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Managing Remotely

Curated sources for managers to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees

Personal Connection

Personal Connection

A sense of connection and belonging are sentiments that are helpful for building “affective trust” – a form of trust based on emotional bond and interpersonal relatedness.

It varies from the “cognitive trust” – which springs from reliability and competence. Both are influential to performance, but affective trust tends to be more salient for a team at the beginning of a relationship, according to studies.

Statistics On Remote Workers

Statistics On Remote Workers

  • Loneliness was reported as the biggest downside for 21% of remote employees, and one of the reasons that makes them more likely to quit.
  • Most remote managers say they’d be more inclined to stay if they had more friends at work.
  • Individuals who have 15 minutes to socialize with colleagues have a 20% increase in performance over their peers who don't.
  • Positive social relationships are correlated with better life expectancy.

Dynamic Icebreakers

Dynamic Icebreakers

If your icebreaker questions are intriguing, cheeky, humorous – the answers you receive will be, too.

Many remote teams will kick off their weekly meeting with an icebreaker question or insert it during their morning stand-up meeting. Even more popular is asking a series of icebreaker questions during the onboarding process when hiring someone.

Normalising remote work

Normalising remote work

The pandemic normalised remote working, and despite the fears of most organisations, there was no demonstrable loss of productivity.

Now, the global workforce wants to retain increased flexibility as societies open up again. Yet, many organisations are resisting this more flexible future. They argue that employees' wellbeing is compromised by remote working, for example, Zoom fatigue.

Remote work itself is not the issue

The problem is that although most office workers are currently working from home, they still work in an office-centric manner.

Most of our work practices are based around location: when we work, where we work, how we work. Worse is that these practises were designed decades ago. The pandemic has given us the unique opportunity to question these structures.

Rethinking the "when", "where", "how" of work

  • The "when" of work. The 9-5 workday was formalised for factory workers by Henry Ford in 1926. Most of us don't work in factories. Moreover, the linear day is unsuitable for the remote environment.
  • The "where" of work. The dominance of the office was needed in a time without home internet or laptops. We are long past needing to prove that work can be done away from employer-owned space.
  • The "how" of work. It is an assumption that a meeting is the best way to collaborate. This idea comes from the 1950s. Collaboration can happen asynchronously.

Assembling the Team

... that's capable of executing in a remote setup:

  • Hire doers: they will get stuff done even if they are working from a secluded island.
  • Hire people you can trust. And trust the people you hire;
  • Hire people who can write: communication is one of the most important parts of a remote team - good writers are critical to a team's success.
  • Hire people who are ok without a social workplace.

Software/Tools

Software/Tools

In a remote team, you'll need the right tools to make sure everyone stays on the same page and can continue to execute without a physical person standing next to them.

You likely will need a tool in certain categories like group chat and video conferencing to make remote successful.

Processes

Processes

Good processes let you get work done in the absence of all else. They provide structure and direction for getting things done.

A few examples from Zapier:

  • Weekly Hangouts;
  • Weekly One-on-Ones;
  • Bring the team together 2 times/year somewhere cool;
  • Automate anything that can be automated.

The challenges of hybrid teams

The challenges of hybrid teams

Most companies embracing remote work also have dedicated headquarters. But remote-ish teams have even more communication and collaboration challenges than fully remote teams.

For example, in hybrid teams, remote employees are often left in the dark. Office workers are often heard, recognized, and promoted, while remote workers are forgotten.

Remote-friendly vs remote-first

The single biggest mistake companies can make is to opt to be remote-friendly instead of remote-first. Companies often accept the idea that remote is the future of work without creating an inclusive culture to ensure it works for everyone.

  • Remote-friendly environment: Employees are allowed to work remotely, but work is not optimized for it. There is a disconnect between office and remote employees and team meetings exclusively occur in a co-located time zone. Water cooler chat is a space for key decisions and presence is correlated with meaningful work. Communication is synchronous-first. Managers must work in the office.
  • Remote-first companies: Employees are empowered to adopt remote work. Real-time meetings are kept to a minimum and recorded. Decisions are made online and performance is measured by output, not by hours worked. Communication is asynchronous-first. Managers are encouraged to work from home.

Connecting a remote-ish team

Hybrid companies function best when the entire company is optimized for remote work. Successful hybrid teams set up processes to help their remote workers thrive alongside their office teammates.

Leadership must acknowledge the various challenges remote workers face and create solutions. Create a remote work policy that keeps remote workers and contractors from feeling like second class team members. Remote workers should feel fully connected and not missing a thing.

Asynchronous communication

There are mainly two ways to communicate within a company: synchronous and asynchronous communication. While the second type has always been widely practiced, as face-to-face meetings or any other in-person communication, the second type is just slowly being discovered. 

In fact, asynchronous communication enables team members to respond to their colleagues whenever they can, without putting pressure on them that the answer should be provided immediately.

