Like many companies in the IT industry, for many years fireTMS has been enabling its employees to work remotely, in virtually all departments – from accounting through sales, customer service, and programming. We have decided to share our experience in this area. Here are our 5 most important principles of home office work:
The first and most important rule in remote work is communication with the team and other departments. And I do not mean just to be able to call someone or write to someone if necessary; it is about communicating information always and to all people who may potentially be interested in it, even when it seems to us that we communicate the obvious. Seemingly a simple rule, but a lot of misunderstandings or mistakes may arise precisely because someone did not say something, did not ask, etc.
There are many tools supporting communication, in which you can create appropriate groups of people, e.g. WhatsApp, Skype, Google Meet and the more extensive Slack. However, no communication tool can replace a conversation: sometimes 3 minutes of conversation can save tens of minutes of rowing back and explaining. Transparency is the key to success in remote team work.
Common tool, available online
Apart from an ordinary communication system, every company where employees work remotely at least from time to time, needs a coherent system that will connect the work of all people and will be available from anywhere. For the sales department it will be a CRM system, for a transport or forwarding company it will be a TMS system. Still many companies use Excel or Google Sheet, which are also available online, but the disadvantage of such a solution is that, firstly, Excel will not force the user to perform a given action, and secondly, it will not automate or remind you of anything. In fireTMS, the accounting department can, for example, automatically generate invoices from orders previously entered by forwarders, and forwarders can work on a common vehicle schedule. The entire company has the ability to maintain a common online document database. Such a program is the bloodstream of the company. I will write a separate article on why Excel cannot replace the system, but only support it.
Division of tasks and responsibilities
Another important element of remote work is determining the scope of responsibility and division of tasks to individual people. It seems that everyone knows what to do but what are their actual duties? Apart from standard tasks, there are also random situations, problems, additional tasks that nobody wants to do.
It is worth clearly defining the areas of responsibility of each person and all, even the smallest ambiguities, should be communicated in a common chat. A good practice is a short „daily”, i.e. a short daily teleconference where everyone presents what they will be doing today, explains the current problems, and where additional tasks are distributed amongst the team.
It is difficult to talk about effective work without processes. If we have the right processes and tools, it will not matter whether we work at home or in the office. If we define our processes well and each one works according to a specific plan, we will be able to measure our results and examine which elements need improvement. I will not elaborate on the preparation and development of processes here, as this is also a topic for another article.
Maintaining appropriate motivation to work is also very important in the home office, it is a task for both the boss and the employee. Working at home is characterised by the fact that we have a lot of distractions around, and the temptation is big – just reach for the remote control, open an additional tab with Facebook and all work is gone.
Where to find motivation to work when there are so many distractions around?
Motivation always comes from ACTION. The easiest way is to set a goal or a task and accomplish it. This drives us to take up new challenges.
Taking care of employees’ motivation is also the boss’s duty; it is enough to appreciate the commitment of an individual, and it does not have to be with high bonuses or holidays in Hawaii; sometimes a simple gesture, a few words, will make someone feel that what they are doing is important and it will be the best motivation for them.
To sum up, the practice of many companies shows that remote work is not that scary, if we only remember a few simple rules and take care of our employees. Then, regardless of our company location, we can develop our business, not only in Poland, but also throughout Europe.