It looks like the remote workforce is here to stay.
What began with a series of announcements from tech giants Oracle, Twitter, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon — which were among the first companies to shift to all-remote work models — is now perhaps the defining feature of daily work life for many Americans. And it has ushered in new behavioral norms, prompted large-scale demographic changes (see: Zoom Towns) and created unprecedented human capital challenges in turn.
For organizational leaders, the questions quickly multiply:
- How engaged is my workforce right now? How will I know if someone is at risk of burnout?
- Am I optimally managing the productivity of everyone on my team? What does "performance management" even look like today?
- How can I sustain our company's culture with everyone working remotely? What if I want to bring someone new on board?
None of these questions are easy to answer, of course — and that's why we've put together the following four insights to help you out as a leader in our new normal.
1. schedule the right cadence of check-ins
It’s worth reflecting on the fact that nearly half of companies around the world didn't allow remote work — period — prior to the pandemic. So organizations everywhere are in the same boat, more or less. You’re certainly not alone.
That said, you can refine your meeting cadence to reduce the strain on team members. Are there opportunities for you to roll-up a weekly call into a monthly meeting? Given that "Zoom fatigue" is a documented phenomenon, any way that you can cut back on the volume of meetings will be appreciated by your employees. It’ll free up more time for productive work.
Meanwhile, if you’re continuing to hold daily standups with your core team members, keep the following objectives in mind:
With that last bullet point in mind, one final tip: A little friendly social banter at the start of the call doesn’t do any harm.
2. leverage best-in-class collaboration tools
The productivity of remote teams is directly tied to how effectively they’re using digital tools to their advantage, not least of which are digital communication and collaboration tools. At this point, of course, you should have a pretty clear idea of what works and what doesn’t, but it’s a good idea to poll team members on an ongoing basis. What channels work best for them? What are their pain points?
If you're just looking for a more robust real-time collaboration platform, there are always free tools like Slack. The free version comes with a good deal of helpful features, too.
And if you're looking to track time spent on tasks, notify team members when action is required and report on progress, the free version of Trello may be for you. Either way, free is a hard price to beat, so there's no reason not to get started with these tools today.
3. focus on outcomes, not processes
A hallmark of agile teams (and let's face it, you're managing one) is their focus on dynamic outcomes — not processes or static outputs. And as a leader, that means there’s a new mandate for you: Stop micromanaging!
Why? For one, you don’t need to. Studies show that when companies transition teams to remote work arrangements, productivity actually goes up — sometimes by as much as 13 percent. That’s because employees tend to feel more comfortable at home. They also take fewer breaks.
Try to stay laser-focused on goals and outcomes, instead of processes.
4. empower employees with the right tech
What software does your team need to continue to make progress toward its goals? Does every team member have the right hardware?
Basic as these questions may be, it's surprising how often seemingly straightforward tech considerations waylay remote teams. For example, the majority of workers (58%) say that while their employers are using the latest digital tools and platforms, they aren’t providing the training that employees need to use them most effectively, according to Randstad’s research.
Again, polling your employees on your current tech capabilities and training is a good idea here. Given that you’ve likely been working remotely for a year or more, ensuring that all of your team members know how to use the tools at their disposal should be a top priority.
The share of the U.S. workforce working from home was already rising well before the coronavirus outbreak — in fact, that number roughly tripled in the past 15 years. But the scale of remote work at the moment remains truly unprecedented. Ensuring that your team continues to collaborate, drive the right outcomes and work effectively in our new world of work is fundamentally your job as a leader.