The pandemic may be coming to an end, but companies around the world have transitioned to the remote setting for work. Gone are the days of preparing yourself, driving to an office, clocking in, and then coming home feeling exhausted and drained. Today’s work space consists of a computer, and yourself.
It’s much easier than ever to work remotely, and as a leader of a team or an organization, it’s looking like the ideal route when it comes to managing a team. So, if you’re planning to create and manage a team that primarily operates in the remote setting, here’s everything you need to know.
Why Remote Work?
16% of companies worldwide are fully remote, and 75% of global workers believe that remote working is the new normal. More than 60% of employees aged 22-65 have had occasional experience working remotely (Owl Labs). Not all countries have transitioned however, as only 9% of the companies in Asia are allowed to work from home (NorthOne). The frequency of remote work has increased by 44% over the past five years, and it’s not going to slow down any time soon.
And it’s not without any good reason. With the advances in technology, it’s much easier than ever to implement systems that allow project management and operations to run smoothly online without the need for human interaction. Teams can communicate virtually through Zoom, use applications such as Monday.com, Slack or Microsoft Teams to communicate and plan tasks with each other, utilize other tools such as Canva, Semrush, and so many more to run the daily operations of the business. Not to mention the ever-growing digital marketing scene, where companies always have to be ready with implementing their integrated marketing communications across multiple platforms only accessible virtually.
There are also a multitude of benefits when it comes to remote work. Some of the benefits include flexible scheduling, more time for family, less costs (for areas such as transportation), the freedom to travel, and reduced politics. Another main benefit to remote work is increased productivity. A study by CoSo Cloud revealed that 77% of those that worked remotely a few times per month showed greater productivity, with 30% accomplishing more in less time. Finally, working remotely is more beneficial to the mental health of employees, with a study showing that over 55% showing less stress, and another study showing that 88% of employees are happier working remotely.
The Challenges of Remote Work
All this being said, remote work is not without its flaws. According to BetterUp, remote workers have stated the top five biggest challenges in working remotely:
- Harder to communicate with workers
Sure, everyone may be just a message away, but that’s not always the case. In the onsite setting, when people needed to communicate with someone, they would do that through a short conversation that would last a few minutes. Those live interactions only happen during the daily meetings, which don’t last the whole day.
- Interruptions are also more frequent
The freedom associated with working remotely can also be its own problem. When you’re working at home, you can get interrupted by other things outside of work, such as family, daily needs, etc. These interruptions get in the way of the natural flow that some people need to get into to work, and can thus lead to…
- Consistency/Routine Problems
Without a formal setting that comes with roles, rules and routines, remote workers aren’t given a standard operating procedure for their daily activities and are mainly left to themselves to create what works for them. Such process is a challenge on its own, and it leads to fluctuating days of productivity and general activity.
- Much harder to stop working at the end of the day
In line with this, it’s much harder to stop working at the end of the day to make up for the inconsistency of productivity during the day. Some remote workers may tend to stay up all night for a deliverable, making them lose sleep and become less effective the next day.
Finally, a key issue in the remote work is the feelings of isolation and loneliness associated with it. Face to face human interaction is the biggest deduction in the transition to remote work, which is unfortunate because it’s the foundation for effective team communication and overall productivity.
These are the issues that remote workers face, and this is where leaders and managers need to step in. As a manager of a remote team yourself, what can you do?
What is Needed in Effective Remote Work
In April 2020, Researchers from the MIT Sloan Management Review surveyed more than 350 HR leaders and other employees. They asked them to describe the most meaningful actions their organizations had taken to support their transition to remote work during the pandemic. Out of all their responses, six stood out the most: frequent quality communication, provision of technology for work, emotional/social support, maintaining a culture of productivity and engagement, work-life balance, and well-being.
- Frequent Quality Communication
The resolution to inconsistencies in productivity, working times, interruptions and the need for human interaction is frequent high-quality communication. Teams need to solicit input from each other, provide clear guidance and make sure every member is held accountable. If a setback occurs, communicate it instead of being silent about it, as it will help everyone involved. It also bridges the gap in making the team much more connected with one another.
- Provision of Technology for Remote Work
As previously mentioned, advances in technology have made remote work not only possible, but easier, but in order to reap it benefits, it has to be both provided and utilized.
“Technology” in of itself varies from one team or company to another. For example, a film production team may require the use of premium video editing software as well as actual equipment (i.e., cameras, lighting, microphone). A digital marketing firm may require the use of online software. One thing all remote teams must have is a collaboration platform, and this can be in the form of applications previously mentioned like Slack, Monday.com and Microsoft Teams.
- Emotional and Social Support
Emotional and social support has always been an absolute necessity in the workplace, but with human interaction being removed in the remote setting, this need is further amplified.
Employees constantly need to be checked in, ensure they are heard, valued, felt and accounted for. This kind of support is not just limited to checking up on the tasks and deliverables to be done, but can also involve social activities that aim to make the experience all the more holistic.
- Maintaining a Culture of Productivity and Engagement
To combat the issues of interruptions and inconsistencies in remote work, a culture of productivity and engagement is required. It would be best if teams share their best practices that involve remote work, as well as incorporate multiple touch points for employees to interact and engage with one another through frequent virtual meetings, and empower employees by giving them a clear set of responsibilities to follow.
- Promoting Work-Life Balance
Said culture is to be balanced with the equal promotion of work-life balance. Remote workers should be given the flexibility in their schedule, as well as have means of managing their workloads. Special cases should be included for working parents and those that may needed extended time off.
- Ensure Well-Being
In line with work-life balance, remote teams should also have time for ensuring their own overall well-being physically, through health benefits and other safety protocols.
Now, it’s your turn!
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