In recent years, there has been a surge in popularity of remote working among businesses. Upgrades to existing remote working tools and the development of better, more efficient apps have enabled businesses to offer work from home options to their workers. For example, companies like Automattic, Zapier Buffer and Toptal have converted their businesses into full remote working environments.
However, the push for remote working has been greater these COVID-19 times. The entire world experienced a devastating economic downturn when government leaders ordered severe quarantine lockdown and safe distancing procedures to minimize the spread of the disease. Badly affected by the lockdowns are businesses that are not enabled for remote working. In order to give their companies and businesses a jumpstart in the middle of a raging pandemic, company/business owners have instituted work from home procedures for their employees. At present, the remote working scenario is becoming a part of the so-called “new normal” rather than just being an option or exception.
As we look to the future ahead of us, it is obvious now that remote working is fast becoming a mainstay in the business environment. Even Australian software company Atlassian has boldly declared that employees can now work from home permanently.
Is Remote Working Right For Your Organization? Knowing the Pros and Cons
Despite this bold assertion about the potential permanence of remote working, the question remains: Is remote working the right choice for your organization?
To answer this question, you need to evaluate the current working environment in your organization. Among the questions that you need to ask in order to arrive at a decision on whether or not to remote work are the following:
- Is it necessary for my team to work locally in our office to get things done?
- What will my organization stand to gain or lose if we shift to a work from home scenario?
- Do we have to go into full remote work mode or can a hybrid approach work as well?
To better answer these questions, you need to know the pros and cons of remote working. Let us first take a look at the benefits.
First of all, with remote working, your organization can hire a wealth of diverse talent from all parts of the globe. It is easier now to find men and women with the skills your organization needs because of the rising trend of people seeking remote jobs online. Another benefit is that you can save more money that is originally allotted to office leases and equipment replacement and maintenance.
On the part of the workers, they have experienced increased productivity and autonomy while working at home. In addition, they are happy that they don’t need to brave horrendous traffic to travel to and from their workplaces, saving not only time and gas/commute money but valuable energies best spent on their work.
As appealing as these benefits are, you also need to take a look at the potential drawbacks of the remote working scenario.
For organizations, there is a steep learning curve that must be overcome. It is not only about learning how to manage remote workers. You also need to master remote working technologies so that you can better assign and supervise workloads. This can be quite a challenge for organizations who have little to zero experience in the remote working environment.
On the other hand, workers will also need to learn how to use these same technologies, especially if they haven’t used them before in their local workplaces. There is also the potential for demotivation if face-to-face supervision is not provided on a regular basis. Others have complained about too many distractions at home. If you combine these factors with limited access to information or updates from the organization, productivity can suffer a tremendous nosedive.
As Business Director of the content marketing agency IMPACT, I have personally experienced these pros and cons early on with a hybrid approach and when we shifted to a full remote working scenario when the pandemic first reared its ugly, contagious head. Although a large percentage of our business dealings is done remotely, we still conduct meetings with our team on a regular basis, not only to discuss work but also to establish personal rapport and build stronger working relationships.
If we can do this in my agency, I’m absolutely certain that a remote working environment can be established in your own organizations.
7 Ways to Increase Productivity in Your Remote Team
If, after careful evaluation, your organization has made the decision to shift to a remote working environment, you need to know the ways by which you can increase productivity in your remote team. Not only will these ways ensure that your team can face any potential challenges; it will also keep them feeling happy and fulfilled at their work.
Here are seven ways by which you can achieve this goal.
1) Choose the Right Remote Working Tools
You need to have the right remote working tools already in place in your organization. Indispensable to a remote working scenario are digital workplace solutions, like Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) and Office 365. These technologies will provide your remote team with a wealth of tools at their disposal, including document processing, file storage, email, chat, and video calls.
