Logistics: Defining Work Settings

A major part of the onboarding kit for new employees is making sure that they have the right setting to be productive and get the job done.  In an office, that means a space of some kind. In remote work it means the same thing, except that many of the decisions are up to the employee.

A successful remote onboarding plan for new employees is more about teaching than providing.

Many of the considerations are the same regardless of where the employee works.  As a remote-first company, there are basics which have to be covered to get the job done.  In addition, remote employee onboarding is like every other aspect of remote work in that it is necessary to be explicit and thorough from the start.

Yet there are still choices that can be made.  The start with where the work is performed.

Digital Nomadism, or Work on the Go

The most common view of remote work is that it takes the form of digital nomadism.  This has captured the imagination of many writers because it is so romantic. Why not travel the world and make your living on a beach, sipping a cool drink?

The answer to this is simple: once it becomes all about travel, it’s not about work.  Plus, the romance eventually wears off.

A successful remote work team requires constant communication between members.  This means, more than anything else, a reliable internet connection for every team member.  A digital nomad has to secure this for every location they move to, and it may not be easy. In addition, remote employee onboarding is about much more than providing a laptop, as we will discuss later.

This is the least common setting for remote work, in use by 10% of all remote workers according to a survey.  The term “digital nomad” is also used to describe all remote workers, which is unfortunate. 

Despite the allure and popularity of working on the go, we simply do not recommend it.  The other options are much better.

Co-working Spaces

A remote employee may prefer to work out of a coworking space such as WeWork or Regus for the many amenities they provide.  These include:

  • Workspace apart from home, to focus better.
  • Appropriate desk, chairs, and other ergonomic equipment.
  • Fast and reliable internet connection.
  • Opportunities to network.
  • Daily interaction with other people to relieve loneliness.

All of these are important, and should be considered.  As a company, you may want to suggest a co-working space for your employees.  You can elect to pay the cost or subsidize it in part as you see fit.  This type of setup is favored by 22% of all remote workers, especially those of the Millennial generation.

Working from Home

The final choice is to work from home, an arrangement favored by 68% of all remote employees.  The workspace is defined entirely by the worker, ideally as part of the remote employee onboarding process along with their employer.  

This has the advantage of the greatest flexibility, but with that comes a greater need to carefully and explicitly define and meet the requirements.  There will be a need for specific equipment that has to be provided, a topic so vast that it is covered in another article. In general, the requirements for a successful at home work experience are:

  • Fast internet connection, often above the standard in-home service/.
  • Ergonomic chairs, desks, and other equipment.
  • A dedicated space away from distractions.

The reduced cost and convenience are important reasons why working from home is so heavily favored not just by workers in remote-first companies, but by as much as 70% of all office workers around the world at least once per week.  

The major drawbacks of working from home come from a lack of attention to the requirements for a coworking space.  For example, a 2018 survey showed that only 31% of remote workers perform most of their work in a dedicated at-home workspace.  While that was the most popular, nearly as many at 27% worked from their living room and 16% worked from their bedroom.

Dedicated spaces for work from home are thus still quite rare.  The dedication and development of such a space is an essential part of the remote worker onboarding process and should not be left out.  This must include the equipment as well as the defined space for it.

Which Setting is Best?

Every setting for remote work has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific needs of the employee and the job they have to perform. Just as an appropriate space is provided as part of the onboarding plan for new employees at any company, the remote employee onboarding process includes the setting for the work itself.

The difference is based on choice.

What works best?  The advantages and disadvantages of co-working spaces and home offices have to be weighed for each situation.  It is also possible for employees to try out one or the other over a specific trial to be evaluated at the end.  

In general, an employee who needs to get away from the distractions at home or cannot secure an appropriate internet connection should consider working from a co-working space.  An employee who needs a flexible schedule or cannot find a co-working space that is suitably close should work from home.

In all cases, it’s important to understand the potential problems and work to overcome them.

Clear Communication

No matter which setting is chosen during the remote employee onboarding, it is important to make the setting the subject of a deliberate evaluation.  In all cases, the right equipment may need to be provided and the setting analyzed carefully.  

Once this is done, it should be revisited as part of the employee wellbeing checks that are essential to remote work.  Key questions that should be discussed include:

  • Are you able to work without distraction?
  • Are you lonely or bored frequently?
  • Do your hands, back, or legs ever hurt from working?
  • Have you missed any communication because of your setup?

The plan that was developed can then be revised as necessary to fix any problems which are noted.  

 Making it Work

In all cases, the setting for remote work is ultimately not that different than an office space.  The main difference is that it takes an attention to detail and open re-evaluation as part of the arrangement between the remote worker and employer. 

Much of what is important is also important in an office, but overlooked.  Remote workers, particularly those working from home, have a tendency to overlook these details when they are not explicitly covered.  In many ways, this is typical of the best approaches for remote work in general.

There are many ways to create an effective work setting for remote workers.  That flexibility is one of its key advantages. But in the end it has to work well for an employee to be at their best.