In a world where office walls are giving way to digital screens, the remote work revolution is in full swing. But as companies rush to adapt, many find themselves stumbling in this uncharted territory, often making the same avoidable mistakes.
Working remotely – go ahead, we allow it
Recently, a fellow founder shared with us an insightful observation about how certain companies had to face reality – the paradigm shift of the 21st century. Suddenly, “working remotely” became a ” must.”
This observation is very apt. It turns out that working remotely is indeed doable; all it took was a change in perspective. But there’s more to consider.
Early in the pandemic, we came across an email from one of the companies that had previously operated under the mantra “remote work – it can’t be done.” This email, sent to all employees from HR, stated that Company X was increasing the number of remote work days for office employees from two or three per month to an additional twelve due to the spread of the coronavirus. They invited interested individuals to apply through the employee portal. The email also contained somewhat convoluted language about caregiving benefits, sick leave, and odd mentions of paperwork as well as Social Security forms. It concluded, as always, with the obligatory legal references. They also made it clear that it was the direct supervisor’s responsibility to monitor remote employees’ performance.
Remote work – Management, realize it
Implementing a remote work model in an organization, whether it is a permanent or temporary change, is a significant transition. This change should not be taken lightly, as it is different from smaller changes that occur regularly in any organization.
First and foremost, business leaders must recognize this fact, which they often underestimate. Once they have recognized this fact, they should take appropriate measures to ensure a smooth transition to this new model without compromising the quality of work.
Remote work is very different from office work, especially in companies with traditional management approaches. Here’s what every manager needs to understand when it comes to remote work:
- Remote work is now a standard practice in modern companies and should not be treated merely as an additional perk or a lesser option.
- In this model, fixed working hours are abandoned. Employees become task-oriented, and the timing of task completion is flexible, as long as it meets deadlines.
- Location becomes irrelevant. What matters is that employees can perform their tasks and meet deadlines, whether they work from home, a co-working space, a train, a cabin in the woods, or a beach.
- The expectation for employees to be available on-demand diminishes, whether in a remote or traditional office setup.
- The introduction of remote work should be communicated by the top executive, with HR handling operational and organizational aspects.
- Implementing remote work require changes in the organization’s culture.
- Like traditional office setups, remote work requires appropriate infrastructure for effective and sometimes even feasible operations.
- Before making such a change, it’s essential to consult with experts knowledgeable about remote work within a company context.
- As with other significant projects, appointing a project manager, preferably a change manager, is crucial. This person should take responsibility for the project.
Most importantly, improperly introduced remote work can harm an organization. When implemented effectively, it enhances organizational flexibility and boosts employee satisfaction.
Remote work – how to introduce it into the company?
The successful implementation of remote work in an organization involves careful planning and clear communication. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you introduce remote work effectively:
- Leadership Commitment: Ensure that top-level management fully understands the concept of remote work and believes in its potential benefits. Leadership commitment is crucial for the success of this model.
- Project Management: Appoint a change manager or project manager to oversee the entire transition. This person should be officially designated and recognized by all employees.
- Equipment: Provide employees with the necessary equipment for remote work. Portable devices are essential, and while not mandatory, consider providing phones, especially for those who interact with clients.
- Infrastructure: Establish secure access to essential systems through corporate VPNs and remote access solutions. Consider using a private or corporate cloud for data storage.
- Communication Tools: Diversify communication tools beyond email. Internal audio and video communication tools facilitate team interaction and relationship-building, while external tools help maintain connections with clients and partners.
- Knowledge Base: Implement a knowledge base, intranet, or internal system that centralizes crucial information for employees. This reduces the need for searching through emails or asking colleagues for information.
- Customization: Address additional, company-specific needs as necessary, considering the unique requirements of your organization.
With the necessary preparations in place, proceed to implement the changes:
- Leadership Announcement: Send an email to all employees from the main manager, announcing the introduction of the new remote work model. Keep the message brief, concise, and in simple language. Highlight the benefits and modernization aspects. Mention the specific person responsible for coordinating the changes within the organization, and indicate that the HR department will provide further information soon.
- HR Communication: In the following days, the HR department should provide additional organizational and operational details. Emphasize that department managers are responsible for organizing remote work within their respective teams. Use simple and straightforward language, avoiding complex legal jargon.
- Departmental Transition: Managers should ensure that employees have the necessary tools and resources to work remotely. They should also adapt current processes to the remote work model.
- Change Manager Oversight: Throughout the process, from preparation to implementation and optimization, the appointed change manager should coordinate activities and ensure the smooth transition to remote work.
Remember that each organization may have unique requirements, so adapt these steps to your specific needs.
Remote work – for the employee
And finally, something the least obvious of all.
People who manage companies in the traditional model often overlook what is most important in all of this: the employee. They may use eloquent, sublime, or even casual language to express their extraordinariness and modernity. However, if they forget about the employee, it is similar to speaking to themselves in the mirror. The outcome will remain much the same.
An employee with 10, 20, or 30 years of experience in organizations where he was told to show up at 8 a.m. in the office, 15km from home, washed, shaved, combed, and ironed, will not know what to do with himself when suddenly someone tells him that he is now to become modern and work in pajamas. Such individuals may struggle to adapt, and it is essential to provide them with guidance and support to navigate this change.
And it is the role of boards, and company managers to introduce such a work culture in the organization that people working in the remote work model will work at least as well as in the office. The role of the change manager is to introduce a training path to teach such a model of work to individual managers. And the role of managers at next levels is to teach what remote work is to their subordinates.
This is teamwork. Without it, the employee will feel lost, and from the perspective of the organization it will be inefficient.
Here are the key elements to consider when managing employees in a remote work model:
- Proficiency with Tools: Ensure that employees are comfortable using the tools and software provided for remote work. Some tasks that are easy in an office setting might be more challenging remotely.
- Dedicated Workspace: Encourage employees to set up a specific area for work within their living space, separating it from their personal space.
- Time Management: Remote workers should learn to manage their own time effectively, since there won’t be strict supervision. The focus should be on completing tasks rather than adhering to rigid schedules.
- Rest and Work-Life Balance: Help employees establish boundaries to prevent overworking. Working remotely can blur the line between work and personal life, leading to burnout if not managed well.
- Remote Communication Skills: Teach employees how to communicate effectively with colleagues in remote settings, ensuring they stay connected and avoid isolation.
- Health and Diet: Encourage employees to prioritize their health, including maintaining a balanced diet and staying physically active, since remote work may involve less movement.
- Expense Management: Remote work can lead to increased utility and internet bills. Employees should be aware of their expenses and consider negotiating changes with service providers if necessary.
- Professional Appearance: While remote work allows for a more relaxed dress code, encourage employees to maintain a professional appearance when working to establish a healthy work routine and mindset.
- Boundaries at Home: Employees should set clear boundaries with family members or roommates to avoid distractions during work hours.
- Mental Well-Being: Support employees in maintaining their mental well-being, emphasizing the importance of breaks, social interaction, and stress management.
By addressing these elements, organizations can help employees thrive in a remote work environment while maintaining productivity and well-being.
We also recommend reading materials from individuals who have extensive experience with remote work and are willing to share their insights. Certainly, professionals from companies such as Nozbe, Buffer, or Basecamp have a wealth of wisdom to offer on this topic.