workforce at some point. How you handle remote workers will vary according to whether they work from home in the suburbs a dozen miles away, a few provinces or states away, or in another country.

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Building A Business Case For Telecommuting

October 18th, 2017 | Posted by ATS in Career | Employee Productivity | HR | Telecommuting Employees | Time and Attendance Blog, Workforce Management Software - (Comments Off on Building A Business Case For Telecommuting)

Want to convince your boss that you should work from home? Make sure you have a compelling case, including facts to prove that working remotely will not impact your productivity. In other words, do your due diligence, talk to your HR personnel, other work colleagues, and be sure to take time to learn about your company’s history as it pertains to telecommuting, otherwise, it could backfire on you.

Building A Business Case For Telecommuting

Here are some tips from Melanie Pinola’s blog on LifeWire titled What You Should Know Before You Ask to Work from Home

“The first thing you should know, if you’ve never worked from home before, is that telecommuting has awesome benefits but it’s not for everyone.

There are many pros and cons to telecommuting. That said, if you want to give it a try, start with the basics below.

Find out what the current policy is

  • Check the employee manual. If there’s an existing remote work policy, then your chances of success are good. You can use the information provided to make your case in your remote work proposal.
  • If there’s no written information but some of your co-workers currently have flexible work arrangements, ask them for advice on proceeding. They’ll have the inside scoop on how easy it was to negotiate the work arrangement and how it’s working out for them.
  • Don’t worry if no one ever has established a flexible work schedule or remote work agreement at the company, though. You can be the first! (In my former job, I was the first person to start working from home regularly as a telecommuter as I was able to prove I could get my job done at home. See below for more details.)

Use your experience to your advantage

  • Because your supervisor’s support and approval will be key to getting your request granted, you’ve got a leg up if you are an established employee whom your supervisor trusts and values. Make sure you maintain that respect and continue to make yourself invaluable to the company.
  • Gather past employee evaluations that had positive comments related to critical telecommuting traits, such as: initiative, ability to work without supervision, and communication skills.
  • If you are a new hire, think about past experience at other companies that prove your ability to telecommute productively, such as occasionally working while traveling for work or working from home when needed on the weekends. If you don’t have past remote work experience, perhaps delay the request, however, until you’ve developed a strong rapport with your supervisor and proven yourself invaluable to the company.

 Be sensitive to your employer’s needs and goals
Look at the company’s mission statements, website description, and other materials to see how they present themselves. If they say they care about their employees’ well-being or are innovative/progressive companies of today, you can use these “branding statements” in your proposal.”

If you are still unable to convince your boss about the benefits of telecommuting, don’t be dishearten, simply try again in a few months. However, if your company has a no telecommuting policy, you should also be respectful of it by either abiding by the company’s policy, or find a company that offers telecommuting to its employees.

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Remote Workforce And The Rules Of Engagement

October 18th, 2016 | Posted by Apex Time Solutions in Cloud Computing | Telecommuting Employees | Time and Attendance Blog, Workforce Management Software - (Comments Off on Remote Workforce And The Rules Of Engagement)

For many companies the notion of a remote workforce is inconceivable and it is something they would not entertain, regardless of changes in the working world. They have been doing the same thing for many years and see no reason to change. On the flipside there are some companies who may choose to incorporate a remote workforce to complement their standard operations, For example, you may decide that your technical support reps and sales personnel adds costs by driving each day to sit at a desk. And for some of the businesses, who have a rigid policy against employees working from home, will need to have some sort of work from home contingency plan in place when their employees are not able to travel due to bad weather conditions.

Setting a remote workforce has its pros and cons and, like every business model, considerable thought should be given to it before its implementation. Here are three tips to consider, courtesy of an article by Bartie Scott for Inc.com titled “3 Tips for Keeping Flexible Workers Happy and Productive”

  1. Balance fixed pay with performance incentives
    To prevent paying full freight for a flexibly-located or -scheduled employee who winds up as a resource drain, base some pay on productivity benchmarks. Holmstrom’s work implies that it’s best to set aside a portion of an employee’s potential pay for a time when his or her performance can be better evaluated. Good performance is a win-win, and bad performance means that allowance can be put back into the company.
  2. Measure performance against peers
    Besides breeding some healthy competition, comparing performance to peers better accounts for factors beyond your employees’ control and avoids punishing them for broader market downturns. Instead, if workers are given the same resources and training, individuals’ abilities will be revealed over time. High-risk industries that can’t afford employee churn and uncertain costs should provide more fixed compensation. Lower-risk industries can afford to try out offering performance incentives on new employees to reward the best and weed out those who can’t cut it.
  3. Leave room for uncertainty
    Hart’s incomplete-contract theory states that because performance is difficult to predict and unexpected events arise, contracts must lay out a method for decision-making in case of unforeseen circumstances. That’s why it may be pertinent to negotiate with a new hire to revisit bonuses or benefits after some time has passed and the employment arrangement is more predictable.

