Office life may never be the same again.
The Coronavirus crisis has inadvertently kickstarted a revolution in remote working. In Canada specifically, 73% of people believe they will be able to continue with a home working arrangement when the pandemic is over.
This is great news for many reasons, ranging from work / life balance to reduced pollution from commuting and lower office space costs for companies. However, if you’re managing a team, fully adapting to this “new normal” comes with certain challenges.
In this article, we look at five specific ways to help your team adjust to remote working.
1. Bridge the Social Gap
One thing that can really fall away when a team works remotely is social interaction. Those superficial chats about the weekend activities, sports scores and holidays all result in your team bonding together. That bonding is genuinely important for morale and team spirit.
As such, it’s wise to look at ways to bridge that gap. Companies that already work on a “fully remote” basis can provide a good source of inspiration here. Consider things like:
- Zoom quiz events.
- Walking conference calls – where the whole team get together to chat whilst taking a walk.
- “Non-work” online meetings – where small talk is the actual aim!
2. Review your On-boarding Processes
Taking on new hires is a particular challenge. It seems really unusual for an employee to start at a new firm without the customary tour round the office, complete with handshakes and introductions.
However, with a little thought and planning, it’s easy to refine a new process. Instead of touring around departments, staff can line up calls with both their closest new colleagues and those working in other departments. This gives both an opportunity for some one-on-one bonding (which should be actively encouraged), and a chance to understand how all the departments work.
Plenty of companies get their on-boarding wrong anyway. Now’s a good time to take a fresh look at how each new starter is helped to assimilate and feel welcome.
3. Use Tech to Recreate the Office Environment
If the Coronavirus pandemic had happened 20 years ago, it would have been much tougher for companies to adapt. Thankfully the tech is now there to make a staff member’s physical location largely irrelevant. You can completely recreate the office experience with the right tech.
Consider things like:
Remote Desktop Services: This (and similar) technology allows companies to serve a controlled IT environment to staff members. Data and applications are all accessible via a remote window. This helps the IT team to give everybody the same setup and exercise control over data security and privacy.
VoIP Solutions: Cloud-based Voice over IP (VoIP) gives companies the ability to provide exactly the same telecoms features available via office phone systems. Features such as departmental call groups and voice-based menus can be set up to work regardless of where staff are located.
“Kanban” Software: With “Kanban” systems like Trello and Asana, you can even replace the big whiteboard covered in sticky notes! Systems like this are inexpensive (or free), easy to understand, and perfect for group collaboration.
4. Use Software – Consistently
We just referred to software systems. The right software can really transform efficiency in remote teams.
However, defining how software is to be used is crucially important. The chances are that you will find yourself with multiple ways to communicate within the team. As such, staff should know what solutions to use for what. Everybody needs, for example, to know what to use email for, what should be discussed on Slack, and what requires a Zoom or phone call.
Chaos can and will ensue if everybody is left to decide these things for themselves!
5. Document your Policies
Policy management is neither glamorous nor exciting, but it’s critically important to ensure everybody knows where they stand.
The unexpected rush to work from home will have caused companies to make things up on the fly. However, more permanent remote working plans should be formalized and documented. Everything from working hours to breaks and IT security rules should be signed off, written down, and clearly communicated.
It’s worth remembering that more and more companies now build their entire businesses around a global workforce, all operating from home. It’s not a scary thing anymore, and there’s scant evidence to suggest employees won’t be productive.
Get the basics right, and it really won’t matter where each part of your well-oiled machine is based.