“The world is going through turbulent times. We blinked, and suddenly, the future of work became our present-day truth.” Emma El-Karout, One Circle
Wouldn’t it be great if we are able to have a Remote Working Framework and Playbook to guide us throughout this period.
Companies worldwide have had to readjust to at least one aspect of this ‘new ‘normal’. It has been an extraordinary moment for remote work. Entire populations have been forced to work from home, proving remote infrastructure viable on a massive scale.
If you are tired of all the talk around the ‘New Normal’ and that life and work will never be the same, you are not alone.
Companies of all sizes, due to lack of readiness, ask the same questions: “How do you do remote work the right way? How do you run a remote operation efficiently? Though businesses are at different stages of readiness, most had to switch to remote work overnight.
The new situation presents lots of opportunities but unfortunately also many complications. The fact is, most companies are not well set up to profit from the positive potential, nor deal with the negative fall-out in the new reality.
The struggle to adjust to this new way of working and keep people engaged is real. This was already the case in ‘normal’ office settings and is even more important when people do not work in the physical space.
We are all busy adjusting to unprecedented realities.
We want to offer some best practices and guidelines to help you and your businesses make this transition as simple as possible. We hope that you enjoy gaining insight into the world of remote work and are able to apply the knowledge that you learn here to build a successful remote organisation.
We have put together several interventions to help you along the way. Those will be shared on monthly basis. Make sure you request to stay updated, click on ‘Let us know’ on your right.
Are you still wondering whether you are in the right place?
For some people, working from home is a gift. For the many others it’s the first time they are forced to work in an unfamiliar setting for an extended period. For both, it’s a big change from the usual practice, and could be very daunting.
Something to be aware about, is that not having colleagues around is likely to at least impact employees on social levels, possibly affecting mood and motivation. In turn, not having managers around may impact efficiency and effectiveness. And for these managers, not having their staff physically close, can also be daunting as they experience a loss of control and physical proximity. None of this has to come to fruition.
So once the excitement of remote work set-up wears off after a few weeks, the question really is how to prevent:
- A degenerating work culture
- Distraction and loss of accountability
- Dipping team morale and emotional commitment
- A reduced team bond and trust
- Isolation and psychological illnesses
With the current situation forcing everyone to go remote overnight, remote readiness becomes business critical. Whether you decide to implement today or get ready – just in case – you should be asking yourself, how to build a sustainable remote work organisation? Below are 10 critical factors to help you transition to remote working.
Where is your company today and where are you headed?
Before you start on your remote journey, it is essential to take a step back and assess your existing practices. As it’s becoming obvious today, it’s not enough for a business to be pro remote working. People look for better work-life integration and post-covid, people bio safety comes into the mix. Though those are not the only triggers, we have definitely been forced to start getting ready for remote work.
Remote work means more flexibility in the workplace, not only attendance or where your people work from.
Assessing where your business is today from a readiness perspective and making a decision on the level of remote work you plan to achieve, and timelines are essential. This should provide the business, leaders, employees and HR the needed clarity.
With the right communication strategy and structure, there is a better chance for successful change management around this.
For an established company with hundreds of employees, it might be tricky to go fully remote. Not to mention that for some industries, it’s not an option.
Remote ways of working could be phased-in and luckily there are specialized consultants to help on this.
Here’s a smart comparison between remote-friendly and remote-first environments as most people confuse both.
|Remote-friendly vs Remote-first (1)|
|Allowed to work remote||Empowered to work remote|
|Synchronous communication prioritised||Asynchronous-first communication|
|Meetings scheduled when convenient for people in the offices||Meetings are minimized and scheduled to include all time zones|
|People and information are available to people in the office||People and information are equally accessible to all employees|
|Key decisions are made in the office||Key decisions are discussed online where all relevant employees are involved|
|Possible bias towards promoting office workers||Equal promotion opportunities for office and remote workers|
This remote working playbook is to help you figure out the process your businesses needs to follow and the practices and tools you need to set up a remote working arrangement.
From basic policy guidelines to essential practices and major projects that will keep your remote employees engaged, productive and safe.
