Disclaimer: Our own company Engagepulse has a remote team spanning 4 countries and counting. As employees, we have led remote teams for other companies in over 9 countries.
While the benefits of working from home are well known among employees and employers alike, a remote work arrangement might not be ideal for a team that is easily distracted and needs a lot of guidance. At the same time, special circumstances might still compel a team which is not yet used to a remote work environment to switch on remote. What do employers need to keep in mind to keep it all together while sailing in unchartered waters? We share our recommendations:
- Have a rules of engagement document in place for your team. You don't have to fret about having the perfect one as there will many things that your organization will discover along the way. Nevertheless don't think about winging it and have a charter in place from day 1 and constantly evolve it. This policy document will go a long way in avoiding confusion, disappointments and surprises. At Engagepulse created an early version when we put together our own remote team.
- An asynchronous channel of communication is critical for a remote team but don't overdo it. Some teams use multiple and it usually leads to a mess. If you use more than one chat channel it will usually do more harm than good - how do you decide what to post where? Too many chats to follow, will end up wasting productivity hours and following chat logs on multiple streams can burn out employees.
- Do not compromise on technology and equipment. If you don't have professional video conferencing software or productivity measuring software, you better make that investment now. Back and forth over email and offline files will cost you a lot more than the cost of these products. At Engagepulse we address continuous communication with an always on conversational interface, and goals with our OKR (Objectives & Key Results) module.
- Insist on clarity across the board. As you will not be around to look over your employees shoulders while they are going about their work, you need to make sure that the tasks that are delegated as clearly understood, time-boxed and measurable. At Engagepulse we made a rule about never delegating work that does not come with clear instructions and our employees are encouraged to refuse work that do not come with clear instructions.
- Schedule stand ups at the beginning of the day. This is usually the time when employees are the most active and receptive and the action items discussed during the stand up can set the tempo for the rest of the day. If you have teams working multiple time zones like us, your managers will have to adjust their schedules accordingly.
- Time-box your meetings and do not stretch them unnecessarily. You can avoid the default time slots available while sending calendar invites - if you reduce 15 minutes from the 60 mins default time slot available in the calendar invite, you can end up saving 15 minutes X number of attendee's worth of productivity time. Encourage everyone to come with their own agenda for meetings and the meetings should end with action items assigned to respective owners. Using OKR's (Objectives & Key Results) is a great way of achieving this.
- Groom your managers to adapt. If your managers do not have an organized way of managing already, they better get to it now. Your managers need to be able to easily assign, measure and track goals without being physically present. They also need to be able to do course correction and provide feedback at the right time. Engagepulse makes this easy with our OKR (Objectives & Key Results) and feedback component.
- Constantly educate your organization on the importance of attending meetings on time. Waiting for one person to start the meetings wastes time for everyone else who are already present. Strongly advice the team against last minute drop outs - an advance notice is a fair expectation.
- Front line employees and managers may face unforeseen issues and roadblocks. Have an always on asynchronous line of communication open between your distributed team and management. Enagagepulse allows your organization to have an always on, channel of continuous conversation with each employee. Employees can share ideas, concerns and feedback.
- Ensure your employees are equipped with strong internet connections - a bad network makes remote work extremely difficult and it will hit productivity and morale even with the best of employees and managers. Educate your employees on the basic hygiene to be followed for web calls (use a microphone, take the call from a quiet place, avoid distractions in the background, avoid notification chatter..we will publish a separate piece on this).
- While your employees might have adapted to the new remote work process, they might face challenges getting the co operation that they need from other members at home. Help your employees create an ideal remote work environment at their home. A note to their family explaining the new work arrangement will help them secure the much required cooperation that they need at their remote workplace.
- Keep the employer employee relationship alive. Working in isolation is not easy for many people and you need to constantly establish cohesion among the employees and remind them that they are working with real live colleagues even if they are apart from each other. Always insist on having the video on during web calls (make employees feel as they are actually reporting to work). You can run activities like - posting a pic of your new remote workstation, an online game that the team can participate in once in a while. You can conduct theme meetings and ideation sessions that encourages everyone to speak on a new idea or topic off the beaten track.
At Engagepulse we started with a remote team ourselves and our platform can help you manage your remote team in a forced remote scenario like now and in the future. Drop us a note to learn more!