As COVID 19 takes the global economy by storm, most businesses are adjusting to the realities of a newly-remote workforce. Remote teams or work comes with a host of challenges, and if you’re not careful, you could face decreasing productivity and increasing error-rates.
Remote work is inherently different from in-office work, so we can’t expect the same processes and procedures that worked well in an office to translate to the remote environment. Excelling at remote work is going to take a new approach.
Here are five tips to ensure that your remote workforce stays as productive and happy as possible during this chaotic time.
Good communication is one of the hallmarks of a well-run organization. When your entire employee base works remotely, you lose out on the face to face interactions that occur in the office.
We often don’t realize it, but the small talk by the water cooler plays an essential role in making employees feel comfortable communicating openly and honestly with each other.
To communicate effectively in a remote environment, we recommend taking these three steps.
Use Your Face-cam
A large percentage of communication occurs outside of the words we say. Our facial expressions and body language help clarify the intent and tone of any given communication.
Make sure that your employees are using their cameras for important meetings to reduce the amount of lost information.
When you can’t see your teammate’s faces, it’s easy for communication to be misunderstood, jokes to be taken the wrong way, and a general feeling of awkwardness to arise in a meeting.
The Fewer Meetings, The Better
In the office, meetings can be seamless. Setting up a meeting is often as simple as walking over to a coworkers desk and asking them to hop in a conference room.
Remote meetings aren’t as easy and require some amount of back and forth to get set up. Keep in mind that working remotely increases the cost of setting up and attending any given meeting, so make sure to decrease the total number of meetings your employees attend.
If you’re used to having ten meetings a week in the office, that number should look more like six meetings a week at home, not 12.
Set Aside Time For Fun
Meetings in the office double as opportunities for socialization. Employees have side conversations before the meeting starts, and after the meeting ends, catching up on personal details like weekend plans, family updates, and upcoming vacations.
These personal conversations help build a feeling of trust and acceptance within a team. Remote work removes the opportunity for personal conversations during meetings.
Thus it’s important to set aside time where employees can meet and talk about everything but work.
With an entirely remote workforce, technology is even more important than normal. Ensuring that the technology being used is up to date and working well can make massive differences in the productivity of any employee.
When working in a remote environment, it’s important to practice good “tech hygiene” to ensure that your computer works as well as possible.
Each program running on your computer uses up some amount of power available to the machine. If you have a Google Chrome browser with 15 tabs open, your computer will have fewer resources available than a Chrome browser with a single tab.
Similarly, ensuring that you’re not running lots of desktop programs, such as having five Excel workbooks open at the same time, will speed up your machine.
In addition to making sure your machine and operating system is running at optimal speeds, you want to be careful when downloading new software. With IT resources being stretched thin, accidentally downloading a virus onto your machine can result in large delays to your workflow.
In a remote environment, deliberate effort is needed to ensure good cross-team collaboration. Now is a good time to consolidate the number of different applications that your organization uses in day to day work.
Decide on a company-wide solution for communication (Skype, MSFT Teams, Slack, etc.), information storage (Sharepoint, Confluence, etc.), video chat (MSFT Teams, Webex, Zoom, etc.), and project management (Asana, JIRA, Trello, etc.).
As your employees all become familiar with the same tools, communication errors and project timelines will both decrease.
In the office, we can get away with employees using different tools for the same purpose, but the same can’t be said of the remote environment. In the remote environment, three different employees using three different tools to solve the same problem is a big area of opportunity.
Understand that your employees are adjusting to a new normal. Working from home with your kids, spouse, and pets all around you takes time to adjust to.
Consider offering educational sessions to your employees to train them on how to prioritize their workload in this new environment. Working from home where there are lots of distractions requires a flexible, focused approach that differs from an office where distractions are limited.
Take the initiative to offer education to your employees so that they are supported as they continue to transition to a fully remote work schedule. Remember, for some of your employees, this might be the first time they’re working remotely in many years.
Finally, be flexible with your employees. We’re all working in an environment we’ve never experienced before, and a certain amount of slow down is to be expected.
Communicate openly with your employees and make sure to consistently ask them for their feedback on the remote work environment being created. What’s working? What isn’t working? The best ideas will come from the individuals dealing with the company policies on a day to day basis. Make sure that your environment is open enough that your employees feel comfortable coming to you with any concerns that they have.