Remote working has become the norm in many organizations and industries, and this means that leadership styles have had to adjust accordingly. With the right approach, leaders can make their remote teams more productive, happier and more cohesive than ever before. Let’s look at how you can make remote working work for your team.
Make sure remote working is right for your circumstances
Some industries and some jobs are more suited to remote work than others. But in very many cases, enabling some degree of flexibility or remote working will benefit your team and your organization.
A review by Global Workplace Analytics found that the benefits of a well-planned remote working culture can include:
- Higher employee satisfaction: 36% of workers said they’d choose remote work over a pay rise
- Better employee retention and reduced absenteeism
- Increased productivity: organizations report remote workers as being 35-40% more productive
- Reduced costs: an average of $10,000 per employee per year can be saved on office costs
- Expanded talent pool, through the elimination of geographical boundaries
What’s the difference between flexible working and remote working?
Flexible working allows your employees to choose their work hours or work-days to fit around their lifestyle. Flexible working has some of the same benefits for employee satisfaction and efficiency as remote working, but flexible working doesn’t have to be remote.
Remote working can come with varying degrees of flexibility: you may have a good reason to ask all employees to be present at specific times, or you may give them the option to work at hours that suit them. Depending on what approach you choose, remote working will come with different sets of benefits and challenges. Bear this in mind when planning your remote working team. If it is important to you that your people feel they have a good work-life balance, giving them a greater degree of autonomy should be considered.
With remote working, employees are free to work from any agreed location. This is most often their home but can also be a rented desk space, or even from on the road. A rented desk space may be preferable to an employee who particularly values having a distinction between their home and work-life and wants freedom to choose where they are based without the need for a lengthy commute.
If you’re considering putting remote working practices into place, or if you already use remote working and are recruiting new employees, you should reach a shared understanding of what remote working entails for you right from the start, and plan accordingly.
Planning for remote working
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure a plan is in place that will allow your organization to feel the benefits of remote working. This will include:
Consider how everyone on your team will be able to contribute to collaborative work and be kept informed of progress.
Talk with your team about how they prefer to communicate. Different people have different communication styles, so discuss with each team member how they work best, and develop a mutually-agreeable workflow that helps them integrate with the rest of the team while maximizing their own efficiency. Make sure there are structures in place to keep communication clear, structured and open rather than ad-hoc and disorganized.
Calculate the expenses:
Often, remote working saves organizations money on office expenses, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your team’s at-home setups. Make sure they have the resources they need to work safely and comfortably: will they need a work laptop and phone, will you cover the cost of Wi-Fi and consumables like printer ink, who will cover the cost of travel when it is necessary, and what expenses can you agree that it is reasonable for the employee to cover themselves?
Leading your remote working team
Regular check-ins, support for health and wellbeing, even opportunities to meet up with colleagues in real life, can all mitigate the risk of team members feeling isolated or unmotivated.
Give your team direction as individuals
Alongside the risk of employees feeling isolated by remote work, there is a danger that they can feel like their efforts go unseen, and that their career could stagnate as a result. Don’t forget that every team member is an individual with their own needs, and don’t neglect putting time aside to have regular one-to-one updates with them.
Give your team the right tools
Slow internet, inadequate hardware or outdated software will hold back and frustrate your remote working team. It’s also vital to check that each team member has a suitable place to work: for example if working from home, they might need a suitable desk chair. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure they have the right resources.
Working from home, it’s easy for employees to feel pressure to start checking emails out of hours or to fall into the habit of working late. Set clear expectations, and lead by example by not exhibiting unhealthy behaviors yourself.
What are the attributes of a good leader of a remote workforce?
Meeting your goals means taking a proactive approach to hitting deadlines and monitoring progress. This is a lot less straightforward when your team is not all in one place, and even trickier if you aren’t all in the same time zone. Real agility, responsiveness and attention to detail are essential.
Giving your employees the freedom to benefit from remote working means accepting that you may need to be flexible around their needs. Allowing remote workers to schedule their time flexibly not only improves their work-life balance, but it also lets them find ways to optimize their work patterns for more productivity and efficiency.
We’ve already mentioned the topic of communication styles, but why is communication so important? While for some remote work offers more freedom, for others remote work can be an isolating experience. Good communication isn’t just vital for keeping everyone in the loop and working efficiently, it is key to keeping your team motivated and committed to the job.
People prone to micromanagement might struggle to lead a remote workforce. When the agile and flexible working conditions, and great communication systems are all in place, the final piece of the puzzle is mutual trust: when employees know that you respect them enough to trust that they’ll get the job done, they will respond by doing their best work for you.
Once your remote working team is set up and working efficiently, there is still a lot of day-to-day work to be done maintaining good communications and following project management best practice. With all this going on, it’s easy to overlook some of the other responsibilities of a leader, such as promoting the ongoing career development of your people.
Offering training not only upskills your employees, but it can also be an opportunity for them to improve their team cohesion. And this is especially important if that team doesn’t get to spend time together on a regular basis.
Contact us today to find out more about how our experiential learning programs could help you build a stronger, happier and more efficient organization.