To be able to stay in contact with your remote teams, you need chat and project management capabilities. The best chat tools at present are Slack and Microsoft Teams. Noted project management tools include established apps like Trello, Asana and Basecamp and rising technologies such as Notion, Infinity and Plutio. For a digital marketing agency like IMPACT, screenshot and annotation tools like Markup Hero are vital to our remote working environment.
While it is up to you to determine which software and tools work best for your organization, you also need to take the time to teach your remote team on the use of these tech to enable everyone to function better.
2) Always Maintain Open Communication Lines
Maintaining regular communication with your remote teams is not only important to ensure better work quality and output. It also helps to keep them motivated, knowing that their employers are there to supervise and advise them when needed.
To do this, you need to have varied communication platforms available since your remote team members may have preferred tools. For example, some team members may prefer to receive instructions and input through Zoom calls/video conferencing or voice messages. Others like to have their instructions written in black and white through email or chat platforms, such as Slack or Teams.
If you have the platforms in place, make it a point to overcommunicate with your remote teams. Nothing can be more demotivating than for a team member to feel that he/she is being left out, that they are not receiving work or information as onsite teams and other remote members. To address this problem, you need to communicate with your team members regularly and consistently so that they receive the information and assistance they need to ensure quality work. This is especially important at the start of projects, when they need to have all the information required for the work at hand as well as understand their roles and your expectations at the end of the project.
Take note though that effective communication works both ways. You are not the only one giving the orders. You should also be open to any suggestions or feedback from your remote teams as these may help in finishing the project faster and more efficiently.
3) Be Prepared for Employee Onboarding
A common problem among organizations is that their local employees – those who work in their offices – are not ready for remote working. Some may experience difficulties in using remote working tools.
It is vital that you take the time for a thorough employee onboarding of the remote work process. Give them a proper orientation on the tools and applications that they will be using, emphasizing where files are being stored and where they can obtain information. It may be helpful to have an online employee manual ready to answer any questions they may have.
Your HR and finance departments may have some difficulties with new employees because of the number of documents that need to be signed. This process can be made smoother with the use of online esignature tools.
4) Create a culture of accountability, transparency, and trust in your organization
Each member of your team member should have their work aligned toward the fulfillment of your organization’s vision and goals. Suffice to say, everyone – those who work in your offices and remotely – should all move and work in the same direction.
For this reason, setting clear expectations for each team member is a must. Your expectations should be part of any instructions that you will give to a team member. This would include what needs to be done, the expected date of completion, and the standards that the finished work must abide by.
In addition, create a culture or environment of transparency and accountability among your remote teams. This enables the forging of a strong sense of trust among the members of your local and remote teams.
5) Establish and encourage collaboration
As an organization, you should have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), frameworks, and guidelines already in place that will encourage collaboration among your local and remote teams to ensure high standards of work outputs and efficiency.
This collaboration can be strengthened by the best practices that we have enumerated above, including the clarification of organization goals, maintaining open communication lines, informing all workers on the flow of information and their storage, and the tools that are available for work and collaboration.
6) Perform regular, scheduled check-ins
It is ideal to conduct regular check-ins with your remote team. This is crucially important if their work output is diverting from the organization goals and needs realignment. On the part of the worker, the check-in is vital especially if they are experiencing problems or challenges with the work at hand. You can also update them on current happenings within your organization.
Regular check-ins can be accomplished through the use of the organization’s chat platforms, especially if they have scheduling capabilities for chats or face-to-face video calls.
7) Strengthen company culture
You can create a strong company culture by showing your remote team members that you not only care about them and their well-being. You should also encourage them to give feedback and suggestions to improve remote work. Workers who are aware of acts of misconduct should also be encouraged to report them to the proper channels within your organization.
Needless to say, you are building a company culture that is built on trust, safety, harmony, and camaraderie.
Remote Teams Are Here to Stay
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are very much aware that business procedures need not be confined within the four walls of an office. Remote working allows for diversity of talents, more time on the job, and more efficient work outputs.
Just follow our advice above and you and your organization are well on your way to creating a solid, productive remote working environment.