Lisa Crawford-Jones, Converge Marketing
Remote work and flexible arrangements can be tricky at first. How do you choose the right technology, engage and support your people, facilitate team collaboration, and ultimately drive your business forward during this time?
While it can take some effort to get it right, there’s many benefits to flexible or remote work. Globally, many successful companies use remote working tools and practices both in and out of the office, so consider the longer-term benefits of introducing some of these approaches.
Here’s our quick guide to help you thrive:
Get the right tools for the job
Enable your team with a tech set up that suits your business. Factor in a budget, time to train staff, and don’t be afraid to experiment and change tools until you find what works best. Take advantage of freemium options, or free trials until you get the mix right.
The first step is getting clear on your needs before diving into the technology solutions available. Here’s five things to ask when choosing the right tools for the job:
- How many staff do you have and do employees need to collaborate across teams?
- What business functions need to be done remotely? For example, do you need cloud storage, online and shared calendars, email access, chat or communication tools, bookkeeping and billing, online task lists and management, or video conferencing?
- What is the cost for subscriptions in the short to medium term?
- Is data you store in the software going to be adequately safeguarded?
- What internet speed is required to run the tools, and do your relevant people have adequate internet access?
A basic technology set up might include:
- Google Suite for easy collaboration and document sharing
- Zoom for team face-to-face catch-ups and external client meetings
- Slack for quick questions and updates throughout the day. Create project or team channels as well as a #general channel for whole of business issues and a #watercooler channel to help build culture online. And, best of all – look forward to reducing your email by up to 90 per cent!
- Trello for capturing whole of team to-do lists and handovers for part-time staff, or Asana for even more advanced project management and KPIs-to-tasks tools.
- Email (if you really have to) for major pieces of content or decisions you don’t want to lose.
Establish etiquette for using the tools
Like any communication, it’s easy to be misunderstood. Even more so when you’re not working face-to-face. Do some research into etiquette for tools like Slack and consider how using it would translate to an in-office work situation. For example, direct messages are private and should remain so; praise in public but criticise in private; use ‘do not disturb’ for deep work; be reasonable with response expectations; and always, if in doubt or it’s urgent, pick up the phone.
It’s absolutely possible to nurture productive, engaged and thriving teams online. But beyond fancy tools it requires trust. If you’ve never had staff working remotely before, this is an opportunity to lead by example, build trust, and have faith your people will reciprocate with loyalty and enthusiasm.
Flexible work and working remotely needs guidelines. If your people haven’t worked remotely before, don’t assume they know what’s required of them or can transition easily to working at home. Chat about any questions or concerns, check their assumptions, and be very clear on your expectations.
There are fundamental policies you’ll need to put in place, such as a Workplace Health and Safety Policy. You may also like to implement a Remote Work Agreement, for example.
Work hours and degree of flexibly, in particular require discussion and may vary across your business. Consider your business and customer needs and the challenges many staff will have in working at home with children during this time. For example, you might implement core work hours from say 10am-3pm, then additional hours could be done when it suits the employee.
You’ll also need clarity on how to use tools like Trello and Asana or shared documents on Google Drive. For example, agree time periods for updating and how much detail is required.
Remote working is an opportunity to operationalise your company values into behaviours. Consider your company values and what each behavior looks like in this new work arrangement.
Support culture and productivity
In person interaction can be the first thing people miss when working remotely and it can have flow-on effects on productivity and morale. It’s harder to understand what’s going on in people’s lives, but you can facilitate natural socialising or digital watercooler chitchat using a #social channel on Slack.
Working remotely can increase productivity as it can be easier to stay focused. The downside is that employees can power through lunch breaks, reducing productivity and effectiveness. Encourage your people to get to know their natural energy peaks and encourage short breaks, standing up and walking around.
Maintain phone and face-to-face video communication
Maintain contact with one-on-one video check-ins and team meetings. It will help keep your people engaged, moving towards your common business goals and supported during a time of upheaval.
Engage your local support team
For those times when technology gets the better of you, reach out to local information technology experts to help. There’s a thriving community of IT specialists, digital marketers and web experts on the Sunshine Coast who can help you get it done, and fast!
For more information, check out the resources and a free downloadable guide on Council’s website here.