Almost daily you read about conferences being cancelled, corporate travel restrictions and staff being told to work from home or offsite. It’s a wonder how businesses can survive and thrive under these conditions?
The challenges posed by the latest outbreak highlight why you need to put in place strategies that will keep your business running and able to respond to clients and suppliers.
According to Saikat Chatterjee, Senior Director, Advisory at Gartner, “We’re being forced into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment and, so far, it hasn’t been easy for a lot of organizations to implement.”
Understanding and having a strategy in place to can make all the difference between a mild inconvenience and having a catastrophic impact.
So, how do companies adapt to this new reality and deliver the same high-quality work, build trusted relationships that they did when going to the office every day or meeting clients at conferences or trade shows?
it doesn’t just happen! It all starts with knowing the eight essential strategies to maintain productivity and teamwork while working remotely.
Remote Office Strategy #1: Develop a Resilient, Business-as-Usual-Mindset
One of the most important aspects of any team is resilience – the ability to overcome setbacks even with the sudden need to work in a remote or virtual environment.
That’s because working remotely can be enormously efficient, productive and cost-effective – when done correctly. That challenge for managers and owners often comes down to failing to adapt communication strategies for the remote or virtual environment, leading to common (but easily avoidable) issues such as:
- Feelings of isolation
- Frequent miscommunication
- Low engagement
- Missed deadlines
Address issues immediately- resolving problems as they happen is the way that teams survive—and thrive especially in times of crisis.
Remote Office Strategy #2: Stay Focused and Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking. Everybody does it, nobody does it well, and it can even be harmful to your team’s productivity. In fact, worldwide, multitasking costs corporations $450 billion per year.
Online and conference call meetings are notorious for having team members answer emails, surf the web, or simply perform their day-to-day work instead of giving 100% of their attention to the discussion at hand. Beyond being disrespectful to the rest of the team, switching between tasks causes:
- Productivity to drop by as much as 40%
- More frequent errors, especially where critical thought is involved
- Higher stress
- Increased health risk, including elevated heart rate (University of California Irvine)
Focus on one task at a time.
Remote Office Strategy #3: Focus on Leadership
One recent study of engineering groups showed that the best predictor of success for managers of virtual teams is prior experience.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in an explosion of virtual and remote teams with managers who have not received any preparation to operate at peak efficiency without daily face-to-face contact. Even in companies where remote or virtual teams are created deliberately, only 15% of managers rate themselves as very effective and just 53% as moderately effective.
Managers– especially ones recently created out of necessity due to the coronavirus – should invest in training to increase their knowledge and skills for leadership in the remote and virtual environment.
Remote Office Strategy #4: Be a Strong Presence for Your Virtual Team
What is the greatest fear of the remote or virtual worker? Being forgotten and ignored by their managers, leading to five key consequences:
- Workers do not have an opportunity to grow and develop their skills.
- They feel left out of the loop.
- They do not learn company updates at the same time as their colleagues.
- Their accomplishments go unnoticed and unappreciated.
- Their career paths within the organization become limited.
Virtual workers who suffer these consequences participate less, which only worsens their sense of status and well-being. In fact, 80% of virtual team members find that working remote or virtually is more difficult than in person.
Great managers will find ways to make sure their team members are well integrated, well-informed, and appreciated for their contributions.
Take proactive action to make sure your team members feel included and valued.
Remote Office Strategy #5: Avoid Goal & Role Ambiguity
Role ambiguity is one of the greatest sources of stress for leaders and members of teams. Leaders cannot achieve effective team performance without clearly defined goals and roles, and yet when working remotely or virtually, it is shockingly easy for misunderstandings and confusion to creep in.
The role of the team leader is to implement structured processes, well-defined goals, and clear accountabilities for each team member. The result of poorly communicated goals and roles is a higher frequency of misunderstanding, lower levels of coordination, missed productivity benchmarks, and higher costs.
Take the time to reinforce roles and responsibilities when working virtually.
Remote Office Strategy #6: Consciously Build Trust
Trust is the foundation of a high-functioning team, virtual or otherwise – it’s the glue that holds the team together.
Unfortunately, it takes four times as long for remote or virtual teams to build trust compared to their in-person counterparts. In fact, only 50% of remote employees report success at building trusted relationships with their fellow team members, and 52% cite managing conflict as one of the biggest issues they face.
Check in with team members more frequently than you would in person, making sure they understand their role and have the support they need to succeed.
Remote Office Strategy #7: Maintain Work-Life Balance
Remote or virtual workers are at higher risk of fatigue and exhaustion not only because they are more likely to “make up for” not being seen at work by working longer hours but because of the impact the Covid-19 virus is having on them and their workforce.
Managers need to stay connected to their staff providing support, recognition and reassure that their efforts are appreciated.
Remote Office Strategy #8: Use the Right Tools for the Job
When working remotely, it’s important to use all the communication tools at your disposal – especially when basic communication tools like eye contact and body language are at a minimum!
All web conferencing platforms include annotation and feedback tools to enhance your team’s long-distance collaboration.
Make sure to learn about the communication tools available to you. The small amount of time you invest here will save your team hours of miscommunication and frustration in the long run!
Beat the Coronavirus with Great Remote Team Strategies
These strategies can help you operate effectively even when you can’t be in the same room.
Contributed by Claire Sookman, Virtual Team Builders-Engaging People For Results
A great place to start is to sign up for their free webinar: Fact Vs. Fiction: An Interactive Session about the Myths Surrounding Remote and Virtual Teams.