How I improve my business by working from home

Michael-Simmons-100xBack in 2003, Peter, Meredith and Michael Simmons started driver-training company Transport Training Solutions as a way to get out of a normal work schedule and become their own bosses. Now, the company is turning over more than $3 million a year.

Michael Simmons, who runs the business now, says he’s adopted a type of work-from-home policy that allows him to maximise his productivity – and it’s an option he’s started providing to his staff as well.

So how’s the business been travelling?

It’s been going pretty well. We’ve made some good progress, considering the government has changed the way training must be done. We’ve been planning and organising for all of that, but overall, yeah, it’s been a very good year.

You’ve been working at home one day a week for a while now. When did all that start, and why?

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint an exact date. But I think it would have come from the fact that, day to day, our office environment is just quite hectic and dynamic, and I really need to be in a certain headspace in order to work on certain jobs and certain proposals. That’s where it all started from.

As it turned out, it was a good way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the office and just clear my head to focus on things that are important to the business without reacting to every little thing that was going on around me.

It’s also a great way to empower staff to deal with stuff when I’m not around.

Is the office environment really that hectic?

It’s just dynamic. You’ve got a lot of people who are really enthusiastic about what they do, we’ve got client services, you’re dealing with customers over the phone, customers that turn up, and the operation and the admin people and so on. There’s just a lot going on and in that type of environment there’s a dynamic theme. And, at the same time, people want to do a good job and get stuff done.

Does the technology involved make it easier?

The technology is part of it. We have a remote desktop system for work, so when I’m working from home it’s essentially the same as just working in the office in terms of the screen I have and the work I’ve got going on. My home office is set up to connect here, so the technology is a big part of it.

You could say I’m a little slower working at home, but the pace is more consistent.

And you have staff doing this as well?

Oh, absolutely. They’ve all got access. We’ve got a mobile workforce for a lot of our training staff. In the past, I’ve even negotiated arrangements for people to work at home one day a week or so on. Some people say they’d prefer to work late, others say they’d rather work from home one day a week.

Do you see the same sort of benefit for them?

Yeah, I absolutely see a huge benefit. I mean, that said, it suits some people better than others because they may have that type of personality. But if I have a salesperson or a trainer, and they’re working on customer sites and so on, it may just be better for them to work at home and they can do some admin work. Not only is it an efficiency thing, but you get a big productivity benefit as well.

So is this done on an individual basis? How do you decide who works from home?

It’s part of the overall job description, actually. I don’t have anyone who only works from home, but it’s a mix. I’m really of the belief that I don’t care when and where the work gets done, as long as it gets done eventually. If it lets them achieve their goals, then so be it.

Would you recommend this type of practice to any other business?

It really does depend on the business and so on, and the individual circumstances, but I say do it. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t, given the technology we have. You do have to balance it against the needs of the business, of course, but it’s working for us.

If people do the right thing, it works, and it’s a good tool that I know my staff appreciate.

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