If your business, like many others, has shifted from a physical office setup to a remote working setup over the past 18 months, then you’re almost certainly dealing with some of the benefits and consequences of this transition.
The question is, how can you enjoy more of the former without so many of the latter? And without hopelessly simplifying the challenge, it really comes down to one word: planning.
If you have the proper plan in place – ideally in the form of a remote work policy – you’ll get much better results.
The Biggest Challenges of Going Remote
There are obviously numerous perks to working remotely – both from an employee perspective and a management point of view. However, there are also plenty of challenges that must be addressed head-on. Common points of friction include:
- Employee engagement. When working from home, employees experience a sort of monotony in their day-to-day schedules that isn’t as pronounced in the office. It’s easy for team members to get stuck in a boring routine that lacks excitement or diversity. (They wake up, walk down the hall to their home office, and spend the next eight to ten hours in the same 500 square feet.)
- Team unity. It’s difficult for a team to truly bond when everyone is spread out across different locations. And unless your team already has the advantage of being closely connected, it can feel impossible to initiate team bonding and healthy relationships in a remote setting.
- Accountability. It’s more challenging to hold individual employees accountable for their time and effort when you aren’t physically present. There are certainly ways to do it, but none of them are better than being able to drop into someone’s office and do a face-to-face check-in.
- Security risks. Security is arguably the “silent” challenge of working remotely. Employees accessing sensitive company information on personal devices and unsecured networks (like public Wi-Fi) can be a recipe for disaster.
When you’re aware that these challenges exist, it’s much easier to proactively address them and neutralize their effects. But you have to plan ahead.
3 Tips for a Smooth Transition
Whether you’ve already moved to remote working and have been struggling for several months, or you’re just now transitioning in that direction, there are ways to make this a strength of your business. Here are several tips:
1. Get Clear on the Details
You can’t leave employees to figure things out on their own. Spell out the specifics of how you expect them to work in a remote setting; otherwise, they’ll each implement their own individual plans (leaving your business fragmented and confused).
“Employees should be provided with clear instructions about how their departments, and their respective roles within those departments, will conduct business in a remote setting,” Business.com suggests. “Keep in mind that while most remote occupations can be performed outside of a physical office, some roles may not work as seamlessly in virtual spaces.”
You’re not expected to write new policies in stone, but you should implement a clear and decisive approach. Should circumstances warrant a change, you can always tweak rules over time.
2. Prioritize Communication
Good communication is one of the keys to a smooth transition. And since employees are no longer able to walk down the hall and poke their heads into their coworkers’ offices, you need to use mediums that are fast and efficient.
SMS is one great option. More specifically, consider SMS software for internal communications. SMS enjoys 98 percent open rates (compared to a paltry 15 to 20 percent for emails). Not only that, but it takes the average person just 90 seconds to respond to an SMS (and 9 out of 10 text messages are read within 15 minutes or received).
3. Emphasize Engagement
Employee engagement is vital in a remote setting. Research shows that greater engagement is linked to enhanced productivity and more loyalty. Likewise, a lack of engagement leads to higher absenteeism, high turnover, and lower profitability. The tricky part is determining how to boost engagement.
There are hundreds of ways to boost engagement, but the challenge is figuring out which ones work for your unique dynamic. One very simple suggestion is to encourage face-to-face conversations via Zoom. By getting on camera and engaging with your team, you get a chance to look people in the eye and build camaraderie (in spite of being physically distanced).
Put Your Team on the Right Path
With the right remote working policy, you can make this a much more productive transition. It won’t always be perfect, but the upside is there. Be diligent and gather as much feedback as you can. Over time, this might become one of the more important moves your business ever makes.