Where we work is changing, and that’s changing how we work.
Remote work represents one of the biggest workplace transformations ever. Many employers and managers feel threatened by the prospect of team members working from home. They assume productivity and quality will decline because employees will stream their favorite sitcoms instead of completing essential tasks on time.
Team members are also anxious about remote work. They may know the convenience of working from home can be accompanied by feelings of social isolation, or they worry that they will have a hard time separating their work and personal lives.
These are all valid concerns. But companies can’t afford to let them get in the way of considering work-from-home options for their business. Employee expectations have shifted dramatically in the last couple of years, and a new generation with little or no experience of shared office space, daily commutes, or business casual dress codes is now a significant part of the American workforce. Employers who insist on a 40-hour, 9-to-5 office routine risk losing out on the top young talent and are facing disruption, dissatisfaction, and churn.
Here are some tips for leading and managing remote teams that will keep your company driving forward:
- Virtual training: Providing your team with short, “microlearning” videos, especially when onboarding new employees, will be extremely helpful in the training process. In addition to pre-recorded videos, keep the lines of communication open, and continue to mentor your team through training, issues, and brainstorming sessions by using a video chat software.
- Stay in touch: Take full advantage of the technology that allows your team to work from home. Provide multiple platforms, from chat and email to text, voice, and video, and keep them open. Check in frequently and schedule regular group and one-on-one touchpoints. Create a range of channels for employees to access and keep them open. If possible, meet in person with your team on a regular basis.
- Equip your team: Whether it’s a laptop or a box of paper clips, make sure employees have the technology and gear they need to get their job done. Ensure remote access to company documents, records, and other resources, too.
- Set clear productivity standards: From the outset, establish clear expectations with remote employees. Goals and guidelines offer great defense against distraction.
- Focus on outcomes: Measure productivity by output, not process. Trust team members to reach their goals without continuous oversight. Build a culture that’s based on great work, not on staying busy.
- Respect boundaries: Too often, working at home can feel like living at work. Encourage team members to disconnect outside of work hours, and don’t intrude on their personal time. It helps to set an example – turn off your phone and close the laptop on weekends.
- Stay social: Schedule virtual happy hours or coffee breaks, and dedicate at least one channel of communication to non-work-related exchanges and updates. Get the team together for a social event – in person – when it’s possible.
- Stay flexible: There’s no way to know for sure how your team will respond to remote work until you’re doing it. Ask for honest feedback from team members, do the same with managers and supervisors, and keep a close eye on productivity and results. Most of all, be prepared to make adjustments.
The remote transformation of the workforce isn’t over. Where and how we work continues to evolve, and true leaders will find a way to not only keep up but stay ahead.