“Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat, made the bus in seconds flat.
Made my way upstairs and had a smoke, and everybody spoke and I went into a dream…”
As outlined by The Beatles in A Day in the Life, travelling to the office every day is at best inefficient, and at worst a total waste of time.
Happily we now know that there’s an alternative way.
Say what you will about COVID-19, it has made us realise the value of working remotely. Wake up, fall out of bed, open your laptop and start typing – not a particularly catchy song, sure, but it is a great way to work, as demonstrated by the sustained uptake even after the worst of the pandemic has passed.
The question then is not if you should offer remote work, but how you should manage it. A lack of in-person contact makes the successful management of remote workers a unique challenge: do it wrong and you risk demotivating, fragmenting and neglecting your team. Do it well, you provide flexibility and convenience that could greatly empower your workforce.
However, there’s no need to fret. Today we’ll take a look at five rules that will ensure you don’t just avoid potential remote working disasters, but create an environment that could well be more supportive, collaborative and productive than the one found in-office.
It’s been a business truism since the dawn of time: give your team the tools they need to succeed. For remote workers that means providing the software, hardware and support that allows them to create an office wherever they please. They need a computer and smartphone that’s up to the task, the software and cloud service subscriptions that allow them to do their jobs, and any peripherals that are deemed necessary, from printers to office chairs.
One of the greatest challenges of managing a team of remote workers is maintaining the integrity of your business systems. By giving your workers remote access, your systems are now only as secure as the worker’s laptop, phone or WiFi password… unless you set your own protocols that they must adhere to.
The greater prevalence of remote work has shone a spotlight on the potential risks. A recent Apricorn survey found that in April 2020, 57% of IT decision makers believe remote workers increased their exposure to cyber-security breaches, up from 44% in 2018. This jump isn’t to say that the threats are greater now than they were, but rather that companies are more aware of them, which is an exceedingly good thing.
As much as a business might hate to admit it, in-office workers enjoy a lot of downtime between the hours of nine and five; the watercooler chats, the cubicle visits (of either type), the browsing of not quite business-related articles. These mini-breaks are incredibly important for productivity, revitalising an employee as they navigate the typical working day. It’s vital then, that you make time for similar non-work activities while working remotely as well.
Encourage brunch catch-ups or Friday knock-offs over Zoom. Devote a room in Slack or Microsoft Teams to chit-chat and banter. Run footy tips or another form of friendly competition. Make your digital space feel as much like a physical space as possible.
Sure, banter is important, but clear and consistent work communication is even more so. Choose a platform that will serve as the hub for all communications. Conduct a morning scrum to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Establish simple and well-defined ways for team members to ask for extra support. Do all that you can to elevate any voices that could potentially be drowned out.
Remote working isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer to keep their personal and professional lives separate. Many simply don’t have a space or situation at home that is conducive to work. These people shouldn’t be forced to work remotely, as they’re destined to fail. Instead, you should build a team of talented individuals who are excited about the opportunity to work remotely, because, as this Gallup study found, engaged teams are 21% more profitable.
While an invested team makes your job as a leader easier, you should still be conscious of leading by example. Be sure to practice what you preach, while providing levels of support that more than make up for the lack of face-to-face contact.
While the humble work commute may well have inspired The Beatles to write one of their finest songs, these isolated times have shown us that an office is far from a necessity for many businesses. Adapting to a remote working world will be a challenge for managers, but by following the rules above, you can be confident of taking a step in the right direction.
If you’re looking for committed workers to go on the journey with you, we at Ignite are ready to help you find them.