How to make remote working work
Working remotely can be a difficult. It can also be super easy, depending on your current company culture. Whether enforced or planned, remote work starts with getting the basics right, such as the hardware your team needs. And runs to long-term cultural change around communication, staff wellbeing, employee engagement and managing performance. Moving to remote work is a process with four phases, and here's how you do it.
Add to this perceived fears around trusting staff, breakdowns in communication and a lack of accountability. You can see why the sceptics - and dare we say, Traditionalists - have had a tough time getting on board.
The benefits of moving to remote working
Getting things right from the start means huge potential rewards both for your employees and your business. That's right, it's not just about improving work-life balance for your staff but there are great business benefits to be had, including:
- Attracting better talent with 80% of workers say they now look for flexible and remote working opportunities when job hunting.
- Improving productivity with 77% of remote working staff feel they are more productive outside of the office. This is backed up by data from a further study which showed remote workers work for an average 1.4 hours longer every day than their office-based colleagues.
- Strengthening staff retention with 74% of employees saying working remotely decreases their likelihood of leaving their current position.
- Reducing sick days where 50% of remote workers had fewer days sick than when they worked centrally, with 56% saying this meant they took fewer unplanned days off of work.
- Saving the environment where 84% of remote workers use the home as their primary work location. That means no commute, which means fewer cars, less CO2 and less dropped plastic waste.
The secret of leading a successful move to remote working
So, we can see that though there are certainly risks and challenges involved with adopting remote working practices, the journey can be an extremely rewarding one if successful. And like all successful journeys, the secret is in the planning.
The three primary phases of remote work change are:
With the fourth (Return) specific to those workers who will be moving from a heavy remote work position back to a heavy (e.g. 50% or greater) centralised role.
Phase 1: Mobilising for remote work
The mobilisation phase is all about the logistics of remote work. The key strategic challenge here is directing the huge amount of employee energy created into the right places and ensuring any novelty doesn't steal focus from primary tasks and essential work.
Ensuring your team have all the basics they need to actually complete work, like laptops, headsets, collaboration tools and communication software as a basic starter for ten. And then the necessary training required, is going to be your first hurdle.
Head over to our getting started with remote working guide for employees for some top tips.
Phase 2: Bedding-in the remote work ethos
Now we're going to start to focus on improving our remote work processes during phases two and three.
The big thing to watch out for here is confusion. Confusion around what to prioritise and how to do so effectively for both employees and leaders. If that confusion is left unchecked, it can lead to a form of decision paralysis, where staff jump from one focus to another, never really tackling either.
Use the right tools to help you measure and manage your productivity. Hint: time tracking software is not the answer here! Use really clear goals or OKRs to help your people prioritise their workloads. And check-in regularly to stay aligned.
We know great engagement means greater productivity and discretionary effort from your employees, so make it a priority to lighten the mental load.
Have managers role model confidence and empathy, be understanding if people's home lives interrupt the traditional flow of the workday. And learn to become flexible and innovative in approaching how and when work gets done.
Implement a weekly employee check-in to encourage the flow of open and honest, two-way feedback. This helps shine a light on the big successes or spot escalating issues quickly. This means blockers are resolved before they impact performance, engagement and wellbeing.
Above all else, focus. Engage that left side of the brain and start to get critical and tactical.
Phase 3: Optimising for long-term success
In the final(ish) phase we're looking at developing our long-term strategies around what great performance looks like and building a culture whereby staff feel supported, collaborate smoothly, and consequently, understand how to be effective, happy and proud in their work.
The hurdle to keep an eye on here is complacency. Slipping into a pattern of "˜that'll do' is sadly quite common once businesses start to get the bones of a remote work culture together. Taking your eye off the ball at this point can very quickly plateau all the great steps that you've had to this point meaning stagnation of success.
Now is the time to review how you recognise the great work achieved by your remote workers. Are you doing it enough, if at all? Most remote workers feel overlooked and unseen. So it's important to encourage people to overcommunicate their achievements, and peers to call out those successes too.
Look at an evidence-based approach to performance reviews and 1:1s. These offer robust, immersive training opportunities and encourage innovation with new tools and processes as well.
Phase 4: The Return
If staff are going to be returning to a centralised place of work, then the key focus here needs to be learning from the lessons of your remote work experiences. Take the best bits and apply them where and whenever you can.
Encourage employee empowerment, offer up flexible working options and keep engagement and wellbeing top of your agenda to build a better workplace culture.
Grab a copy of our latest best practice guide: Employee Engagement in a Remote Working World, to see how you can optimise your remote working practices as we move into the next phases of flexible working.