Over the course of nearly three years, remote working has become the norm for some businesses following the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst it was the case that businesses and employees had no choice but to work from home, many have carried on with this way of working - even now that the UK Government rules have changed. Needless to say, it’s a huge change for employees nationally, who are used to commuting to their 9-5 job. Which begs the question, why are businesses still opting for remote working?
Regardless of the current circumstances relating to the pandemic, leading a team of individuals can be extremely challenging in its own right. Adding widespread geographical locations and cultural differences to the mix can, in no doubt, prove to be nearly impossible for some.
This leads us to wonder, is this forever? As far as we can predict, a hybrid/remote approach to working is now a part of our lives and as you may have experienced it, you may prefer the dynamic. Fortunately for you founders and managers out there, we have 11 tips that you can implement right away!
What are the benefits of remote working?
Remote working saves on expenses for both the business and the employees. By cutting travel, parking, and lunch costs, employees are saving their hard-earned cash. Also to mention the potential bills that businesses are saving on office leases, electricity costs and day to day runnings of a residence.
The amount of time saved by having efficient meetings and concise points to focus on the task at hand can ensure that deadlines are met. The time spent commuting to the office and the day to day small talk around the office reduces the amount of time to get things in order.
Freedom and flexibility
Employees have the freedom to plan out their day as they please. Having the flexibility to book medical appointments or efficiently pick up their child from school. With this type of flexibility and work/life balance, employees find more satisfaction from their job role and trust built relationships with their employer.
Peace and concentration
Employees find an increase in concentration thanks to less noise, talking and minimal interruptions throughout their day. Working from home can allow creative thinking due to fewer distractions.
What are the challenges of remote working?
As employees aren’t experiencing the feeling of being metres away from their managers when being in a remote working environment, they may be overwhelmed with the feeling of their manager's suspicions. Managers may have a fear that employees will slack due to being in an environment away from their supervision. With employees' personal lives and work lives under the same roof, it's hard to switch off and differentiate the two. This issue has led to some people calling the remote situation “living in the office”.
When living with others and working from home, it’s not surprising that employees experience some form of interruption - whether it be a young child, a dog or a cat etc. Finding a suitable place to work can prove to be challenging in order to focus
Lack of human interaction
Long days at your desk can be isolating, especially for those who live alone. It’s all well and good to experience human interaction during works meeting, but it can definitely prove to be tiresome without physical human interaction.
Bad health habits
It’s easy to slip into bad habits when working from home. You may intend to do a daily walk to break up the day but realistically employees may tend to put it off. Workstations could be an estimated 22 steps away from where you wake up and an employee may not even get their daily dose of vitamin D.
There's nothing worse than being in a deep state of concentration in your work and suddenly, your Wifi cuts out. It's frustrating when technology works against us, most seemingly when we need it the most. You think ‘this would never happen in the office’, especially when there's a tech expert on stand by.
11 tips you can implement
In a business environment, we all want to be on the same page. The best way to do it? Sufficient communication between you and your team. Not only does it drive the best, most successful outcomes from assignments, but it creates a sense of value and belonging. Being well informed, collaborative and motivational in the way you communicate encourages a good community to form within your remote workplace. Continuity in communication is also important in building relationships with team members that you may have never met in person.
Establish rules of engagement
Establishing loose engagement rules from the outset ensures that your team makes the effort to write follow up messages or summaries of complicated situations that may not come as easily to others. This is especially important for those on your team who may be new or unfamiliar with certain departments.
Trust your employees
As managers, we all know how easy it is to glance over at your employee's desk and have a quick check that they are on the right track. Whether you adopt a micromanagement approach or tend to let them get on with their own process, you have a sense of trust. However, in a remote-working environment, you may feel completely different. There’s always a disconnected presence between you and your employees.
Many founders and managers of businesses focus primarily on the output of an individual's performance, which is classified as the tasks completed in the number of hours worked. HR expert Tara Bethell says, “I don’t care about these things [hours and schedules]. What I do care about are results.”. Adding to the opinion that many managers favour the process of outcome monitoring rather than output monitoring. You need to trust that your team can manage their own tasks. Live by the saying “don’t focus on activity, focus on the outcomes”. You may feel more comfortable monitoring a tasks list or marker when necessary.
