The not-so “new way of working” takes some getting used to for employees and managers alike. Introducing video conferencing, new tools and the right strategies aren’t always a smooth ride. For a successful remote working routine, however, the right framework conditions are essential.
Not long ago, employees had to convince their managers that they could equally do their work remotely. Fast forward a few months, add a global pandemic and things have changed. While in 2017, only 9.6 per cent of European workers worked remotely, this number soared to 46.6 per cent in April 2020 for British workers alone.
For many, the transition to the home office was a remarkably smooth process, supported by fast Internet, smartphones and video and audio conferences. Many heaved a big sigh of relief: at last, no more stressful commutes, some peace and short distances. Initially, many people enjoyed remote working. But after a short time, the honeymoon period was over and many felt exhausted and socially isolated. They had problems separating their private from professional life within their own four walls, and managers worried their employees lacked motivation or focus.
Biggest challenges of remote work
A well-thought-out strategy and adequate preparation and organisation by personnel management can prevent these problems. Let’s start by analysing what seem to be the biggest challenges while working remotely:
For remote workers
For managers and HR departments
"Stop managing, start leading."
- Hamza Khan
This gives us five key metrics for implementing a successful working from home strategy:
Productivity and continuity
Maintaining company culture
1. Communication is key in a remote work strategy
At the foundation of any successful remote work plan lies a clear communication strategy. Leaders must clearly communicate what they expect from each employee on every single day. It’s crucial to outline responsibilities, expectations and deadlines.
For managers, this means having to ensure that all employees complete their tasks on time and with consistent quality, and not just focus on quantitative time tracking. Tools such as electronic time stamps trigger distrust and dissatisfaction among employees because they feel controlled.
To measure productivity, online task management tools accessible to all team members are much more suitable. The most popular management tools are Asana, Trello and Monday.com.
Steps to set up better communication:
- Leaders should outline a plan highlighting common FAQs, technical and digital resources and a list of contacts. Have all your managers send those out to their employees to make sure they know what to expect, and who to address if challenges arise.
- Establish working routines for employees so that they know how, how often, and under which circumstances they should connect with their managers.
- Set goals, timelines and measurable outcomes.
- Settle on the most important tasks, so everyone is on the same page:
- What are the core working hours at which all team members should be available?
- What are the response times for emails and enquiries?
- Which processes apply to communication?
- Who reports via which channels, and to whom?
- Who informs whom?
- How are the responsibilities regulated?
- Who has access to which files?
✓ Popular internal communication tools are Google Hangouts, Zoom and Slack. Find more remote working tools in our guide.
2. Productivity and continuity
Setting SMART goals and other important KPIs are crucial. It provides the opportunity for you and your team to agree on the results you are working towards. Employees can track their own progress against the pre-set targets and, therefore, successfully achieve their goals. It also lets them know how far they are and helps them stay organised.
Checklist for better productivity while remote working:
Some of the most common strategies to ensure that employees maintain productivity and business continuity are:
- Make sure your employees have everything they need for remote work.
- Only use digital locations to save files.
- Use basic task management and other working from home productivity hacks.
- Scan and upload any documents your employees might need access to while working remotely.
- Make sure you take any physical materials home that you may need. Take potential privacy and confidentiality requirements into consideration and, if in doubt speak, to the legal team.
"Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'Wow,' and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas."
- Steve Jobs
As good old Steve points out, these water cooler chats are an essential part of any office environment and dynamic. It’s what keeps a company thriving with ideas. The big question here is, how do you set up clear remote work strategies and keep that element of spontaneous spark and creativity going?
For a remote workforce, it’s important to embrace chat and virtual meetings software to fuel collaboration.
Preparing remote teams for collaboration:
- Managers should push for dynamic tools to hold virtual video calls and boost team morale.
- Establish how you want teams to interact in your initial remote work strategy plan, whether it’s calling only in emergencies or using Slack for emergencies, for example.
- Actively schedule a time to casually interact with colleagues. For example, you can use the “Donut” App to have virtual coffee breaks.
- Use interactive sessions through visual collaboration platforms like Mural, Kahoot and Miro to make the most of our collective brainpower.
✓ Some popular task management tools are Trello and Asana as well as Mural, Kahoot and Miro for interactive sessions.
4. Performance Management
It’s important for companies to create attractive conditions for their employees. As a well-known rule of thumb, more employee satisfaction means more productivity. This, in turn, attracts more applicants to the company, which is also interesting in terms of employer branding.
How to measure employee engagement
- Employee surveys help to reveal the gap between expectations and experience. Through a questionnaire, participants provide us with their vision of a good workplace and to what extent their current job situation reflects this perception. The greater the discrepancy between expectations and experience, the higher the employee dissatisfaction.
- Monitor certain KPIs such as large staff turnover, absenteeism, sick days, engagement and goal matching through regular pulse surveys.
- The Net Promoter Score indicates how likely employees would recommend their employer to friends and acquaintances. This tool can provide insights on employee satisfaction.
- Ensure that working conditions are conducive to good health.
- Transmit security to your employees through unlimited employment contracts and a performance-related salary that is in line with industry standards.
- Encourage regular team-building actions.
- Reward your employees for positive performance.
- Make sure you offer attractive opportunities for further training.
5. Maintaining company culture
This one is a biggie: How do you maintain a sense of belonging and uphold certain values when your virtual team is scattered across the globe? Here are a few tips to make your team feel more connected:
- Host a weekly companywide “Ask me anything” with your bosses and managers.
- Create a #life-wfh Slack channel so that employees can still connect socially and share their insights and thoughts, just as if they were in the office.
- Use shout-outs, so people are feeling heard and valued for their work.
- Create a fun post-onboarding test for newbies on their new company where they can win cool prizes and gain acknowledgement throughout the company.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of successful onboarding for remote employees. It helps newbies understand and experience the company culture.
✓ To create polls, Slido and of course our very own Kenjo employee surveys are a great way to start.
Strategies for working remotely are worth it
Implementing a successful remote work strategy definitely takes some time and adjustment. Getting your team hooked on new tools, introducing new frameworks, video conferencing and the likes can seem tedious but it’s definitely worth it.
After all, remote work isn’t a trend that will go away any time soon, but rather is here to stay and grow with us.