We will also share some productivity tips for you to help maintain a high-performance standard.
Remote Working Levels and factors
Your main focus, once it’s decided which remote set-up works for you, is to find a way to be agile and fast in a ‘remote setting’ where some or all employees are no longer in the same physical office together.
The crafting of your journey is subject to where your remote work business practices are today; and which practices you feel work best for you.
This should help you later craft your journey. We will guide you throughout the process with relevant interventions. Below are the different levels of remote working and the 10 critical factors for remote ways of working.
To dig deeper into the descriptor at each level of the Remote Levels Ways of Working, drop us a line and we are happy to share more with you.
Remote working Levels:
Level 1 – not remote
Level 2 – remote allowed (flexible)
Level 3 – hybrid remote
Level 4 – all remote / distributed
Each level is defined by 10 critical factors for remote levels ways of working:
- Organisational Design
- Culture and Values
- Strategy & Goals
- Communication & Engagement
- Reward & Recognition
- Employee Wellness & Ergonomics (psychological safety)
- Technology & Tools
Remote Working Maturity Framework
The team’s success hinges on each person’s ability to perform at the highest level and fast — as an individual contributor and as a unit. Business strategies might change, but the need to produce best-in-class products and services remains.
The ‘Remote Working Maturity Framework’ helps outline your business journey and different touch points and interventions.
It helps you successfully achieve the remote transition to the desired level.
It outlines the interventions needed by the company for this successful transition, with a focus on achieving business targets.
Three traits represent the core characteristics of effective teams and remain core for any successful remote team.
Those become even more important when working remote. By taking steps to foster collaboration, engagement, and accountability, the team will be equipped to overcome the transition challenges and enable consistent levels of speed and agility across any work environment.
Let’s take a step back and explore the remote lingo
100% remote or distributed company – An organisation whose entire team works remotely.
Flexible company – A company that offers various options for their employees, such as location, schedule, or role flexibility.
Flexible schedule and working hours – A situation in which a worker does not have a defined set of working hours or schedule. In this situation, performance might not be based on the number of hours worked, but rather the amount of work that is completed.
Flexible schedule, defined working hours – A situation in which employees are expected to work a certain number of hours per day, but they do not have to maintain a defined schedule.
Freelancer or independent contractor – A self-employed individual who works as an independent contractor. A freelancer is not an employee of any one organisation and usually has a specialized skill. Freelancers work independently on contracts that are obtained through freelancing websites, networking, or marketing. Contracts may be very short, such as small jobs or gigs, or they might be very long, sometimes spanning years.
Remote communication – Communication performed using platforms such as email, chat, phone, video conferencing and project management tools.
Remote-friendly business – A business in which certain employees are allowed to work outside of a central business location i.e. remotely. But, most of your company’s processes, tools, and meetings will revolve around the office. As a result, remote teammates often feel excluded from important meetings and company decisions, even if that’s not the intention.
Remote-first – Remote-first empowers team members to work remotely and make decisions online. Individual’s always have their video on, even if the majority of people are in the same room. Tools, ways of working and processes, level the communication playing field providing equal opportunities to contribute ideas and access information
Results-based productivity – A method of measuring productivity on the quality and reliability of a remote worker’s demonstrated results. While the final work product is still in development, a remote worker may still need to demonstrate that they are moving toward the final goal.
Remote worker – Someone who works remotely. Travelling may or may not be involved. Either an independent contractor or employee of a company, a remote worker is not held back by commuting to an office. Many become remote workers because they have the freedom and flexibility to work how they see fit and introduce more work/life balance.
ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) – An environment in which team members are measured by their results rather than the amount of hours that they worked.
Trust – Confidence in other people. Trust in virtual teams involves having conversations, engaging in open communication, encouraging and practicing clear and responsive communication, and creating opportunities for trust building with shared time.
Unprofessional background – A distracting background for your co-workers or clients when on a video call. An unprofessional background can include untidy rooms, or photos, posters, or pictures that might be offensive to some people.
Collaboration – Working with other people to complete a task or project. Virtual collaboration is done using virtual tools.