Real-time communication drawbacks

While real-time communication inside of a team might lead to solving faster some issues, it also has various disadvantages. 

For instance, having your colleagues come to ask you questions to which you feel pressured to answer on the spot leads to you being continuously interrupted, which results in being less productive and feeling stressed or even getting a burnout, as you try to do everything in proper time.

The asynchronous workplace

The asynchronous workplace

When the employees are provided with control as to when they are willing to communicate with their co-workers, there are many advantages that emerge. 

For instance, having the freedom to decide exactly how your working day should look like leads to more satisfied employees as well as to better communication within the team. Further benefits vary from feeling less stressed due to better planning to greater transparency and more efficient work.

Celebrating your own wins

Celebrating your own wins

There are many benefits to working remotely, such as setting your own schedule or working with teams across the globe. However, remote workers may also feel less engaged in a company's team and overarching culture when there is little in-person interaction.

Without some external validation, it's easy to feel disconnected from your work. That's why it's important to ensure you celebrate your work accomplishments.

Planning your own annual celebration

Every year, try to do something special to celebrate another year of successful remote work. 

Keep the following in mind:

  • Activities. Do you want a day at the spa? A weekend hike? A list will help you prioritize and plan.
  • Budget. Establish a spending cap. You could base it on a milestone, such as after getting a promotion or new client.
  • Time frame. How long do you want to be away?
  • Location. How long will it take to get there?
  • The number of travel companions. Do you want a group activity or go away solo?

Celebrate your accomplishments on a smaller scale

Celebrating doesn't have to be extravagant.

  • When you complete a difficult task, enjoy a few moments away from your screen.
  • Set up lunches and coffee dates with colleagues and friends to celebrate each other's wins.
  • Find an accountability partner who can notice when you're showing signs of burnout.
  • Carve breaks into your day. It's easy to slip into an always-on mentality. Take breaks throughout the day so that you can come back fresh and ready to go.

Creativity and Collaboration for Remote Teams

Creativity and Collaboration for Remote Teams

Many people worry that creativity and collaboration suffer when teams are working remotely or in hybrid flexible configurations, and sure, there's a challenge of having a lack of in-person vitality but if you're creative enough about the formats that you're using for these interactions, there would be more engagement from the team members.

Having an open document in parallel to a video meeting

There are some managers who love having video meetings with a document open but there are many who hate it. 

If you are the one leading the meeting, you should have someone else to monitor the chat who'll be able to respond because it's quite dificult to focus on projecting, sharing, and facilitating while also monitoring the chat box.

To mitigate this, deputize people with different roles. In hybrid meetings, make sure that there is someone who can run the online experience because they can empathize and identify with attendees.

Approaches to kick-start creativity for remote & hybrid teams

Approaches to kick-start creativity for remote & hybrid teams

With a hybrid team, interactions and relationships across cultures -- even at a significant distance -- is important because it can spur your own creativity, and in order to do so team members must have a meaningful relationship with each other.

They can try the exercise of 'wordless conversation'. You pair up with somebody from the team that you don't know very well and for a whole day you take pictures or short videos as you go through your day. The goal is to send photos where they can relate to what you sent them.

Going all-in on remote work: benefits for businesses

Going all-in on remote work: benefits for businesses

Remote work can be costly or cost-saving, depending on how well-equipped you are to really support it.

  • When done right, assessing the appropriateness of remote work for all your employees and implementing the necessary changes will save money.
  • Savings will be primarily in overhead categories: rent, utilities, facility upkeep costs, in-person IT labor, satellite office networking costs, maintenance, property insurance, etc.
  • The point to aim for is where the investment will bear return. Setting up employees for remote work might initially be higher, but can be balanced out by not paying for expensive desk space.
  • Remote workers may enjoy more flexibility, which may translate into increased productivity.

Defining roles for a remote work setting

Businesses can categorize employees:

  • Location-independent. Knowledge workers are not dependent on location and don't need to be in an office.
  • Location-frequent. These people spend half their time in an office and half remote. They need an in-person base to use for coordination and physical meetings. These are often salespeople, marketing people, back-office services (IT, HR, finance), and creative jobs.
  • Mandatory in-office jobs. These involve specialized equipment that you can't put in an employee's home, such as manufacturing jobs.

Far more job functions can be done remotely if company leadership will accept it. But, remote work is not for everyone. Some jobs are tied to physical locations or equipment. Some people also do not want to work from home.

Equipping remote workers

In-office employees that transition to remote work need to be equipped. Spending recommendations are:

  • A one-time stipend to purchase some office furniture and other miscellaneous work equipment.
  • Basic ergonomic training.
  • The same class of laptop or workstation they'd get in the office.
  • A monthly stipend to offset some or all home broadband costs.
  • IT support costs.
  • Basic, yet complete tech loadout, such as laptop, secondary monitor, mouse, keyboard, wired earbuds, USB hub, chair that meets ergonomic needs.

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