Here is a quote from Marten Mickos CEO of Eucalyptus Systems in a recent interview “Offices are so last century,” Having everyone in one location “was really an invention of the Industrial Revolution. It’s much more natural for people to work where they live.” He goes on to say, “We have a few employees I have never actually met.”  And, when asked how he knows they’re all working, he says “telecommuting can actually boost productivity, it’s much easier to fake it in an office than it is from home, where the only way to seem productive is to actually be productive.”

Bottom-line a remote workforce is not ideal for every company. However, the companies that implement telecommuting, the rules of engagement need to be clear so, both sides understands and adheres to the stated objectives. It’s also worth noting that not every employee is cut out to be a telecommuter. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline-hence, some employees; love the idea of driving to work each day to work at a desk in an office.

About ATS:
ATS offers a broad portfolio of time and attendance solutions that streamlines the collection, calculation, and reporting of employee hours for workforce management. ATS time and attendance solution eliminates the manual tasks of payroll preparation, thus- increasing efficiency and reducing errors in corporate HR and payroll departments.

To learn more, call 866.294.2467. And to view a demonstration or attend a weekly webinar go to our website.

Remote Workforce And The Rules Of Engagement

Mondays are viewed, as the first and most dreaded day of the week for many in the corporate world. Think of this, after a weekend off, the arrival of Monday means having to spend hours driving to and from work. And, if there are accidents along the way, it could represent a delay in the time you arrive at the office. And, for those of us with kids and, depending on their age or grade, they have to be driven to school, which of course, means extra time in the car. Let’s not forget there are swaths of the population who either work from home or, are within walking distance of their employment. However, for the ones who partake in the daily commute whether by choice or otherwise, this trend despite HOV lanes, carpooling and other government initiatives is showing no signs of abating.

The Nightmare Of The Daily Commute

An article by Jessica Stillman, contributor for Inc.com titled, ‘If You Can’t Change Your Commute, Here’s How to Make It Way Less Awful’ highlights a study that deals with ‘The science of a happy commute’ and, reads in part;

“Researchers out of Columbia University rounded up 154 British commuters and then randomly assigned them to two groups. The first group just continued commuting to work as they always had, answering questions about their happiness levels, commute times, job satisfaction, and emotional exhaustion.

The other group, however, received a text message each week prompting them to use their commute to reflect on the day to come and plan some aspect of their work. They too answered question about their travel and moods. After six weeks the experiences of both groups were compared.

While nothing had physically changed about either group’s commute — the traffic was just as snarled, the train just as unreliable, etc. — their subjective experience of their commutes differed significantly. The planning group showed significantly increased job satisfaction and decreased emotional exhaustion.”

Of course, some people love their daily commute and spending a couple of hours or more a day driving to work does not bother them. If you are not one of the fortunate ones, within walking distance of work and depending on what you do, you could you could seek permission from your boss to work from home a day or two out of the week. Telecommuting always makes for a heated debate with those who are and against it. Let’s try this simple rhetorical question; why would a company ask its sales personnel to commute daily, only to sit at a desk for the purpose of make phones calls, to prospective customers? In the age of cloud computing, video conferencing and VOIP technology, this example exemplifies the definition of insanity or a company with an outdated thinking.

The Nightmare Of The Daily Commute

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Remember when Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer informed her employees they could no longer work from home? Even before this story made headlines there were, and still are, a small number of companies who simply cannot wrap their heads around telecommuting partly, because it does not make business sense and most cases, it’s an unconventional approach for some executives and business owners. It’s important to note that there are several jobs that comprise of the regular 8:00am-4:00pm or 9:00am-5:00pm shifts and that these jobs require employees to be at their desks on a daily basis. But, when outside sales personnel, some creative positions or even software sales engineers who, spend roughly 80% of their time visiting customers– it’s quite baffling to hear that these individuals are required to drive to their company offices every day.

Is Telecommuting The New Norm?

For those who have the option of telecommuting and if you are still having difficulty developing a routine, the following is a few tips, gleaned, from an article titled “7 Ways to Make Remote Work Better” by Eric Samson contributor for Entreprenur.com:

1. Stick to a routine.
Maintain the same schedule at home as you do when you are in the office. This is helpful for a number of reasons. Since you are on the same timetable as your coworkers, you can ask and answer questions in a timely fashion. Another benefit is that you adhere to a normal routine. It is enticing to sleep in and start the workday late. But that might also mean working through dinner and even past midnight. Sticking to a reasonable work schedule will ensure both peak productivity and a healthy work-life balance.

