As work flexibility continues to grow, the chances that you will have some employees (or even an entire staff) that works remotely, or wants to work remotely, is growing by the day. If you’re contemplating adding a flexible work policy to your business plan, it’s a good idea to test remote work within your organization to get a feel for any potential pain points.

Here’s how to test remote work at your company for a week: 

Think about whether it makes sense.

While remote can be extremely beneficial to employers and employees alike, and there are lots of good arguments in favor of it, you have to really think about whether it makes sense for your company.

Hopefully the answer is “yes”—but don’t jump to that conclusion without really weighing the pros and cons. If and when you decide it’s at least worth testing out, you can move on to the following steps.

Have a game plan.

Whether your workforce would be entirely remote, or partially, you should have an idea of what you want to get out of trying to test remote work.

Is it to learn how to handle having employees in various time zones? Or to train your managers how to manage remotely? Or to see if your staff is productive while working from home? It might even just be good preparation for your workers should something occur (i.e., a snowstorm) that would prevent them from making it into the office.

Figure out why exactly you’re testing it out and what your goals are, and communicate these to your staff once you’ve got a good plan in place.

Get everyone on board.

Shockingly enough, not every worker out there wants to work from home. Some actually prefer having to report for duty at the office. But for the sake of the experiment, everyone should at least try working remotely (no sneaking into the office to finish up a project!) for the entire week.

Explain that this will be beneficial not only to the company, but to them, professionally and personally. After all, working remotely means that they will most likely be able to have a better grip on their schedule, which can allow them to take care of their non-work-related interests.

Schedule meetings.

The marker of whether your remote workweek will work is not by just sending your employees packing for a week and then having them resurface in seven days without having connected with them. No, your goal should be to imitate regular office functions (meetings, impromptu hallway chats, etc.), but on a remote level.

This way you can see where there might be any remote work hiccups and solve them before they become bigger issues. So schedule meetings, just as if you were in the office, to ensure that your employees can budget their time to make the meetings, and that they can troubleshoot any potential IT issues, such as slow Internet or a home computer that constantly crashes.

Have a point person.

Meetings that happen around a conference room table can be tricky enough, but imagine having 10+ people on a videoconferencing call, all trying to get their voices heard, all at the same time!

Remote meetings can be a mess unless there’s a specific structure to ensure that they run smoothly. Appoint a moderator to keep the meeting on time—and more importantly, on topic. Make sure that each remote worker gets an opportunity to speak, and ask your group to save side convos for later.

Implement collaboration and communication tools ahead of time.

Most likely, your company already has methods for employees to work on shared documents and connect without being in the office. But these tools will be a lifesaver when your entire team goes remote for a week; and if you want to avoid having your team sink, you should remind your workers to get familiar with these tools before packing their bags.

Your company should offer a few communication and collaboration tools that your workers are well-versed in so that they can stay in sync with each other despite the distance.

Come up with an assessment system.

You need to be able to figure out whether the test week was successful. Of course, one week to test remote work won’t paint an entirely accurate picture—and you need to remember that—but it will help give you a sense of whether or not telecommuting would be something you’d be comfortable implementing at the company.

So, come up with some sort of system to assess the success of the experiment—this way, throughout the week, you can keep track of how things are going.

Encourage routines.

Your workers might experience a fish-out-of-water feeling if this is their first time working remotely. After all, most people are creatures of habit and, consciously or not, will have a daily routine for getting things done. Being in a new environment (even if they’re working from home) can throw them off.

So even though being a remote worker means that you can adjust your schedule according to the needs of the day, you can suggest that your workers try to follow their traditional work schedule for their remote workweek. Having structure can help them maintain productivity—and ward off feelings of isolation that might occur during their stint working remotely.

Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com

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