Is your organization enabling you as a remote worker?
Updated: Apr 21, 2021
These are reflections from my own experience being a remote worker for many years. I have come to the realization that as soon as companies take care of their employees by taking the appropriate safety measures and assessing viability of remote work, select business managers and supervisors are then left in charge with managing in the new remote work environment. Three key success factors seem most prominent:
1. Technology infrastructure, performance quality, and access
2. Communication Communication, Communication
3. A healthy dose of trust
Let’s first look at some research on remote work trajectory. GartnerTM research predicts:
By 2021, the increase in the number of employees who prefer to work remotely will allow organizations to support 40% more workers in the same amount of space as they use today (March 3, 2020)
By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce. (March 3 2020)
for your consideration these success factors that managers can take into consideration are in the attached document.
Success Factor #1 Technology – Ensure the technology infrastructure to support remote working is in place.
The biggest challenge stems from the lack of technology infrastructure and lack of comfort with new ways of working.” (Gartner TM March 3, 2020.)
Set up your team for efficient remote work leveraging the various tools and applications including instant messaging, audio and video-conferencing, team-sharing space, and phone lines with call forwarding functions. Many companies are stepping up offering free use/extended time for use of their applications to the K-12 market and to businesses. Additionally, here a few other tips to consider:
1. Address system performance quality and responsiveness at the onset.
2. Practice cyber safety following guidelines from your company on remote access and permissions to company intellectual property and proprietary information.
3. Provide immediate staff training on using these tools and guidelines on working remotely.
4. Create a team alias to easily stay touch such as an email group list, calendar invites, internal site, and a chat room for faster-moving discussions (Hashim)
5. Don’t tax your team’s home office Wi-Fi system through extensive video-conferencing especially as your employee may be sharing wi-fi with family members. (Hashim)
6. Encourage and if possible ensure your team is set up in an ergonomically appropriate workspace.
Success Factor # 2 - Communication
Understand differences in communication styles may be different in remote environment and therefore always make positive assumptions about co-workers while you learn remote communication styles. (Gonzalez). Dynamics may change for each person; some of us tend to be more extroverted when using social media than when face to face and vice versa. Give some considerations to mandatory use of video-conferencing.
Asynchronous communication does have an upside in that one engages in deeper thinking (Gonzalez). For example, we know that when sending an email or responding to one with some deliberation is a more effective communication strategy than firing off one’s first thoughts.
1. Share openly and often what the real impact of the crisis is on your business
2. Open, two-way communication builds trust
3. Be more intentional as an active listener
4. Keep your team connected and organized (K-12 teachers are asking school aged remote workers to write down steps to staying organized )
5. Hold consistent periodic meetings to mitigate isolation and to keep your team engaged and sustain through virtual team building.
6. Share goals, accomplishments (large and small) and updates regularly
7. Practice good work etiquette (demonstrate the behaviors you want your team to replicate –adhere to company’s standard working hours)
Success Factor # 3 - Trust
Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them (Gartner TM). Trust that a capable hardworking employee in the office, with the right environmental and psychological conditions will not just meet but may just exceed expectations. The team also needs to trust you and that you’ll provide guidance and support to ensure they stay focused and demonstrate expected behaviors (Yarter).
From a personal experience and validated by others, remote workers often manage their time so as to leverage the time of day when they feel most productive, and generally do not suffer unnecessary interruptions to the degree possible in the office. Trust that work will happen – avoid too many meetings and check-ins unless needed for added coaching, personal connection and building trust and team cohesion.
It is important to do this at the onset of remote working:
1. Set clear expectations with employees and promote supportive interactions among employees
2. Set and communicate clear success measures and expectations
3. Be especially attentive to employees unaccustomed to the demands of remote work struggling to adapt to a new style or working who may lose confidence, enthusiasm, and/or may suffer from loneliness.
4. Be especially discreetly attentive to employees who may be overwhelmed by the crisis, worried about losing a loved one to the virus or whatever else is going on in their environment.
5. Be especially attentive to employees who do not quickly develop a cadence and discipline of remote work in isolation. Building this kind of resilience and flexibility takes some time getting used just like establishing a cadence and habit for when to grab a meal, stretch, or catch up on the latest company news. The added challenge of sharing work space with other family members like your teenagers who is also learning to work remotely.
6. Guide managers to focus on outcomes in performance and productivity reviews.
7. Set clear expectations of your role, objectives, engagement resetting in the new virtual environment –what is available to you and to your client in terms of technology. (Yarter)
8. Initiate and sustain the virtual partnership, be transparent, inclusive, responsive and don’t forget to do something fun from time to time and reward and recognize your teams accomplishments at every milestone. (Yarter)
In summation, we may be applying sound workplace practices but with more mindfulness, awareness to develop and manage a high performing virtual team. Your results will be increased teamwork and inclusion that will drive efficiency and productivity that can accomplish goals just as well if not better in the new remote environment.
Adopting a productive remote worker mindset takes some time for some of us. For those of us who have been doing this for a while compare it to just like home is where the heart is, work is where there is a laptop and an Internet connection. Having a manager who is a change agent who removes barriers and becomes your advocate certainly matters during these times of transition. Be safe.
Acknowledgements and Citations:
Hashim, Smita. “8 Tips for Getting It Done When Working from Home.” Google, Google, 12 Mar. 2020, www.blog.google/products/g-suite/8-tips-for-working-from-home/. Nicholas Gonzalez – VP Marketing – Spikeball Inc. – LinkedIn post March 20, 2020. Michael Yarter – Sr. Project Program Manager – AT&T University - Personal Communications March 20, 2020.
Wiles, Jackie. “With Coronavirus in Mind, Is Your Organization Ready for Remote Work?” Smarter With Gartner, 2020, www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/with-coronavirus-in-mind-are-you-ready-for-remote-work/.