Remote working the new normal: 7 ways organizations can get the best out of it.
Due to social distancing policies and the banning of public gatherings, companies across the globe are beginning to adopt remote working options. This is the present reality in Africa where most countries have declared total lockdown. Prior to the event of the pandemic, remote working had a less significant adoption compared to the present demand. While this new development may present some opportunities and benefits, many employees and companies find it really challenging. Many companies have reported huge declines in productivity levels.
If done properly, remote working can improve productivity and boost employee morale, but when done wrongly, it can demotivate employees, breed inefficiency, and damage work relationships.
In this article, we share global best practices that have been proven to help company executives effectively transition to a remote working structure. Here are the best options to consider:
1. Create A Suitable Work Structure:
One major downside of working remotely is that most times confusion and uncertainty can arise because one is isolated from the rest of the team unlike when in a physical working environment. To ensure that this is avoided, companies considering the option of remote working must, first of all, ensure they set up a structure that will enhance decision making and facilitate effective communication. One way to achieve this is by grouping employees into small teams with a clear objective and channels of communication that can help employees effectively implement their tasks and respond to directives. The right work structure also helps them identify who to receive guidance from and report to about specific issues.
2. Define your New Routine
It is expected that remote working will naturally disrupt the typical office-based routine or workflows. This might lead to some members of the team missing important activities either due to lack of familiarity with the new routines associated with working remotely or because they were to busy working on their schedules. Issues like this often lead to a decline in productivity. When adopting remote working, the company must assist employees to understand the procedures and patterns that they will commit to and identify any individual constraints that they may have regarding new work routines. Companies can introduce weekly review sessions and daily check-ins that can help monitor productivity.
The key to maintaining a proper work routine remotely is to establish and clearly communicate defined workflows and working norms to employees.
3. Keep Communication Alive
Lack of productivity in most companies adopting remote work options is mostly caused by poor communication channels. In other to keep staff motivated and willing to deliver at their peak, the best communication channels must be employed. There are numerous communication softwares that offer collaboration, instant messaging, and real-time communication options. Your success will depend upon your understanding of which one to use per time.
For instance, video conferences can help team members address complicated issues together in real-time as it offers features that create a sense of community.
However, it is important to monitor the progress of the meeting to ensure that the main goal is being achieved and the focus is not lost. Instant messaging channels can be used to help your employees maintain social connections, handle urgent questions, and seek guidance about uncertainties.
The central idea is to help your employees effectively execute their roles by providing them with the necessary tools needed to make communication seamless and least stressful so as to sustain productivity. Some tools to consider include Slack, Skype, WeChat, etc. Most of these tools offer real-time messaging, video call options, and the ability to organize conversations by channel, topic or project.
4. Monitor Productivity
One of the major concerns companies raise about transitioning to remote working is tracking employee productivity. Because team members are expected to deliver on their schedules from individual locations, managers fear their level of productivity will drop greatly due to lack of supervision.
The issue of productivity need not be a burden if companies take proper care to prepare adequately before transitioning to remote working. The right training is very necessary both for managers and team members when it comes to ensuring that productivity is maintained. Because of the peculiarities of a remote work environment are different, companies need to prepare their staff to deliver optimally while working remotely. Employees must be equipped with the right cognitive skills needed to function effectively in a remote work environment. Additionally, there are tools that managers can use to monitor employee productivity. Once managers notice a drop in productivity levels, they can employ tools like Toggl, Timesheets, or Tick to monitor projects and assess how long an employee takes to accomplish a given task. Fundamentally, the rule is to assess employees based on the number of projects completed and whether they are meeting specific deadlines.
5. Get the Right Tools
Every organization needs to maintain communication and collaboration between members in order to pursue and achieve their collective goals. When transitioning to remote working, companies must ensure that employees have all the right tools they need. Remote working can be very frustrating and challenging when the right tools are lacking. There are a ton of tools available however the important thing is to know what your company needs to get the job done. Depending on what you want to achieve per time, some of the following tools will be helpful:
- Connectivity tools: because employees will need to work from their individual locations, companies must provide good connectivity options for them. It is important to choose a reliable internet access provider. One major frustration to remote working is poor connectivity. Africans pay some of the highest internet access prices globally and so it would be wise to support staff with stipends in regards to this.
- Project management tools: Your employees will need to maintain organization while they work remotely so you need to provide them with tools that can help them achieve this. Cloud-based project management tools are a great option. They allow team members to organize projects between different departments, set deadline reminders, and access files and information they need at any time irrespective of their location. Some tools like Box, Trello, Google Drive, and BaseCamp are popular options in this category.
- Productivity Tools: Monitoring productivity can be a major hassle however, with the right tools, it can be a walk over. Companies can use tools like Toggl, Trello, Asana, Tick and Timesheets to monitor tasks completed by employees and the length of time it took.
- Security Tools: It is quite important to ensure that your company has an information security policy in place before transitioning to remote work. Fundamentally, employees should be mandated to create secure passwords and update them frequently. Also, secure information should be stored in a secure cloud storage platform and a good Virtual private network(VPN) should be provided for all employees. Some tools to consider include LastPass, VyprVPN, Box, etc.
6. Promote Empathy
Working from home comes with its own peculiarities and struggles and it is important for companies to acknowledge the fact that employees will have to face some challenges which may include unstable power supply, caring for children since schools are closed, and poor internet connectivity amongst other pressures that may arise at home.
Companies must leverage empathy while dealing with their employees. It is easy for employees to feel isolated and demoralized due to so much pressure from home. Managers can guard against this by increasing social interactions within the team, creating a sense of community, and offer perspective in challenging moments. Empathy is also needed while dealing with clients or customers. Employees should be trained to help them navigate unknown waters with confidence and minimize any feeling of insecurity.
7. Adopt Agile Thinking
Being Agile is a primary quality needed in other to effectively execute Remote working for your company. Companies must be able to recognize what isn’t working and change is fast. Leaders and managers must learn how to actively identify best practices and effectively implement them. Also, they should set up mechanisms that allow team members to rapidly share ideas across the organization. These practices can help a company build and maintain long term success.
Jumia, one of the biggest e-commerce operators in Africa with over 1000 employees in Nigeria offers an example of how even large companies can shift to remote work. A company executive Juliet Anammah said ‘the company has moved most of its meetings online while parts of its staff base including their marketing and customer experience teams are starting to work remotely”.
Embracing remote working allows companies to keep their operations running irrespective of the lockdown and more importantly, prepare for the new normal that will most likely be unleashed post-pandemic. These tips we have shared will equip companies to effectively drive productivity and maintain employee satisfaction as they transition to a remote working structure.