For the past year what was considered ‘normal’ in most aspects of our lives flew out the window. In fact, we have spent this time working to understand and adapt to the life we were forced to live. And now … finally … with a vaccine here and real we can begin to dream and envision the ability to resume some recognizable forms of living. Yet this doesn’t mean a return to the normal of our past. In fact, it is fair to anticipate that some of what we have come to know … thanks COVID – 19 … is going to remain as we emerge to yet another ‘normal … by choice.
This is especially apparent in the business world as it relates to finding so many businesses have been forced to operate remotely. Although not by choice or ever anticipated, many organizations have successfully learned how to effectively conduct and thrive in business with a team scattered throughout and among individual residences. This was not an easy transition as viewed from either the management’s or employee’s standpoint. And yet, almost one year later, it appears to have moved from being a temporary need and solution to an ongoing and even preferred method of operating.
KEY ELEMENTS THAT TAKE A REMOTE FORCE FROM JUST OKAY TO SUCCESSFUL
Like any new approach or innovation changes need to be considered and
made to maximize the benefits already being realized. Based on numerous conversations it appears that fine tuning the approach to communication within, among and to a remote workforce is something to begin now. Here are some of the ways to finetune the methods being used that will enhance the emerging reality and effectiveness of a remote workforce going forward:
- Embrace the critical importance of ‘trust’ and being ‘trusted
When all were working within the company office it was easy to observe and monitor what it appeared people were doing. They were at their desks or in a meeting and check-ins were readily accessible. The leader could and did observe activity. In this sense it was easy.
Remotely … the visual on an ongoing basis is no longer possible. Letting all know that they are trusted to work effectively and to produce what is required for overall success is key. If an individual is not contributing what the organization or team needs when needed it becomes an issue to be addressed. However, all involved need to operate with the responsibility that being trusted carries.
- Establish communication guidelines
In the office environment many approaches to communicating information and messages are rather easily tolerated and work. Some people are wordy in their message while others provide ‘just the facts’. Some are inclined to walk over the another to convey the message and others use the phone, text or email to deliver the communication. Although there are differences in efficiency and effectiveness, they all work … in the office.
Remotely … Streamlining the approach to communication is a critical element of success. In a remote world one cannot simply or easily ask another to explain or to clarify in the moment. Taking the extra time to make certain the communication via any method is clear and concise will enhance the chance of it being received and understood as intended. Whatever the guidelines, they need to be communicated to all with the expectation that they will be followed. Clear and concise communication is a good place to begin. Change is never easy for many and once the new approach is learned and becomes second nature the payoff will be success and appreciation.
- Flexibility of work times is a needed recognition and acceptance
The 9 to 5 work schedule and mentality is very much a part of the office environment. Within this structure it is the norm that we show up and leave at certain times on specific days. All that is involved in performing specific jobs generally takes place within these margins.
Remotely … For many, working at home is filled with potential interruptions as related to our total focus on the job. Getting children off to school which will eventually again be the norm now can involve either one or both working parents. Having them return home add an element of distractions that simply can’t easily be ignored. Transporting others to where they need to before various activities can become a part of one’s home-based routine. Thus, although one willingly puts in a full workday, it likely will not happen within the same 9 to 5 time and this new ‘standard’ must be okay.
- To micromanage is to work against those on whom one relies for productivity
Of course all managers are not of this category however micromanaging is something that some leaders feel is needed to assure getting desired results. It has much to do with a management style and personality. The degree of how doing this insures or enhances results is questionable and yet, in the office, it is how some oversee and manage.
Remotely … to micromanage is to work against conveying both the trust and flexibility that will contribute to a remote work force success. Having expectations related to productivity continue as appropriate. One’s success in carrying out the responsibilities of their position will have to be judged on timely output.
- Effective use of video calls and meetings adapted to the remote workforce
In the office it’s quite easy to walk by a desk or send out an email asking those deemed important to assemble in a conference room at a certain time. Structure related to when a meeting will be held or who is expected to attend or the subject matter to be discussed isn’t often an element that is needed as an absolute.
Remotely … success requires a more consistent and structured approach in a general sense. Setting a specific time daily or weekly to gather and review a project allows the remote team to plan and set aside the specific time. Making certain that those requested to attend are needed due to a contribution they will make or information to be imparted supports all who are working to deliver the desired progress. Having a defined agenda sent out to attendees in advance allow for preparation by all.
- Schedule and plan for regular informal ‘social’ times to build connection within the team
In the office, the water cooler is nearby. Getting coffee/water in the lunchroom frequent. Going to lunch with a co-worker is easy. As a result, intermingling with others in the organization can happen multiple times a day or week and does. It’s a form of connection that is important as an organization attempts to build a sense of belonging and alignment within a work family that impacts the attitudes and enthusiasm for the jobs to be achieved.
Remotely … Although working from home has clear-cut advantages for many individuals, there is also a feeling of isolation and aloneness. This can and does impact the energy, enthusiasm and drive to deliver the elements that job success requires. Thus, scheduling a remote form of i.e., let’s go for a drink after work helps to supply some of the interactions and socializing that give balance to our days and to what we deem important in terms of relationship. Being weekly or monthly is less important that making such zoom style gathering a part of the approach and plan.
A REMOTE WORKFORCE IS A CARRYOVER BENEFIT THAT IS EMERGING FROM COVID
In the early months of 2020 there were few is any positives related to the inability to have people come to the office. The rush to provide access to all the needed tools and documents needed to perform the job was a challenge. The need for employees to function ‘at home’ … a home that was often filled with distractions and no clear dedicated workspace was frustrating for sure. And still, a year later, what has been achieved by both the organization and the employee is a desire to carry forward into the new normal the benefits we have learned to really like and enjoy.
Work areas have been created in one’s residence. Routines have been established. Work related tools have been developed and provided. And although change is always a challenge and it appears that for many organizations, some form of a remote workforce is no longer just tolerated … it is an integral and chosen part of the emerging working world.