Four Ways to Make Remote Work Work
Four Ways to Make Remote Work Work
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a work from home revolution. Across industries and across the globe, organizations have rapidly adapted to the pandemic by empowering work from home for millions of employees. According to a report from the collaboration software provider Slack, an estimated 16 million new knowledge workers in the U.S. started working from home at the height of the pandemic.
Despite the rapid and successful transition to work from home, there clearly have been bumps in the road. Recent surveys of employees and managers reveal a host of challenges. Despite creativity and improvisation in dealing with the pandemic, many employees lack proper home office setups and the required hardware and software tools to excel in their jobs. Add in distractions from family members and young children studying from home and you have some serious productivity challenges. Researchers at Stanford recently discovered that only half of people working from home were achieving an efficiency rate of 80% or more.
Suffice it to say, the work from home revolution is a work in progress, but there are easy ways to make working from home work better for you and your organization.
1. Strike a balance
Fortunately, as the number of COVID-19 infections decline over time, more and more companies are moving to the “return to office” phase in the crisis. While the economic landscape has been irrevocably altered by the pandemic, the office is not going away any time soon. Instead, it is useful to think of a more dynamic and hybrid future, where employers will embrace more flexible office arrangements, flexible work schedules, and the staffing of certain roles and functions at home on a permanent basis, while other functions return to the office.
Clearly, certain people miss the office. They miss the social life and camaraderie of office culture. For others, the office offers an opportunity to focus and set boundaries between work and personal life. And clearly, in certain roles or functions, on the job training, coaching, and supervision are naturally easier in an on-premises, team setting. By the same token, the COVID-19 pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the benefits of working from home, with eliminated commutes, work-life balance enhancements, and more.
The lesson for managers is to think strategically about roles, functions, and personality types and to flexibly adapt to a balanced approach between in-office staffing vs. work from home. Every day, the technology and know-how are getting better to make remote work a long-term solution
2. Leverage collaboration and productivity technology
Technology and innovation are rising to the challenge of facilitating collaboration. Long before COVID-19, collaboration software tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom were helping employees chat, video conference, and collaborate across great distances. COVID-19 has only turbo charged this trend.
The lesson for company leaders is to go all-in on collaboration technology. Protek recommends Microsoft Teams, as it delivers the most comprehensive set of collaboration capabilities to our clients. With Teams, employees can chat, call, video conference, and share files with colleagues and external collaborators. As we recently summarized in a related blog post, there are numerous benefits of standardizing on Teams, including a reduction in unnecessary emails, improved collaboration internally and with external users, and the facilitation of company culture, transparency, and accountability across broad geographies.
Productivity software can also help management gain key insights into employee efficiency, even in a broadly distributed and work from home world. Productivity tracking software delivers a range of practical applications such as screen and activity monitoring, dashboards, alerts, and the ability to track trends over time. Used correctly, productivity tracking software is a tool for management effectiveness and transparency across an organization.
3. Keep your company culture alive, online and in the office
The management guru Peter Drucker famous quipped, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A strong company culture is clearly a pillar of company success. But how do you build and nurture company culture in work from home world? The reality is, the same best practices and strong cultural habits can be accomplished both in office and online, as well.
It is vital that leaders embrace the new normal and devise ways to leverage technology and best practices to keep company culture a top priority, even when most employee interactions are online. With video conferencing and collaboration technology like Teams, a company’s meeting culture can be taken to another level. Success requires intentional actions, such as creating a habit of “cameras on” for in-office and work from home staff. It is important to ensure all elements of the technology work flawlessly, especially audio, so that there is equity and inclusion for employees whether they are in the office or working from home. And lastly the note taking, file collaboration, and action items management tools in Teams can enhance a company’s meeting culture and increase clarity, accountability and effective follow through.
A big part of company culture is also keeping things fun. Innovative companies are leveraging tools like Teams to organize social events, “happy hours,” game times, and other fun opportunities for staff to take a break from the normal work routine, to blow off some steam, have fun, and to get to know each other on a personal level.
4. Measure and manage results and output, not just time and engagement
Even in a world where employees are spread out across home offices, it is important to not lose sight of timeless management best practices. As the old adage goes, “what gets measured, gets managed.” Leaders should stay focused on measuring the output of employees, rather than the number of hours on the clock or time spent in front a this or that software application. Alas, with the explosion in collaboration and productivity tracking tools, there is often a temptation to micro-manage the process rather than the outcome. And it is a huge mistake. Both leaders and employees need to raise the level of trust, even in a world where we don’t bump into each other every day at the water cooler. For everyone, trust means meeting ones commitments and goals. And for leaders, it means leveraging all of this technology for good and focusing on business results, customer success, and employee satisfaction no matter whether your teams are working from home, in the office, or on the road.
Protek is passionate about helping new and existing clients succeed in a work from home world. Reach out to Michelle Lawson to explore how Protek can help you on your work from home journey with IT Services in Utah.
Eric is the owner and CEO of Protek Support and is a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional). He graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Business with an emphasis in Information Technology (IT). He is an IT Services expert in a variety of technology related fields. Some of these fields include document management software/hardware, enterprise level networking and VoIP phone systems, as well as large scale software implementation projects and the setup of small business networks.