tl;dr: evaluate what could improve the work environment for your remote employees.
During this Black Friday I replaced my five year old router with a new one, the speed difference was incredible. I was seeing 5x speed increase from the old router — that’s insane. First I thought, who would benefit from my speed gainz? Well of course my friends over at Battle.net, but also work. Everything became faster and more stable — for work. From video calls to file syncs. Then I thought, work should pay for this router.
Before purchasing the router I didn’t think there was a performance issue with the wifi at home, but after this I’m thinking what other conditions could be improved within my house (did I mention I work from home? Yes I’ve worked from home for the last 6 years). Anyways, I started thinking what else could I change to in terms of my work environment. New chair? Better lighting? A comedic sidekick to keep me entertained? Don’t get me wrong, this is not an article to bash my employer for not providing me with the essentials to do my job, they do. This about beyond the essentials — the problems nobody knew existed. To initiate conversation about what those problems could be.
Here’s another example, two months ago I got a free pair of bluetooth headphones — I didn’t think I would be so happy to own a pair. Once in a while I would have one of those 1+ hour meetings/planning sessions, and I would be glued to my chair due to my wired headphones, with wireless I was more mobile, meaning I would be able to refill my water, walk around, go pee without worrying about missing context. A nuance I never paid attention; thus, didn’t think there was actually a problem. This change made me not dread those longer meeting or try to rush through them.
What point am I trying to make?
Unlike those who work in an office, somebody working remote lacks all the perks of a physical office. The custom high performance wifi connection, the free coffee machine, the coworker who likes to bring in candy for others, and so on. Environment perks that makes work “seamless”. I always say, “when you take care of a employee’s basic needs, all they will think about is work”. If every morning I’m thinking about making a coffee or going out to buy it, I’m not worried about attending to my Slack messages.
Every job, employee, and work needs are different. Some may need a better router, some may just need a better mug. What employers (and employees) should do is evaluate what changes in their daily routine/environment could impact work efficiency, morale or performance. Of course this applies to an office environment, but more often than not, if an employer has an office they’re already invested in making the office a great place — remote workers are usually an afterthought. Spend the effort, figure out what I (they) need and make recommendations, because these may be problems we don’t know exists. Work together to uncover “problems”, share these ideas with others, get feedback and reevaluate regularly, as these needs will change overtime.