COVID-19 continues to affect the world. While many states have at least partially reopened their economies, quite a few businesses have decided to continue with remote working, at least until a vaccine is found. Even after that point, the benefits offered here may convince business leaders of the wisdom in letting employees work from home if they want/are able.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some pretty significant challenges in making the transition from in-office to remote working. While reams have been written about it, we thought it would be helpful to weigh in with a few critical tips to help make that transition as smooth as possible and to ensure that your teams are set up for (remote) success.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Perhaps the single most important tip is this – overcommunicate. Yes, you’ve probably heard it before. That’s because it’s one of the hardest things for organizations to master. Overcommunicating doesn’t mean that you’re bombarding employees with irrelevant emails or chat messages, though. It goes a lot deeper than you might assume. Here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:
- Create a communications network that includes multiple options, including video, chat, text, email, and more. Make sure that everyone’s on board with each platform and that they all know how to use them. This may require some training, so be prepared to provide that.
- Commit to daily team standup meetings. They might only last five minutes, but they’ll help you create a sense of cohesion between remote workers.
- Encourage employees to interact during lunch and after hours through video calls, show-and-tell, and the like. Everyone needs to feel a personal connection with their coworkers.
- Use check-ins as ways to keep everyone on the same page, interconnected, and involved with not only team projects, but the company as a whole.
Protection Matters More Than Ever
With more and more people working remotely, a vastly greater amount of sensitive information is now being transmitted digitally. You must put in place necessary technological safeguards, such as using a VPN and ensuring that all remote workers have up-to-date antivirus software.
However, don’t neglect the importance of digital security training for your teams. This should cover things like password hygiene, how to identify phishing attacks, what information can be shared online, and what cannot, and a great deal more. Make sure that everyone receives this training, too, not just your IT team or administrative employees.
Make Time for Fun
It’s easy for fun to fall by the wayside in a remote world. Because we’re not physically with our coworkers, it becomes a more transactional relationship. However, that way lies disaster. Instead, make sure that you’re leaving time for fun. This may require some intentional planning on the part of leadership, but a few ideas that may work for your organization include the following:
- Plan group yoga sessions in the morning, at lunch, or after work.
- Have team members give cooking classes (novices welcome, of course!).
- Plan a board game night where teams or groups play the same game virtually.
- Get involved with digital group games, like Jackbox Games (played on smartphones).
You get the idea. There are tons of options that can help you add fun, build connectivity, and help everyone feel like they’re part of a larger family. You just have to make an effort to build these activities in.
Now more than ever, it’s important to recognize the contributions of your team members. It can be all too easy to feel invisible when working remotely. And, if your contributions aren’t recognized, it creates a feeling of isolation, which ultimately leads to futility and frustration.
Find ways to recognize your team members for what they do. It doesn’t have to be a huge event – a hat tip to someone during your morning standup might be more than enough. The point is that you need to find ways to tell employees, “Hey, we see you. You’re doing amazing stuff.”
Of course, while you can go small (and should in many instances), don’t neglect opportunities to really show rewards for those who go above and beyond. Not only does that recognition help lift the spirits of the employee being recognized, but it can raise morale across the entire team, department, or even the entire company. It also plays an important role in communicating expectations and encouraging everyone to shoot higher.
Finally, make sure that you set boundaries and that you require your team members to, as well. Remote work can be a perfect recipe for people to go down the rabbit hole in terms of being “always-on”, particularly today in our ever-more digitally connected world. Make sure that everyone knows the office isn’t open 24/7 now.
They need to set boundaries in terms of when they begin their day, when they end their day, and even downtime during the middle of the day. Otherwise, work has a way of taking over your life, which in turn will lead to burnout, frustration, exhaustion, and other serious issues. A few tips can help make it simpler to set those critical boundaries:
- Turn off Slack, Trello, and other work-related apps after a certain point in the day.
- Stop answering work emails after a certain time of day.
- Turn off devices during lunch, when working out, and during other personal times during the day.
- Resist the urge to answer questions or reply to emails at all hours – set a schedule and any questions or concerns that come in after a certain time can be answered the next day.
Finding Success in Remote Working
The tips, tricks, and strategies we’ve covered above will help ensure that your teams find success in the new remote work situation. Even if your teams have been working remotely since the pandemic started, there’s a good chance that at least some of these tips will provide them with stability and other benefits. Plus, if your organization decides to keep working remotely to some degree when things move closer to the old normal, you’ll be prepared to hit the ground running.