Many companies already allow some remote work in one form or another. Allowing some employees to work remotely some of the time, however, is quite different from moving your entire workforce to remote work all at once. Yet this is what many companies are trying to do right now to help slow down the spread of coronavirus and keep their employees healthy and safe.
Large organizations like KPMG’s London office, which recently moved its 8,000-strong workforce to home, as well as smaller companies, are all grappling with the same challenge: how to make a remote workforce successful.
The challenges aren’t just technology-related, either. Learning to work together from a distance, managing feelings of isolation, and creating a quiet workspace free from household noises and distractions are all part of the equation.
To ensure a smooth transition, here are five key areas you should focus on to help your business and your employees succeed at remote work.
1. Maintain Productivity
Some people love remote work—and are highly productive when working remotely. Others struggle to remain focused and productive out of their normal work environment. But poor productivity is rarely about someone being lazy. More often, the cause is due to organizational or mental hurdles.
The following tips can help give employees the structure and mindset they need to maximize their productivity:
- Set up a “work zone” at home—Having a clearly defined workspace that feels like an office can help people get in the right mindset that they need to focus on work-related tasks.
- Create a structured schedule—Clearly defining work hours is the first step and lets everyone know when they can reach each other to discuss projects. For those that need even more structure, time blocking when tasks will get done during each day can further help employees stay more focused and productive.
- Dress for work—Part of maintaining a professional attitude is dressing the part. As Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, notes in Forbes, clothing has symbolic meaning for people, and our brains are “primed” to behave in accordance with what we’re wearing—whether that’s “professional attire or relaxing weekend wear.”
- Set up accountability check-ins—Not all your employees will need this, and to some it may feel like micromanaging, so don’t make it mandatory. But for those struggling to remain on task, having either an accountability buddy or an online meeting “room” where they can check-in with others and be held accountable for getting their work done can really help.
2. Provide the Appropriate Tools for Effective Remote Collaboration
Staying in close communication and having the ability to collaborate with team members is essential to making remote working successful. If you haven’t yet chosen your collaboration tools for remote work, now is a good time to try some out and figure out what works best.
There are a lot of companies offering free extended trials of their tools to help organizations adapt to a fully remote workforce. To help you see what’s available, Connection has gathered the different offers to make it quick and easy for you find the solutions that work for your organizations so you can get up and running faster.
If you’re not sure what types of collaboration tools your teams will need to keep communication and collaboration strong, here are the essential tools most remote teams use:
- Project management software
- Video conferencing
- Team collaboration tool
- File sharing tool
If your organization or teams have a specific focus, such as software development or design, there are additional cloud-based collaboration tools that can help as well.
3. Establish Proper Remote Work Etiquette
Establishing a few ground rules for proper etiquette with your employees is a good idea. This way, everyone is on the same page and understands what’s appropriate and when it’s appropriate.
Here are a few things to remind employees:
- Be at home, in your designated workspace, when joining video or voice calls—This seems like basic advice, but there are plenty of cases where people join calls while driving or in a noisy location, and it makes for a poorer experience for everyone else.
- Minimize noise—Dogs, kids, and the neighbor mowing their lawn can all create a lot of background noise, but employees need to recognize that they have a responsibility to mitigate noise or find a quieter place to be.
- Use mute—If everyone goes on mute unless they’re talking, it can cut down significantly on background noise, making it easier for everyone to hear each other.
- Feel comfortable asking others to quiet distractions—If your coworker’s dog is barking in the background, it’s okay to politely let them know it’s distracting and ask them to find a solution (whether that’s putting the dog outside or putting themselves on mute). Everyone is in this remote work situation together, which means everyone needs to help each other be able to focus.
- Use the appropriate communication channel—It’s important to be respectful of people’s time. Use instant messaging for when it’s truly urgent that you get a quick response. If it can wait, have people send an email or post in your collaboration tool. Also, have people evaluate whether the communication requires a lot of back and forth between two or more people. In those cases, often a quick phone call or video chat is a better communication tool than email.
4. Help combat isolation
Remote work can be very isolating for many people. And in times like these of social distancing, that isolation can feel almost overwhelming. Here are a few suggestions to help people feel less isolated:
- Hold video meetings—Seeing others can help people feel more connected and engaged with their coworkers and customers, and can further promote collaboration. So make sure some of your remote conversations still involve face time.
- Make video calls more human—While you don’t want to overdo it, in the same way employees may have shared personal stories over the water cooler or shown coworkers photos of their kids or pets, make it okay for there to be some “human” conversation and sharing in your video and voice calls. Just make sure it’s brief and doesn’t become a distraction to the meeting.
5. Trust Your Employees
Many businesses have been wary of allowing employees to work remotely because they don’t trust that they’ll work as hard or as diligently as at the office. However, trust is an essential part of any relationship. If your employees have never had a problem delivering their work in the past, you should expect that to continue and try not to micromanage.
If their work patterns change, and they aren’t making their deadlines or are falling behind, then you should reach out. But keep an open mind that it may signal that they need more support working remotely, not that they don’t want to or aren’t trying to do a good job. Try to get to the bottom of the issue—whether it’s feeling isolated, not having a good location in their home to work from, or something else—and then see how you can work together to mitigate the situation.
Find the Solution that Fits Your Organization
As you navigate this uncertain time, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. However, having a trusted partner who understands the remote work landscape can help.
At Connection, we’ve helped many organizations to build a business resiliency plan to support their remote work efforts. We understand every company is different, and we’ll assess your unique needs to make sure you find the solution that best fits you.
Call us at 1.800.800.0014 or visit connection.com today, and we’ll help get you started.