Remote work has been a growing trend in recent years. Some startups have embraced it from the get-go. Other businesses have preferred to test the waters, trying a small-scale approach to see how it can be implemented favorably. This can range from part-time telecommuting to working with freelancers, as opposed to offering full-time positions on a work-from-home basis.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated developments on this front. Businesses now face a ‘new normal’ in which remote work is not only a core feature but a means toward improved productivity and reduced costs. Your company might already have a good policy fleshed out and several employees working remotely. But when people are out of sight, how can you continue to drive their performance?
Understanding the remote setup
The first details you need to know include each worker’s remote setup. Of course, boundaries should be observed; you don’t want to intrude into an employee’s personal life. But just because a problem is out of sight doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Most homeowners don’t see their pipes, but if they aren’t careful, they’ll need to call plumbing services for emergency fixes. You don’t need to see photos of a person’s home to know if they are prepared to work remotely.
Get a detailed description, and check for possible distractions: the TV, a nearby bed or couch, or activities of household members. If your employee is going to be productive while working from home, they need to be able to focus. Advise them to have all the tools they need in the room and nothing else; no comfy furniture or personal devices.
Taking advantage of apps
During the pandemic, necessity brought remote work to the forefront for many businesses, and the developers of various tools were quick to follow suit. A quick online search will unearth dozens of professional-grade apps to help your team collaborate and communicate while working around the clock from far-flung locations.
Be specific in how you use apps, and your team can perform even better. For instance, you can use Slack as the team’s central communications tool during agreed-upon working hours, while only urgent messages can be sent out of hours (and only through email). This way, employees can ignore all notifications other than Slack during the typical working window, reducing costly interruptions. It also helps to reinforce their much-valued sense of privacy outside of the work schedule.
Allowing some give and take
Every business that allows remote working arrangements should have a separate, clear policy to succeed. However, by its nature, remote work is all about flexibility. Employees do their best in this situation when there’s a strong relationship founded upon trust. In turn, this implies that employers would want to ensure that only their best employees handle remote work.
With that assumption, you can afford some wiggle room in your dealings with remote workers. Trust them to manage their time and juggle personal interests with their tasks. As long as they meet deadlines, how they do it shouldn’t matter so much. If they can’t make it for an online call or have to leave the team chat a few hours early, give them that flexibility. There’s probably a good reason, they can make up for it, and it’s one of the positives that employees get out of this arrangement.
When it comes to remote work, trust is vital, and so is verification. Get the right balance of both, and you can improve your team’s performance in the times to come.