Although the topic of remote working isn’t new, it’s certainly having its moment in the spotlight. In the past few years, organizations of all sizes have turned to this innovative strategy to help support initiatives like work-life balance, cost efficiency, and collaboration. Connecting virtually to do business is now the “new normal” and we’ll be seeing much more of a remote approach in the near future and beyond.
With all of the benefits that remote work offers, it’s not without its challenges. Those who are accustomed to face-to-face interaction may find that virtual relationship building has a bit of a learning curve. While research shows that 56 percent of all employees could do part of their job remotely, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stay productive and motivated.
Your role as a manager or owner doesn’t change when your teams are remote, but your daily processes will look much different than they did when everyone is in an office. The first step is to find a workspace that has the infrastructure a business needs to stay connected and tap into collaborative tech tools. Beyond that, however an organization chooses to adopt remote work policies, there are still some fundamental steps that managers need to take to support everyone’s success.
It’s easy to track job goals and performance when managers can collaborate with their team in real-time, and in-person. However, that’s not as easy when everyone is working remotely and collaboration takes a bit of extra work and technology. Establishing guidelines early on means that expectations are clear.
Use metrics to help create daily goals. Ask these questions when thinking about setting these goals: How can we continue to support our customers? What KPIs should everyone be tracking? Are there deadlines that need to be strictly followed? What tasks should be prioritized? Communicate these answers consistently and regularly, and there will be little room for confusion.
Going from a bustling, engaging office space to a remote or home-office situation isn’t always a seamless transition. Digital communication lacks the nuances of body language and tone of voice, and miscommunication can happen among team members. While managers can just pop by a coworker’s desk for a quick chat, regular calls or video meetings can help open the doors to get the conversation going.
Make time for socializing, too. Sometimes employees may need a quick chat about topics other than work, just as they would on a trip to get more coffee from the break room. This doesn’t have to change when everyone connects virtually. Adding this “coffee chat” to the schedule can keep the team morale up.
Remote working is fantastic for those who want flexibility, but it can also mean that there are no firm boundaries around what a “workday” looks like. Sure, there’s no commute or dress code, but it’s easy to check emails at 10pm because there’s a phone or computer handy at all times. Employees who work remotely may feel growing pressure to prove their productivity, leading to additional and often unnecessary work. This is a recipe for burnout.
Setting defined workday hours and a schedule for each day can help them balance remote work. Include a lunch break and encourage everyone to step away from their workspace during this time, and don’t schedule meetings or tasks outside of these work hours. Understand that even though remote teams can work outside of typical business hours, that should be the exception and not the norm.
Having a central office helps give teams as common ground to come together and share their thoughts about work. It’s also easier for everyone to maintain a schedule that managers can hold employees accountable for following. With remote work, though, each employee has a unique situation and setup and deals with a schedule that meets their needs.
Personalizing management styles accommodate each employee. Take a survey or have quick chats with team members to find out how they work best and keep that in mind when assessing their performance. Don’t overlook the previous points though — in order for this to work for both parties, managers still need to set expectations, focus on communication, and help employees find balance, even if their workday looks untraditional.