Schedule daily check-ins
Dedicating a small amount of time each day to schedule a check in (whether it be with the whole team or an individual) is a beneficial way of staying on track. Give your team the ‘lowdown’ on what to expect throughout the day or update them on an urgent task that they need to address. By doing this, you’re keeping them engaged and forming a sense of camaraderie. Using online conferencing telecommunication tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet is an excellent way of scheduling team meetings and speaking to a broad audience.
Setting early on expectations eliminates the risk of unwanted surprises. You may expect your employees to follow principles and guidelines to enhance work ethic, productivity or discipline. Some businesses follow the EPIC (energy, purpose, insights and connection) structure for their meeting to promote an efficient, purpose-driven outcome:
The meeting starts off by asking how everyone is feeling, sharing their thoughts with the team. The stage prompts everyone to engage in conversation and adds energy to the meeting.
The meeting leads to an efficient purpose of the conversation. The team addresses the aims and agendas that will be covered to identify the solution of the topic.
At this stage of the meeting, the team add their input and ideas to the flow of conversation. There may be a spark of collaboration met with distinct points of view.
Finally, you will see connections building amongst the team, coming to a united consensus. The result of the meeting presents a strong understanding of the needs that will be met in order to come to the arranged goal.
Use technology to your advantage
With the extremities of the changes to business by remote working, technology has been their saving grace. It’s important to highlight that setting up an appropriate process and task platform is important for the visibility of project management.
Here is a range of platforms that businesses use to aid remote project management:
As mentioned previously, technology can cause hindrances to our daily work. To avoid this, make sure that you have a backup plan. By that we mean, to have a mobile hotspot device on standby or ensure you’ve sufficiently backed up your work to your computer.
Provide sufficient resources
Trust, commitment and ambition can be fostered by the feeling of a strong team. To enable this sentiment teams should be well equipt with the fundamental infrastructure of doing their job. A great way to do this is to supply your team with suitable resources such as:
ongoing training practices for personal development
Many companies are able to provide company benefits such as healthcare plans, subsidised gym membership, subsidised travel or wellness programmes - all of which can contribute to the self-development of the employee.
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The new company culture
Involve the team in selecting new hires
Since businesses have run remotely, many have resorted to including their employees in the selection of new hires. As the culture of business may have changed drastically, so has the prospective candidate.
“Run candidates through a virtual review panel with all department heads and some staff, and everyone gets a vote...people who are not a fit, which makes everything run more smoothly.”Viveka Von Rosen, CEO of Vengreso
Encourage remote social interactions
Creating a space where you can virtually meet and engage with each other has an array of benefits. Being remote, you and your team may find it hard to establish a virtual culture. Social isolation has been proven to lead to loneliness and disconnection. We can all admit that the social connections that you gain in person are nowhere near comparable to remote situations. You want to ensure your team feels united and included in some way. A great way to do this is to arrange out of work online socials. It enables your employees to get better acquainted with each other.
Here's a list of activities that you could incorporate into your business to enhance the social culture:
Two truths one lie
Get-to-know you questions
Virtual scavenger hunt
Guess the desk
Finding the opportunity for physical meetings or team gatherings is a viable option once in a while to present the opportunity to satisfy the need for long-lasting relationships between colleagues. Meeting in this sense can enhance the team's compatibility and collaboration for future working situations.
Praise and appreciation
Showing appreciation for your team's success is not only important for their self esteem and well being but also their motivation and performance. Giving your team praise for their accomplishments raises their enjoyment for what they do. With the situation of remote working, it could be easy to disregard praise and encouragement because of the hindrance to in-person communication. You may experience different social queues which don’t factor in talks of appraisal.
Studies show that when you celebrate, your body produces endorphins and oxytocin which has been linked to reducing stress and supporting a healthy immune system. As managers, we all want a team filled with motivated, happy and healthy employees.
Your employees will not all have the same working environment or living situations. You need to be mindful of the external factors that are affecting working situations. Whilst some may live alone, others may have a family and children or whilst some work at a desk at their home, others may share working spaces at a local coffee shop. By acknowledging the difficulties your staff may have by working remotely, you will be able to empathise that it’s not always easy. By taking an open minded approach, you will be susceptible to flexibility for the sake of your team. Employees, as well as managers, require patience, attention and consistency. We may all not get it right at first. With these tips, you can no doubt make a start.
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