You could be forgiven for thinking that we’d be back to life as normal by this point. Most of us were under that impression. However, COVID-19 seems to have other plans, and amid rapidly accelerating cases across the US, even companies that had started to return to the office are once more going remote.
The situation may be even more tenuous than you suspect. Primarily remote work may be our new normal for a very long time to come. This may be problematic if you have simply been biding your time until the world returned to some semblance of sanity and have failed to make accommodations for a more permanently remote workforce.
Thankfully, not only is it possible to thrive as a remote company, but getting to that point may not be as challenging as many leaders anticipate. In this post, we will highlight some of the crucial steps and tactics required to create a more resilient organization.
The Right Technology Is Critical
Obviously, business leaders understand that without access to technology, remote work is impossible. However, not all tech is created equal. Organizations must invest in the right technology and source options capable of tracking tasks and progress while improving communication and reducing efforts. What sorts of technology, though?
Start with the foundation. Your organization will need a central software platform that helps them stay on track and show real-time progress and updates. An option like Trello is a good choice, although there are plenty of others. AirTable and Asana are both worthy contenders for your attention.
However, choosing a platform is insufficient. You must take things several steps further. One of the most critical steps is to help your teams come to grips with that platform. Training will help them get up and running, become familiar with how the various features work, and how the platform will support their processes and workflows.
Make Leadership Available
The remote work world differs greatly from the in-office realm. One of the key differences is in access to leadership. In the office, it is possible to get information in many ways, from overhearing snippets of conversation to grabbing five minutes with an executive between meetings in the hallway. However, in the remote world, those avenues of information influx no longer exist and you will need to be intentional to ensure that team members and managers have access to the information they need and to avoid them feeling like they are fumbling in the dark.
How do you do that, though? It starts with the calendar. Everyone, even the CEO, should have an accessible calendar. You also need to empower your team members to make appointments or book time with anyone in the company via that calendar. This one step ensures that when an employee or manager needs guidance or information, they have access to it without jumping through hoops.
However, while accessible calendars and self-set appointments/scheduling are good starts, you also need to go the distance where communication is concerned. Chat applications should be adopted by everyone, and all employees should feel comfortable chatting with anyone in the organization, including the CEO.
Meetings Matter More Than Ever
We all have complicated relationships with meetings. In the past, chances are good you gritted your teeth and sat through them, even though you might have felt they were largely a waste of time. In the remote work world, meetings have taken on a much deeper significance. Simply put, they matter and they should not be avoided, cut short, or ignored.
What meetings matter, though? Actually, the shortest and most informal are probably the most important. Your morning standup is more than just a formality. In these strange times, those brief interludes of almost-normality have become touchstones for many of us. They provide some semblance of sanity, a connection with our peers, and a tether to the world outside our homes. If you take nothing else away from this post, understand this: your morning standups are critical to morale and engagement. Make them count.
Your standups are not the only meetings you need to focus on, though. To manage performance, you need one-on-ones. You should have a sit-down with each employee once per week and the meeting should be done by video to approximate an in-person meeting as closely as possible.
These one-on-ones are your opportunity to address performance issues, but more importantly, they provide another touchstone with normality for your team members. They can ask questions, get direction or clarification, discuss their successes and setbacks, and provide feedback on management’s performance and even company direction. These sessions can be invaluable tools not just to improve performance, but to increase engagement and bolster morale – team and department-wide change begins on the individual level.
Hire and Onboard Intelligently
As more and more organizations realize that remote work will be the norm moving forward, they must come to terms with the impact on their hiring and onboarding processes. A primarily remote organization must approach these processes differently, but the goal (as always) should be to ensure that you have the right talent in the right position.
Understand that it is impossible to build a remote organization if the people you hire are not up to the task. So, in addition to your regular considerations (employee qualifications, experience in similar roles, etc.), you must also make an effort to hire individuals capable of thriving in a remote environment. They must be able to set their own schedules, hold themselves accountable, and remain motivated without being in a traditional work environment.
Overcoming Your Challenges
While 2020 might have thrown a COVID-19-sized wrench in the works, the resulting challenges are not insurmountable. Many organizations can successfully move the bulk of their employees to remote positions and even thrive in a remote-work environment. The trick is being prepared for the long-term reality and understanding that remote work is here to stay.