A survival kit to remote working

For years now two of the most prevalent buzzwords across industries and professions have been agility and flexibility. Along with hot desking and remote working, they have epitomised a worldwide trend for BAU wherever that U is, as it were.

Who knew that all that flexibility was really just preparing us for the realities of a global pandemic? That 2020 would be the year that apart from all those designated essential workers out there, all those people lucky enough to actually keep their jobs in the crisis would soon find themselves working from home?

For their managers, this presents a raft of challenges. Some of which they have hopefully already acquired. Managing teams is one of the necessities that comes with a successful business. Whether you are an entrepreneur growing your business, or a team lead at an established business, remote teams are a popular way of ensuring you have the right talent and skill without needing to expand your office space and invest in areas which may not be necessary for the best results for your business.

Some businesses have always operated with a fully remote team while others choose to find remote employees for specific tasks within their firm.

But whether you fall into either of those categories or are completely new to the concept of managing teams who are not sharing a physical space with you there are a number of processes and structures to implement in order to make the system work for you. Let’s break it down to four key necessities:

Build trust

This is simply vital when working with a remote team. If you can’t rely on your team members to do the right thing, you may have hired the wrong people in the first place. But no one likes to think of themself as a bad judge of character, so ensure you do everything you can to show your employees that you trust them and know they will not let you down. This means regular contact utilising a good communication system, with video meetings or scheduled calls treated as seriously as in-house equivalents. And consider your mindset – think of your team as local, rather than remote and set clear parameters from the start as to what is expected of them.

Prioritise security

A primary concern for all business owners, security becomes even more important when your team members are working remotely and need to access company networks and data. Whether they are using company or BYOD (bring your own device) equipment, ensure they have the correct software in place to protect both the hardware and the data, and also ensure they are fully trained to use that equipment and know how to deal with such issues as malware or other cyber attacks.

Nurture team relationships

Closely aligned to the importance of building trust, keeping your team working on the same page must be a priority when there is little, if any, face to face contact or physical proximity. To do this consider:

Regular meet-ups – either through cyber connections or in regular safer times through scheduled physical catch-ups in a central location, where employees can nurture their networks and build the relationships that make them feel a valued and integral part of the team.

Social networking – instead of mistrusting social media as nothing more than a distraction from real work, perhaps consider that a strong and developed social media culture makes everyone feel welcome, including all the employees who are working remotely. It can also be a way for your team to represent your brand virtually.

Celebration of success – without the ability to ring the office bell when someone makes a great sale or have cupcakes all round following a particular win, it’s a great idea to find other ways to reward success and extra effort. Even an all-office email acknowledging an employee’s specific achievement can be great for morale.

Utilise productivity tools

There are a host of these available. Pick your favourite or the ones that suits your business best and then ensure that everyone understands it and commits to using it. Slack, Trello, Google Drive, Dropbox, the Microsoft suite, including Teams and Sharepoint and, of course, the one app that seems to have become particularly popular during the COVID-19 crisis, Zoom (security concerns notwithstanding) – all of these tools can aid and enhance productivity for remote workers. Make the most of them.

While many businesses had already discovered the advantages (and, indeed, the challenges) of remote working, this year has meant that even business owners who would never have considered it previously have had to learn how to manage it and to make a success of it.

Remote working can be a great way of building a business that is accessible globally, exceeds client expectations, and has happy, motivated employees, but you need to keep the above points in mind to make a success of it.

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