Video conference – A live meeting that is carried out through video and audio from a computer or phone.
Virtual meeting – An event where you interact with team members to accomplish tasks, through video conference or phone.
Virtual professionalism – How you present yourself virtually. Virtual professionalism is presented through written, verbal, and visual communication methods.
Virtual freelancer – Someone who works on a project basis. Could be a digital freelancer or an Independent consultant who can support projects by working virtually through existing online platforms.
Work from home (WFH) – This employee typically has a traditional office position and works from home occasionally or for a few times each week. This is commonly seen in hybrid remote companies, where some employees work remotely and some work in the office.
Remote teams have become the norm whether they integrate within an on-site structure or the full structure operates remote. They are now mainstream and need clarity and leadership.
While the obvious difference between a remote team and a traditional team is that the one is physically present in the office and the other is not, leading a virtual team comes with its own skills and challenges.
Some debate that it is far easier to motivate and communicate within a traditional team model. A traditional team enjoys emotional resonance through direct engagement and the immediacy that enables clear calls to action that expedite workflow.
It is common knowledge that the benefits of a virtual team include greater agility and access to resources, thus enabling cost savings. Remote teams however are as well-known for their focus on output and being highly efficient. This is not a given though. Becoming a high-performing team requires effort to overcome the challenges of distance and virtual working.
The team leader must have the appropriate characteristics and skills required to manage a remote team without relying on physical cues
- Ability to effectively communicate with empathy in a remote set-up
- Develop relationships with team members, recognizing their opinions and suggestions
- Identify and address issues of low motivation, isolation, and conflict within the team
- Encourage self-leadership and drive accountability
- Recognize emerging leaders
- Promote and maintain team trust and cohesion
- Monitor team performance against desired output to deliver on business strategy
- Respect individual boundaries and ensure that the team members do so as well
Appropriate tools are required for all aspects of the work to be performed by a remote team and it’s a leader’s responsibility that those are made available. Including the use of collaboration tools as those become critical in leading virtual teams.
A leader should ensure that the team members selected to work virtually have the right level of skills for working on a virtual team or are coached and trained to get there:
- Ability to self-manage and have self-discipline
- Being individually accountable
- Open to use and learn new technologies and tools
- Participate successfully in team communication and collaboration by using technology tools to communicate
- Have confidence in other team members to get their tasks done – TRUST
- Have suitable personality traits: patience, perseverance, persistence, tolerance, flexibility, respect, empathy and understanding
Virtual team leaders need to ensure clarity on the rules of communication and engagement from the onset:
- Provide equal access to information for all team members
- Manage an ongoing continuous yet non-intrusive communication flow
- Provide and invite continuous performance feedback
- Establish norms around the use of communication technologies
- Have and communicate a clear code of conduct
- Clarify standards for availability and acknowledgement
- Put in place meetings and discussions guidelines to optimise time
- Delegate outcomes, not actions
- Create a clear line of sight between the work delivered by the team and the business consequence.
- Celebrate success on the spot and regularly
It goes without saying that to work effectively, the team needs to be clear on goals, deliverables, timelines and responsibilities.
A virtual team leader needs to ensure that human resource policies to recognize, support, and reward virtual team members and leaders are clear and well communicated.
Here’s more on those policies.
Team processes and virtual environmental factors are also the responsibility of the leader. Tools for clarity on personality characteristics and psychological profiling of team members become even more essential in virtual teams as it is imperative to for the virtual team to have the appropriate skills.
It provides the leader better visibility during team formation to ensure the virtual team is coherent and able to work remotely and together.
2. Organisational Design
In a remote work setup, the organisation is designed around work and result. When this organisational culture shift happens, where and when work gets done is of little consequence.
The bigger issue from an organisational design perspective is how to design a typical working day for both remote employees and their managers.
2.1. Jobs, to atoms and roles
Working from home or outside the office, is not a straightforward replacement for the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 work week in the office.
A remote worker is always on.
Even when they divide their days or take care of personal matters during the day. They use the brain as their main tool and the brain doesn’t switch off when they stop.
