For many companies across the globe, COVID-19 has required that organizations move to a remote model whether or not they were prepared to do so. While the flexibility to work remote has increasingly become a benefit for many employees, the sudden requirement brought about by this health pandemic has many companies asking, “What are some tips for working remotely?” In this post, we discuss the best practices for working remotely – as a company, executive, team leader, and employee.
What Can My Company Do to Prepare for a Remote Workforce?
At an organizational level, there are several best practices your organization should be considering supporting a primarily remote workforce. Policies and tools will vary based on company size and the duration of the remote work but consider these key areas below.
- Communication and Data Tools – There are many communications tools that are low cost and easy to implement quickly to enable teams to efficiently and quickly communicate with each other. Any tool that offers real-time messaging, video call options and a way to organize conversations could be quickly implemented to support your switch to remote work.
- Business Productivity – The spread of COVID-19 has created significant uncertainty in the US economy. Still, many consumer products and life sciences companies have business critical missions to support our country at this time. Therefore, business continuity and productivity is extremely important. As a leader, you need to be able to understand employee performance. There are several online tools that allow you to measure workplace analytics. You may also need to schedule more frequent checkpoints on mission-critical projects and important KPIs to ensure nothing gets stalled as a result of remote work.
- Security – A primarily remote workforce introduces a number of security issues to the organization. Remote access to your internal systems can introduce new risks to your organization. Make sure your company has a good understanding of what encryption services are in place and what, if any, require additional attention to support a remote workforce.
- Employee Preparation and Training – Many of your employees may not be prepared to face the challenges of working remote. As a company, you can help them prepare by proactively putting out guidelines on key areas such as expectations on work schedules, hiring practices, and communication policies.
Tips for Working Remotely: Executives
As an executive, you may find mentoring and problem solving is a key part of the role you play in your organization. How well can you solve problems if people aren’t stopping by the office to describe them to you face-to-face? How can you tell how the organization is ‘feeling’ if you are not walking the halls to sense the mood? Here are some ways you can be the best remote leader:
- Set Expectations Quickly – Remote working is different than office-based work and adjusting can be difficult. By setting expectations at the start for your leadership team on how you expect them to communicate and escalate situations to you is important. Also, how you set expectations around communication, responsiveness, and effectivity will drive how the rest of the organization operates.
- Mitigate Common Challenges – The common challenges associated with remote work – communications, social opportunities, loneliness, isolation, boundaries, organic interaction – are difficult to overcome. As a best practice, try to address each of these head on. Reduce loneliness for your organization by using video conferencing in meetings, instead of just the call features. Schedule regular check-in meetings with team members who used to drop by the office to discuss their work activities. Encourage your team to schedule ahead with short meetings to simulate the organic interactions that happen at the office.
- Plan Ahead – It is difficult to plan ahead when there is so much uncertainty right now. Still, having a plan for what issues could arise from working remote is an important place to start. In a remote setting, employee’s work life and home life have a unique opportunity to blend which can create new challenges for your team. Planning ahead can mitigate some of these risks.
Best Practices for Managing a Remote Team
Maybe someone just joined your team recently and doesn’t fully have command of their role or perhaps your work habits have driven your teams to meet daily and often in small groups to get work accomplished. No matter the individualized situation of your teams, some of these tips can help you manage a remote team.
- Communication – As a manager of a remote team, the most important key to your success is great communication. Commit to one-on-ones with your team weekly, or perhaps daily if you are in the middle of a mission-critical project. Meetings are even more important in a remote work setting than they are in an office-based culture. Also, pay attention to your team’s individual preferences. Some people are great working through a problem together on a phone call, others prefer to work the solution alone and then get together to discuss. Make sure you know your team’s preferences.
- Socialization – The casual interactions your team had with you as their manager and with each other, is an important factor in employee engagement and happiness. Idle conversations are not always a bad thing for business. You can set up an online chat channel to use for casual conversation to break up the monotony of remote work.
- Reliable schedule – Remote work allows flexibility that office work doesn’t, but a reliable schedule is still something important to establish between you and your team. As a manager, you’ll need to respect your employee’s boundaries regarding work time and home time but your team also has an obligation to provide you with their work schedule. Transparency on this topic is sure to improve your ability to manage your remote team effectively.
Tips for Working Remotely: The Employee
No matter how experienced you are in your career, working remote every day could be a new experience for you. Here are some key things to consider as you get started with your working from home journey.
- Dedicated workspace – Having the right tools and setup can be critical to your success. Be sure your internet connection is stable, VPN and other infrastructure is in place, your audio and video are effective and your have the right workstation setup. Feeling comfortable in your work environment is key to being productive in a remote location.
- Appear professional – Dressing the part can help you feel prepared for the workday. It’s easy to consider remote work attire a nonessential consideration, but our dress can impact our comfort and effectiveness when working outside the office. If you suddenly find yourself on a video call, you don’t want to appear as if you haven’t brushed your hair!
- Stick to your hours – Many people find one of the hardest things about working remote is when to stop working. At the office, you need the discipline to pack up, leave and return home. The line between work life and home life gets blurred the more often you work from home. Make sure to stick to your hours so that you don’t get burned out on working remote.
Our firm has a lot of experience working as part of remote teams and we have employee trainings and more tips for working remotely that we would be happy to provide. If you are interested, please contact us and we’ll be happy to connect you with more resources on best practices for working remote.
Contributions by Spencer Anderson.