Twenty years ago working remotely meant taking home a briefcase full of documents. The internet made that easier. Instead of a bundle of files, we started taking laptops home instead. Today, with threats like COVID-19 filling our media reports, many of us are considering or already made provisions for having our staffs work from home. Even before the coronavirus surfaced, employers—and not just tech companies—were allowing employees to work remotely. According to FlexJobs, from 2005 to 2017 remote work increased by 159%. Why? Because everyone benefits. Studies show that allowing workers flexible work arrangements will:

  • Increase morale and job satisfaction;
  • Attract and retain talent;
  • Increase productivity; and
  • Save money for the employer and employee.

So even though you may start offering flexible work arrangements out of necessity, you may find that letting your staff work from home some or all of the time can make for a productive working environment. Here are some ways to make that happen.

Expect the Best, But Know Your Employees’ Limits. The best remote employee is a “doer,” someone who is self-directed, disciplined, can prioritize, and respects deadlines. Ultimately, this is someone in whom you can place your trust so that tracking productivity is less of a concern. If your employee requires a lot of supervision, your frustration level will suffer.

Is It the “Write” Person? You also want someone who can write because much of your communications will be through email, a portal, a messaging app, or similar pathways.

Introverts Preferred. Offices are very social spaces. If your remote employees are more independent, they’ll likely thrive working alone. Beware the gadfly who derives his or her social support system through his or her job. He or she will never be happy away from the posse.

Make a Point. Be sure your work-from-home staffers have a point person to whom they can direct questions and concerns. But also try to anticipate their needs; don’t make the employee ask for resources or to be included in group meetings.

Create Expectations. Clearly communicate your project expectations. While you’re at it, make sure your remote worker knows what resources, equipment, and software you’ll provide and what you expect the remote employee to provide. Depending on your type of remote set-up, you can monitor your employee’s productivity. For instance, in Google’s G Suite, you can audit a worker’s use of apps and features within Google Drive.

Face Time It. Arrange regular check-ins. It’s easy to use video conferencing apps to bring your off-site staffers into the conference room with you.

Praise and Harmony. You might not hesitate to give a pat on the back to the assistant outside your door, but will you do the same for the one at home who produced that winning brief in two days? It doesn’t take much to send an email that says, “Excellent job.” Working from home during a crisis won’t be easy for you or your staffers. It’s important that you don’t put them on autopilot. Make sure they know that they’re making a contribution toward helping the firm weather the storm.

When the dust settles, don’t be surprised if you discover that working with remote employees has unexpected rewards in money, productivity, and morale. You won’t be alone.

Carron E. Nicks practiced consumer bankruptcy law for 25 years before she switched her focus to writing about the law and freelancing for other law firms. When she’s not working from her home office, she’s working remotely from her favorite diner. Check out Nicks’ new blog Lex Ridiculum on her website at c