Thinking about taking the leap to allow a permanent flexible remote work policy?
Best practices to ensure a smooth transition.
A crisis-induced workspace exodus
Over the last few months, businesses all around the country have had to adapt quickly and make their teams remote, in an effort to abide by the new sanitary measures and ensure business continuity during the lockdown.
This crisis-induced migration towards remote work has giving rise to an experiment on an unprecedented scale and could be the tipping point for widespread remote work.
During the months that followed, many myths surrounding remote working – such as a decrease in productivity – were debunked. The lack of trust from middle managers towards their employees, the major misgiving that existed against remote work for the past 20 years, was also proved to be unfounded and has decreased considerably in recent months.
Beyond merely providing a physical space, the workplace was also effortlessly bringing employees together, providing them with a social experience. Key elements that happen naturally in a physical workspace, such as rapidity of communication, team spirit and comradery fostered among colleagues, require proper planning in order to be translated effectively remotely.
While employees have embraced the benefits of working from home such as reduced travel time and improved productivity, some limitations still exist and need to be addressed to keep employees engaged and motivated in the long run.
Changing employee preferences leading to a potential win-win
For most businesses, the short-term changes implemented have proven to be successful. So much so, that a staggering 61% of employees that have spent the last few months working from home would like to see these measures become permanent.
Some employers are now looking at a hybrid model, where they can offer the flexibility of working remotely for their employees and offer them a physical space to work with their colleagues. According to Jim Harter, chief scientist of workplace management and well-being at Gallup, this new way of managing employees will offer a win-win for all, as employee engagement is generally at its highest for employees working remotely 3-4 days per week.
Moving beyond short-term and implementing strategic permanent changes
Now that crisis management is somewhat under control, employees are well-installed at home and have gotten used to their new routine, it is time to look at which of these changes will last.
With major tech companies leading the way and changing their policies to allow permanent remote work practices, what can businesses implement to respond to shifting employee preference?
Above and beyond access to tools, technologies and cyber security capabilities, companies need to review and adapt their operating procedures to accommodate a flexible remote work policy. How will you evaluate performance? How will you keep employees engaged and motivated? How will you keep fostering your company’s culture? How will you convince employees to work at the office a few days a week?
Such a profound transition requires careful planning and execution in order to be successful. Before taking the leap and permanently changing the way your organization operates, we have summarized some of the best practices of remote team management and highlighted how a strategic planning exercise can help you achieve it.
1. Set clear expectations and assess performance based on output
To ensure productivity despite the geographical distance, team performance will have to be evaluated based on results, emphasizing key deliverables and deadlines rather than time spent in the office. To do so successfully, expectations and objectives will have to be clearly identified and shared across the organization. Setting clear guidelines will also help increase accountability as leaders are clearly identified. By focusing on results rather than the process itself, teams have the flexibility to manage their time as they see fit to maximize output.
A permanent change to a flexible remote work policy will also require making trust building a priority. Managers need to trust that their employees will perform to the same high standards as they do in person, while employees need to trust that their performance will be valuable and recognized as much remotely as it did before the change.
2. Maintain frequent and transparent communications
Going hand in hand with result-based performance are communication and feedback loops.
Leaders should connect frequently with employees to keep a pulse on the team’s work and morale but should do so with a planned structure to avoid micromanaging. Pre-planned communications can help put in place a routine and ensure employees access the same level of coaching as they did in the physical presence of their colleagues or manager.
It is also important that managers ask and give frequent feedback to employees on a regular basis, allowing them to rapidly fine tune the process to maximize efficiency and limit unwanted behavior from both management and colleagues.
Informing employees of important dates where they should come to the office is also important to manage their expectations. To ensure employees remain engaged, mandating their presence in the office should be agreed upon and relevant (e.g. important team meetings, team-building exercise, etc.)
3. Strategic Planning: A key tool to keep your remote teams engaged
A strategic plan and its implementation can be a good way to align and keep employees motivated. Strategic planning provides a clear roadmap and identifies leaders for the strategic actions, thus helping to identify clear objectives and increase accountability.
Once communicated across the organization, a strategic plan will play a key part in giving your employees a sense of purpose and understanding in how their actions are positively impacting the company, further fostering engagement, and increasing their investment into driving the plan to success. Involving key executives in the process and decision-making will also help build trust, all while giving them the tools to effectively manage their teams.
Strategic planning is a crucial exercise for any company wanting to grow, seize new opportunities and mitigate business risks. For partially remote teams, the final plan can also serve as an anchor and a vector of motivation.
Have you ever thought of using a strategic plan to facilitate your transition towards offering a flexible remote work policy?