The COVID-19 crisis has pushed remote work to the forefront practically overnight. What was once a coveted workplace perk has now become the new normal for millions of employees across the globe.
While working from the comfort of your own home can be nice, if you’re overseeing a remote team, you’re likely well aware that managing from afar is challenging, to say the least. Here are a few tips and suggestions to help business owners and bosses manage a staff that is operating in the ever-evolving virtual workspace.
Communication is already an essential part of all business activities. It’s a skill that is emphasized in most job descriptions and maintaining healthy communication throughout all work interactions is a crucial ingredient for success.
However, the importance of communication rises exponentially when you’re working with remote staff. When working from home, an employee can no longer simply get up and walk over to a coworker’s cubicle, nor can an employer drop into the bullpen to hobnob, check-in, or ask questions from their staff.
With so much distance and isolation separating your team in a remote environment, you must be willing to focus on both setting up and maintaining good communication. Now, to be clear, this isn’t referring to micromanaging employees or conducting “check-ins” to see if they’re focused on work or catch them napping. On the contrary, that kind of behavior can deflate morale very quickly.
Instead, use your communication efforts to help grease the wheels of collaboration and teamwork. Utilize interactions as opportunities to see how employees are doing as they labor in isolation. Even employees who work with disabilities — a demographic that commonly prefers the logistical convenience of working from home — can still suffer along with everyone else from things like a lack of socialization or guidance.
No matter where virtual work goes in the future, communication will remain a key to adapting to the shifts and changes in the remote work environment.
Help with Software and Hardware
Remote work hinges on your team’s ability to implement both software and hardware on a regular basis. Hardware like computers, modems, routers, keyboards, cameras, and headsets must be kept in good, working order. In addition, your team members must be able to clearly understand and use remote work applications such as Trello, Slack, and HelloSign.
As an employer, it’s up to you to decide how much of the software and hardware decisions fall on you or your employees. You may expect your staff to provide their own computers and internet connections, but if that’s the case, don’t be surprised if inconsistency and lack of quality affect your communication at times.
In addition, all software decisions should be made on a company-wide basis. If you’re going to use Google Suite, don’t let half of your workforce use Microsoft apps instead, or vice versa. Requesting uniformity in your software makes it much easier to adapt to changes as a team whenever they arise.
Provide Clear and Accessible Resources
Along with hardware and software, it’s important to provide both your customers and your team with whatever resources can help them thrive as your company operates remotely.
Resources for Customers
When it comes to customers, it’s absolutely essential that you take steps to prevent your remote work decisions from impacting the customer experience. If you’re a B2B company, prioritize things like onboarding and play the role of the trusted technology advisor for your clients as you shift your interactions onto the cloud.
About 40% of companies are expected to increase their software investment as the mass migration to remote work moves on apace. If you, your clients, or both of you are amongst those ramping up their investment, make sure you are ready with actionable tech advice for your customers as you learn to navigate the infrastructure of the future together.
If you’re a B2C business, it’s still equally essential to make sure that your website is extremely intuitive and user-friendly (for your specific customer demographics, in particular). It’s also wise to provide easy and accessible customer service channels for support.
Resources for Employees
On the employee end of things, it’s important that you don’t just provide your team with the hardware and software to do their jobs. Take things further by providing resources such as:
- Outward-facing company guidelines to provide a blueprint for the voice, tone, and style they should use in customer interactions.
- Inward-facing company guidelines that explain remote operational procedures, such as when and how to communicate with coworkers or set deadlines.
- Additional resources that can help with things like maintaining positivity, creating a productive workspace at home, or tending to mental and physical health when working in isolation.
By providing your employees and customers with readily available resources, you can help to guide and direct your company (both in and out) through the gradual remote work evolutions that are always taking place.
Work-life balance and freedom of movement have long been heralded as some of the greatest benefits of working from home. However, it’s difficult to realize the effects of these benefits in your own workforce if you’re not being flexible. Flexibility is a cornerstone of effective and productive remote work, as it tends to:
- Empower your employees by focusing on production rather than hours worked.
- Enable your staff to work during the times of day that they are the most effective.
- Allow you to remain ready to adapt to changes without upsetting the status quo more than is necessary.
Embracing flexibility ensures that your team is in the best position to effectively adapt to remote work changes.
Emphasize Growth and Continual Learning
It’s important for your team to always be building their skills, even from home. Maintaining a growth mindset equips your team with the skillset to remain productive throughout any changes.
It doesn’t matter if you’re shifting to a different workflow platform or implementing new CCaaS (contact center as a service). By maintaining an educational, growth-oriented posture, you’ll be ready for whatever the future may hold.
Maintaining Adaptability in Your Business
Concepts like adaptability, flexibility, and continual learning are part and parcel of the modern professional experience. These concepts significantly impact individual career arcs. They also impact the ability to change with the times and have become an integral part of long-term business success.
It's important to maintain an adaptive mindset within your company culture. This way you’ll be able to survive and thrive the ups and downs of working remotely.