Remote work is a natural response to the spread of COVID-19. However, it will be around long after the virus has been tamed. Shifting to a remote team offers quite a few benefits, ranging from giving employees a chance to create a flexible schedule to dealing with the repercussions of things like power outages or handling natural disasters.
With that being said, employers with no experience handling remote teams can find the situation more than a little challenging. It requires shifting from a culture in which everything is centrally located to one where everything is out of sight. It goes hand in hand with a sense of ambiguity, even insecurity.
How do you know that your employees are actually doing their jobs? How do you ensure that they’re focusing on the right goals? How do you make certain that employees take their remote responsibilities seriously and are not “slacking off” the whole week?
These are just some of the challenging questions that you’ll need to answer as a manager. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be stressful and ambiguous. You can ensure team members can treat remote work the same as they would in-office work.
In fact, remote work can be a liberating thing, not just for your employees, but for the organization itself. It can improve employee work/life balance. It can even help them refocus on key responsibilities and foster better success.
The trick to achieving those benefits is ensuring that your team members are ready to transition to a remote workplace. Below, we’ll explore some of the most important ways to do just that.
One of the most critical considerations for successfully transitioning to a remote work model is building a culture of trust. For many organizations, this is pretty challenging. You must trust your people.
You must shift your mindset from assuming that if they’re not watched and managed every hour of the workday, they’re going to shirk their duties. Instead, trust that with autonomy, your workers will blossom. They will rise to the occasion and perform their duties even without management there to keep them in line.
However, it’s not just management that needs to learn how to trust. Employees also need to learn to trust management. They must know that management can clearly communicate, delegate, and will hold all employees accountable for their actions. It’s about creating a sense of oneness, of unity.
Do They Have the Tools Required?
Remote work requires the right tools and capabilities. Communication and collaborative capabilities become more important than ever. Your team must be able to communicate with one another, and they must be able to work collaboratively, even iteratively. They cannot do that if you have not provided the right tools.
Thankfully, technology has evolved to the point that this is simpler to achieve than you might think. We have an incredible range of communication and collaboration tools today, depending on what your team needs to achieve. For instance, file sharing can be accomplished with Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and numerous other options. Google offers access to free tools like Sheets and Docs that can be created, shared, and then edited and refined collaboratively. We have tools like Trello and Slack that allow the creation of projects and more.
Here’s the thing, though. You need to know which tools your team needs and then ensure that everyone is set up with those. Don’t wait until they’re working remotely to get them familiar with how Slack works, or what a Trello card is. Give them the tools they need now, before they go remote, and then make sure that everyone has the training necessary to use those tools.
Be There for Them
Your remote teams will handle all their regular responsibilities, but you must be there for them. Yes, that includes the information we’ve discussed thus far, but you need to do more. Ask the right questions.
What might those be? You’ll need to phrase them to fit your situation, but the point of these questions is to shed light on critical considerations and unearth important information, such as the following:
- How are your newly remote team members handling the shift?
- Do they have the support they need from you? From one another?
- Are your employees crystal clear on goals, roles, and responsibilities?
Ask questions frequently and directly. With remote teams, accurate, ongoing, direct communication is vital to success. Be committed to that.
One of the most drastic differences between remote work and business-as-usual is that in a workplace setting, getting feedback is simple. You might exchange a few comments as you pass in the hall, step into someone’s office to note something, or grab a minute with a team member before or after a meeting. In a remote work scenario, there’s less chance for those informal feedback moments, so you need to be committed to creating them. Sure, it might feel forced, but the result is that you’ll be able to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Be Judicious with Meetings
Meetings are infamous time wasters, but in a remote setting, they can be critical tools that enable success. That doesn’t mean “have all the meetings”, though. It means have meetings but be judicious about how many you have.
Be aware of all the meetings that your team members are required to be in throughout the week, too. After all, if there are meetings every single day, that cuts out a lot of time that team members can spend focusing on what they do best. That has an immediate, detrimental effect on business success.
In some cases, it might be best to combine meetings. In others, you might decide to change a meeting that was originally weekly to biweekly. The point is this: you must be cognizant of your team’s time and balance the value delivered by meetings with the consumption of that time.
Go Remote without Worry
Ultimately, transitioning to remote work doesn’t have to be daunting. Make sure you’re prepared and that your team members are ready. It can be a liberating experience that adds flexibility and improves work/life balance.