5 tips for successful remote working
Have you heard of ‘remote first’ companies? They refer to a growing trend of businesses who are prioritising remote working as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Instead of reluctantly adopting flexible working options out of necessity, these companies are taking a positive and proactive approach. With the right culture, processes and practices, remote working can actually benefit your business in a big way.
These 5 tips for successful remote working will transform your thinking and provide tangible ways to embrace this popular working style.
1. Trust - managers shift focus
According to Harvard Business Review:
Research shows that managers who cannot “see” their direct reports sometimes struggle to trust that their employees are indeed working.
It’s a fair point - as many companies continue to focus on a culture of presenteeism, remote working has thrown a spanner in the works. It’s impossible to monitor your employees’ input every minute of the day when you can’t even see them. So, what’s the solution?
Trust. It sounds simple but for many managers and business leaders, trusting employees to put in the requisite effort that produces results is not something that comes naturally.
Of the 215 supervisors and managers in a recent study, 40% expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely. So senior company leaders and HR partners need to support managers and teams in making the transition to remote working.
This means a shift in focus from input to output. For example, worrying less about the number of hours employees are clocking up and concentrating more on their results. This approach is already standard practice for many agile organisations. But for more traditional institutions, it presents a sizable leap from the norm.
Education, training and a ‘test and learn’ approach are all key. Your managers and employees won’t get it right overnight but setting up the right documents, policies and success measures is a good place to start. Providing training for managers on trust and confidence will also help.
2. Time - allow flexible working
With many schools having closed due to the pandemic, parents have taken on the role of carers, teachers and children’s entertainers. All this whilst juggling demanding careers and a great deal of job uncertainty.
This has created a natural shift to flexible working hours as parents simply cannot hold down a 9-5 work day whilst caring for their children. For other employees, the absence of a daily commute, a shift in priorities or new caring responsibilities due to Covid-19 may have created a need for flexible working hours.
Some companies already offered flexible working hours for employees before Covid-19 emerged. For them, the lockdown presented less of a challenge as managers and business leaders were used to their teams working outside of standard 9-5 work hours.
However, for many other businesses, especially those within customer facing roles or traditional industries like finance, the idea of flexible working was inconceivable. So the need for flexible working hours due to Covid-19 has become apparent almost overnight. There may have been a lot of resistance for companies who don’t believe in the value of flexible working hours.
The reality is that those companies who do not offer flexible working hours are likely to be left behind and might be less productive than those who do.
In fact, research from the CIPD, published in an article by The Guardian, has shown that, “implementing flexible working practices can improve staff engagement and motivation. The benefits of flexible working are well established, from increased employee engagement to better performance.”
3. Transparency - open knowledge sharing
Closely related to the points around trust and time, transparency is vital to the success of remote working. If your teams are spread across multiple locations and working at varying hours, you’ll need a way of connecting with them.
As above, transparency is not about checking up on your employees! What matters is that your team has the right processes and systems to be able to update their colleagues and stakeholders on progress. A daily stand up meeting is a great way to inject transparency into your workflows.
The term ‘stand up’ refers to the fact that in many agile scrum teams, these short 10-15 minute meetings tend to take place with team members standing around a whiteboard discussing any issues or blockers to their progress. Instead of a lengthy update about progress, a stand up is a very focused session in which team members can raise any concerns, risks or blockers to their progress so these can be attended to quickly.
A stand up can work across any industry, project or team and you can tailor the format to suit your unique ways of working.
For example, if your team is working remotely, you might start the day with a 15 minute video stand up over Zoom. In this session, team members will be encouraged to raise any concerns, risks or issues that are affecting their progress or mention anything critical that the team needs to know. It’s very important to stick to the format and time frame - otherwise your stand up can quickly morph into a lengthy meeting.
4. Technology - cloud software is key
It’s vital that your team has access to the right tools to enable successful remote working.
Technology provides a plethora of open source tools that promote collaboration, transparency and trust between teams. It’s key not only that your team has access to these tools, but also that they are trained and confident in using them. When choosing the right software to enable remote working, it’s imperative that you do your homework.
Speak to similar companies to understand what tools they use, chat to your employees about what they need and how they wish to communicate. Then, invest in a handful of proven tools to facilitate remote working.
For example, Just3things is a proven and revolutionary software platform that makes it easy for businesses to provide transparency and to focus on the things that really matter. Our software is based on the powerful OKR framework (objectives and key results) used by millions of successful businesses around the world.
It’s a goal based system that allows you to articulate strategy and create focus around company priorities, alerting everyone at once if these change. Employees can use Just3Things to share visibility of progress and issues across cross-functional teams, keep stakeholders informed and make quick, informed decisions using real-time data.
5. Teamwork - modern company culture
Teamwork, collaboration, alignment - whatever you choose to call it, successful remote working depends on having a cohesive team. This starts with your company culture;
- Is yours an organisation that encourages employees to express their opinions freely and without fear?
- Do your leaders and managers treat failure as an opportunity to learn, rather than a basis for dismissal?
- Do your teams enjoy working together and share aspects of their personalities in addition to updates about their work?
These are all critical elements of company culture that can facilitate successful remote working.
Why? Well because in the absence of physical interactions and water cooler chats in the office, your employees will need to form a bond that is based on trust and togetherness. And that can only happen if they truly work as a team. If your company culture is solid, the next pillar of teamwork is motivation. Is your team aligned to the same goal and do they understand how the work they do contributes to the wider company strategy or objectives? If not, it’s time to share.
Having regular, company-wide updates over video calls or webinars to share your current progress, priorities and successes as a business will motivate employees. It can also prompt discussions between teams and individuals - some social interaction in the absence of a physical office is a wonderful way to promote teamwork!
Get in touch
We believe that remote working is here to stay and those companies that adapt to new ways of working will be more likely to thrive in a ‘remote first’ world. If you’re making the transition to remote working and need support in facilitating a successful shift, do get in touch! We can help support your transformation with the right tools, intuitive software, tried and tested tips and a track record of experience.