2. Have a designated office space.
Identify a place in your home where you work best without distractions. Designate that space as your office, and nothing else. Of course, it is not enough to simply pick a desk, open your laptop and get to work. One of the most important things is that you create an atmosphere conducive to working. Make sure to have a clutter-free environment to maximize your organization and productivity. Have folders to store files and keep an inventory. This way you save time (and money!) looking for things. A tidy office space also helps you look professional during video conference calls.

3. Adjust your environment.
Take advantage of working alone by changing your surroundings to fit your needs. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that hot temperatures lead to declines in economic productivity. To avoid a sluggish work day, set your thermostat to a temperature that is most comfortable for you. Other researchers have found that playing nature sounds in the background improves employees’ moods and work efficiency. Add nature sounds to your playlist to optimize your ability to concentrate on your job.

You can read the rest of the article by on entrepreneur.com. It appears telecommuting is not as easy as it appears to be. If you are seasoned pro, you probably already know what it entails and if you are starting out, it would be wise to test the waters by doing it one to two days a week.

To learn about ATS and our time and attendance solutions, go to our website. You can download a prerecorded demonstration and to attend one of our monthly webinars, you can register online or call us at (866) 294.2467.

Is Telecommuting The New Norm?

A great deal has been said about Gen Y and how they are shifting the working landscape. Among other things, some have said they expect the big salaries but, do not want to do the work that goes along with these salaries. You only have to type in work + millennials in any web browser and you will find a plethora of sites with wide ranging perceptions about this group. In actuality, what this group of workers has done in the last several years is challenge the status quo especially in the corporate world. For example, many in the Gen Y group:

  • Do not purport to the daily grind of being stuck in traffic 2-4 hours each day for a 9-5 job. They believe if telecommuting can be substituted for 2 out of the 5 work days, it can increase productivity.
  • Are ambitious and like to be recognized as such, despite views to the contrary. Some of them are so fed up with how difficult it is to find a job after graduation that they are becoming entrepreneurs at a record pace.
  • Are adopters of the digital age and believe manual tasks can be completed easily and quickly through automation.
  • Likes to work in environments that are fun, offer perks over pay and will not bow to the pressures of having to “kiss up” to get a promotion.
  • Thinks that “working 60-70 hours each week and going to sleep with a smart phone beside you in the event, your boss calls is insanity.” These are the words of a Gen Y worker who said she witnessed this at a large firm and felt peer pressure to do the same.

The article “What Millennials Hate And Love Most About Their Jobs” sums up what most Gen Y think about today’s workplace. In every generation, there are good and bad apples. Generation Y is the future and should be celebrated as such. The ones that refuse to work and want to live in their parents basements until they are 40 or older are in the minority.

To learn more about ATS go to our website. You can also follow us on Twitter or join our LinkedIn business group.

Over the last 15 years traffic gridlock has increased throughout the GTA and outlying areas in astounding numbers. Why so many people have to drive to work remains a mystery. CBC Metro Morning anchored by Matt Galloway ran a week long expose titled “Joyless Commute”. The show interviewed everyday commuters, politicians and experts in the world of transportation in the hope of trying to find answers to cut down on gridlock. A recent article titled “Secret to Increased Productivity: Don’t Come to the Office” espouses the virtues of working from home and how more businesses could benefit if they adopted the practice.

Here at ATS, some of our employees who work from home are just as productive in getting projects done on time. The ATS employees who work from home use our cloud-based online time sheets that utilize state of the art technology. In addition, employees have cited things such as; not having to be stuck in traffic and fewer interruptions as factors that make working from home easier.

Of course, telecommuting is not for everyone and some employees find that working from home requires a certain level of discipline. At times it can be very hard to convince old fashioned, micromanaging, bosses of the benefits of working from home. Telecommuting will not solve all the traffic gridlock that we face each day in our cities. However, if businesses adopt a practice of having more employees work from home, even for one or two days a week, it could make a slight dent in the traffic gridlock and pay some small dividends to the environment.

The ATS time and attendance system is robust and helps management make faster, better informed decisions by providing up-to-the minute business analytics across all business areas. With more visibility, departmental mangers can quickly identify and take immediate corrective action. In addition these managers can focus on strategic planning and be more responsive to a changing business environment. Employees working from home or in remote locations can use employee self-service to check schedules, review hours and submit vacation requests.

Our monthly webinar provides an in-depth look at a businesses’ current environment and shows you how ATS workforce management software can grow to meet your organization’s changing needs. You will also discover how our flexible technology enables fast deployment, high interoperability, and streamlined management flows.

To learn more follow us on Twitter or join our LinkedIn Business Group.