The whole world is experiencing an unprecedented shift towards remote working. Recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, are only accelerating this trend. Soon, many of us will be putting in a day’s work from the home office as opposed to an official, company-sponsored office space. Workers will be logging-in instead of punching-in. Instead of watercooler talk, we will be chatting about the latest trending news, sports, and work topics over internet chat channels. Instead of in-person meetings, we will be conducting business virtually and from many different locations.
This decentralized future is already happening all around us. Think about it, every time you check your work email while you are at home, you are working from home. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly a quarter of us are already doing some work remotely.
How To Prepare Your Business for Remote Working
- Prepare a digital office space
- Prepare your managers with remote management training
- Prepare your employees
- Reiterate company culture
- Trust the process
5 Steps to Prepare Your Business
for Remote Working
1. Prepare a digital office space
Many employers make the mistake of assuming their employees can simply transform their homes into efficient office and work environments. This is absolutely not the case. Work psychologists have long advocated for well-delineated social spaces for work, home, and entertainment.
People like having a place to call the “office.”
Remote working presents a challenge to that paradigm by physically interposing work on top of the home environment. That’s why it’s crucial to create a “digital office space” or virtual network of communication and collaboration spaces, such as chatrooms and work threads, in which work can take place without distractions. For example, instead of a physical meeting room, you may want to have a designated team channel for intra-team discussions and collaboration. And instead of an office, you’ll want to establish a procedure for private, one-on-one video conferences. The goal is to recreate a professional office space within a digital environment.
2. Provide remote management training for managers
Managing a remote workforce is very different from managing workers in the office.
It is essential to train managers in the means and methods for managing teleworkers. Traditional managerial styles simply aren’t suited for this new reality. For example, if conflicts arise between employees, you can’t merely sit both parties in the same room and hash it out. Instead, managers will have to learn new hands-off ways of managing through digital means.
Managing remotely requires training in remote management.
3. Prepare your employees by setting expectations early and providing thorough training
Preparing your employees is just as important as preparing your managers.
Employees require training in remote workflows, such as how to access centrally stored files.
More importantly, you should set expectations about what remote working will entail. Many employers fear that employees will simply slack off when given the opportunity. However, loss of productivity can be easily avoided if you set expectations for deliverables from the very beginning.
Research shows that employees are much more productive working from home when goals and expectations are clearly defined. They’re much happier to boot. However, the key is to set expectations early and thoroughly train your staff on the best ways to accomplish work remotely.
4. Define company culture
Remember, even though your company may not have a physical office, it should still have a material culture.
One of the dangers of transitioning to a remote working paradigm is a loss or dilution of company culture.
A positive office culture is crucial for employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity. For tech companies, for example, the office culture is often one of the primary draws.
Just because your business has decided to move towards remote working, doesn’t mean that you have to give up your positive office culture. Instead encourage the following:
- Encourage employees to engage with each other digitally.
- Provide timely in-person meetups with the teamIn those meetings recognize accomplishments, celebrate birthdays, anniversary, introduce new family members and team members.I would even encourage you to splurge and buy lunch, announce a team contest, give rewards for jobs well done or goals met. Make it a memorable event. Avoid boring meetings.
- Encourage employees to be involved in non-work realted chitchat on office channels — provided it does not distract others or hamper culture and work.
Moving to remote working is an exercise in trust and responsibility. You have to trust your employees for the model to work. If you can’t trust your workers to deliver good work, chances are the problem isn’t remote working but a leadership issue.
5. Lead with TRUST
If you trust people to deliver, they often will. But you’ll still want to set up your team to achieve their goals and by setting tangible goals, milestones, and deliverables for each employee.
Trust but verify, is the name of the game. For remote working to be successful, employers and managers need to learn to trust their employees. Chances are, if you are hiring the right people, this should not be an issue.
It is important to have processes and systems in place that show the team is productive and that expectations are being met. There are lots of ways to do this, including productivity-tracking applications (i.e. Monday.com, Salesforce, etc.) and project management tools that help employees and employers alike keep projects on track and efficient.
It is also helpful to setup up recurring virtual online meetings to review project progress, or setbacks, and overall progression towards a final deliverable.
Remember, the greatest challenge in a remote working environment is communication. But with the right tools and technologies, this can be overcome.