If you’re a Traditionalist, a Baby Boomer, or you’re part of Generations X or Y, you can probably remember working in a company office on a very specific 9-5 schedule.
Today, the 9-5 culture still exists. But things are changing for the better.
Flexible schedules, remote working, virtual office arrangements and ‘third place’ work locations are now commonplace for many companies around the world, and their number is growing steadily.
One study conducted in 2018 found that 70% of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week.
Businesses will always require a centralized workplace, but managers and business owners are now realizing that they don’t need their entire workforce in the office every day.
Flexible Workforces are More Productive
In fact, in many cases, workers are much happier when they have the ability to work from alternative locations. Remote working can be a boon for productivity, as employees spend less time commuting and more time enjoying greater flexibility and better work/life balance.
That means happier and more motivated workers, which in turn leads to better performance and higher levels of productivity.
What’s more, as younger generations enter the workforce and see these changes in action, they expect to have the right to work wherever, and whenever, they feel most productive.
Therefore, a company with flexible working opportunities is much more likely to attract (and keep) the best talent for the job.
Case in point, a 2018 survey from FlexJobs found that 73% of respondents ranked work-life balance as more important than salary (70%). Furthermore, 76% said they would be more loyal to their employer if they were able to work flexibly.
How to Manage a Remote Team
Whether you’re hiring your first employee on a remote basis, or you’re shifting your entire team to a flexible work policy, for remote working to really work, it needs total buy-in from both parties. Some of the challenges you may face include employee isolation, lack of trust, distractions, and technical glitches, such as difficulties accessing the secure network or problems with home broadband.
While you can’t expect to overcome all of these challenges overnight, it is important to lay out remote working policies to enable you — and your employees — to work through them.
Here we take a closer look at how to manage a remote team.
Larger teams may have some staff in the office and others working remotely. To help your remote culture get off to the best start, Trello recommends having a ‘remote first’ mentality:
“The ‘remote first’ mentality means that even if one team member is remote and the rest are in the office, everyone will default to a video conference.”
That way, remote workers don’t feel left out. Even though flexible working is seen by some as a privilege, working from home or an alternative location alone, when the rest of your team are in an office together, can feel isolating.
Keep Communicating Throughout the Day
It’s important to stay in regular touch with your team to ensure everyone is on track and happy with what they’re doing. It’s also another great way to minimize the threat of isolation.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to over-communicate with remote workers rather than ‘leave them to it’. For that, a messaging app like Slack works wonders. You can instantly see who’s online and quickly ping little messages to each other, either individually or in groups based on projects, teams or specific tasks.
In addition to regular chats and pings, maintain a formal communication structure. A regular team video call — such as a daily stand-up — is a great way to help ensure everyone is collaborating and communicating with each other, while a frequent one-to-one call will also enable you to address specific issues or gain updates with each team member.
Pick the Right Tools
Every employee needs specific tools to do their job, whether they work in a regular office or from their home. This includes a reliable Internet connection and a combination of hardware and software such as a laptop, a monitor, a riser or platform (to ensure the laptop is at a comfortable height), and printing facilities. On the digital side, your remote workers will need specific programs to do their job, such as Microsoft Office, and additional tools to help daily communication and task management.
For instance, messaging apps such as Slack are great for daily communication, while Asana is ideal for project management and helps to keep track of deadlines and who’s doing what. Skype and Zoom are ideal for video calls, while Dropbox works well for online file storage and file sharing. For document access and editing, Google Docs is the obvious choice. It allows you to store and share documents with your team and give editing rights to specific people. That way, you can create and edit the same content, collaboratively, in real time, which ensures swift feedback and faster project completion.
Meet In Person Once in a While
Giving teams the flexibility to work remotely is a boon for productivity and all-round happiness. However, there’s still a lot to gain from spending time together, face-to-face. It’s important to get everyone together as often as possible to help build relationships, work on specific projects or challenges, and focus on building a happy, positive company culture together.