Remote Working: The five magic ingredients
Date: 30th March 2020
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The way we work is changing – not slowly, but rapidly – all thanks to the coronavirus quarantine. Businesses are quickly being forced to adapt all their processes and people to a new style of remote working.

Remote working

This flexible approach to the workplace is something I’ve been encouraging for a while, as remote working can have many notable positive impacts on organisations and employees. Including:

  • Higher productivity levels due to less distractions from open plan offices and colleagues
  • Freedom to be more creative and make decisions
  • Happier employees with better work-life balance
  • Less time wasted commuting and going to face-to-face meetings which can be held over video conference instead
  • Flexibility to work from home in the future which future-proofs your organisation 
Remote working

However, most organisations adapting to remote working do it in a slow roll out – with plenty of time for trial and error and testing. The enforced and rapid change that we are currently experiencing throws up significant problems. How can we adapt our leadership style and practices to embrace this change and ensure that business can continue and succeed? 

Here are my five magic ingredients to successfully transition your team to remote working: 

1.   TRUST. 

Without trust, you cannot be sure that your team will continue to perform and do their job. Remote working is different to being in an office environment surrounded by colleagues. There’s no one keeping an eye on what employees are up to, or who is making excessive numbers of cups of tea! We also lose the opportunity to have quick, informal chats with colleagues. Don’t forget to schedule time for informality – ask your team how they are doing and chat about things outside of the usual work parameters.

When it comes to goals, focus on what people are expected to deliver and the deadline for that, rather than when they do it. Someone juggling childcare may find that working 6am-10am and then 6pm-10pm might work better than the normal 9am-6pm. Let your employees set the hours that work for them. Concentrate on deliverables.

2. SELF DISCIPLINE. 

Remote working requires more self-discipline than working in an office environment. It’s down to the individual to ensure they’re getting work done, but there are things you can do to help put new structure into place. 

As a manager, make sure to set clear boundaries between work life and home life. Ask your team to put their working hours into a communal calendar, including the time they will take for breaks such as lunch. Encourage everyone in the team to respect these hours, and not to communicate about work outside of these.

Have regular video check ins with your team. Embrace apps such as Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams to help keep lines of communication open and allow you to ‘see’ each other regularly and keep morale and productivity levels high.

 3. A FLEXIBLE MINDSET. 

As we all know, everyone works differently. In my last article on LinkedIn, I wrote about the three different working styles: independent (work best on your own), co-operative (best in a team environment) and proximity (a mixture of both). This shift towards remote working is good for the independent workers out there, but not good for the co-operative workers who will crave company and having people to work alongside.  Don’t forget to take into account how your employees work best, and put processes in place to help them to thrive.

4. BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL. 

It’s important to remember that not everyone is set up to work from home. We don’t all have private, sound-proof office spaces! Your employees may be sharing the space with other people working from home, children, pets and more. Don’t berate people or make a joke of them on team calls – office banter doesn’t translate over the internet and it can destroy trust.  

5. DEMONSTRATE WORK-LIFE BALANCE. 

Working from home may be new to a lot of your employees, and it’s important that they establish a good work-life balance. Remote working can blur the lines between work and play, so it’s important to switch off and expect your employees to be switched off too. Could you encourage your employees to look after their mental and physical well-being by offering some ‘perks’ such as access to online yoga classes, or a veg box delivery? If you keep your team’s spirits up, productivity levels will follow.

It’s worth remembering that to many, remote working is a new experience. Some things will work, some things won’t. It’s a time for trial and error! Embrace the change and flex your working style to allow for individuality. What works for one person, may not work for another. 

Most importantly, be open and honest with your team, and trust them. You hired them for a reason, and now is their time to shine.

Thanks to Taylor Vinter for their excellent People Summit at the Moller Institute in Cambridge last month. The theme was ‘flexible working in leadership roles’ and inspired this blog.

Laura Davies

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