Work-life balance in this context is difficult to quantify. This is the reason why measuring the hours worked for a knowledge-based worker or remote employee is meaningless.
It is common practice to measure the work of remote teams by the desired output. This helps avoid burnout as the remote worker is free to structure their day as long as they deliver on the desired output.
To structure roles in the organisation, you need to start with the desired output in mind. Breakdown the individual pieces of activity that need to be done – this is what Adam Grant refers to as ‘atoms’ (3) or smaller tasks that the collective form a project or a bigger piece of work.
Then, roll these up into a collection of roles. The next step in the process is to collect roles together, which prior to a reorganisation might be scattered across the organisation, into “jobs.”
Need help in redesigning the way your organisation defines, organises and gets work done – let us help you out.
Being overworked is damaging for both the worker and the organisation. Fostering a sense of community and routine in a remote work environment where remote workers have little interaction with their managers and colleagues needs to be intentional.
When a structure is set and well communicated, accountability and employee engagement increase.
Employees feel that their individual efforts contribute to the achievement of the organisational goals. Managers of remote teams are encouraged to implement both formal and informal structural processes.
Keep in mind that when a remote worker is clear on the workload, even when big, motivation doubles compared to those without clarity.
2.3. Formal Structure
This is the usual documented organisational chart and established organisational policies and procedures. This type of structure reinforces the way of working and is consistent throughout the entire team whether working remote or not. This allows employees to feel more connected to the rest of the team, with everyone working to reach the same goals under the same framework.
Remote employees are good at working independently. However, regularly scheduled formal check-ins help prevent feelings of isolation and serve as grounding reminders that they are valuable as individual contributors yet part of a bigger structure.
2.4. Informal Structure
Communication between remote teams and their leaders is core to creating accountability and motivation; and it is more about the “how” aspect of communication. Informal structures are less about organisational systems and more about relationships and patterns of behaviour.
Though communication is informal, it needs to still be structured in terms of the tools used, frequency, etc. Such informal structure stimulates engagement and improves productivity.
Quick and regular check-ins in with team members individually via phone calls, instant messaging, or email are essential. If managers contact remote team members routinely at the same time of day, employees will come to expect this interaction because an informal structure has been created.
As with a formal structure, this type of casual communication reminds employees that they are part of a larger organisation with universal goals and keeps them plugged into the overall system.
3. Culture and Values – building an outcome first collaborative culture
One of the more commonly asked questions about remote work is how to build a robust team culture.
Culture in an office setting has been conflated with many of the “in-person” activities that can build camaraderie: ping-pong tables, video game rooms, and after-work socialising.
Culture and trust are the trickiest things to build in a remote team.
It is more complex than it might appear on the surface and isn’t limited to in-office movie screening or corporate events. It is done through collaboration.
An article by Gallup describes company culture as follows:
“Culture is a critical part of an organisation’s identity. Culture is created through the experiences that employees have with the corporation and, just as importantly, with each other — the everyday interactions with peers, managers and executives.”
These interactions can happen anywhere, both face-to-face and virtually.
Culture includes every touch point between your team members and the people and processes at the company: conversations about work, how feedback is delivered, and which voices in a company are amplified or ignored.
Remote teams, where an “always-on” culture prevails can mean managers are tied to tools like Slack throughout the entire day. The best managers create a performance-oriented culture for their team, help them grow through meaningful work all while allowing for the flexibility needed to attend to a full life.
Whatever behaviour your company rewards and acknowledges will become the company’s values. Even when operating remotely, new hires and promotions serve as important decisions in terms of promoting and reinforcing values.
In addition to your company specific values, you need to reinforce the below:
Those are the behavioural pillars for a successful remote work team.
Building a culture across a company where there are no offices requires intentionality.
While technology and tools are enabling companies to operate efficiently in a remote setting, you realize that you need a special focus on documenting culture first, then using tools to support. Need help?
Without strong communication, you won’t be able to convey culture in a diversified workplace. There are several ways that you can reinforce your company culture. Let us help you.
3.1. A culture of results and outcomes
It becomes toxic when managers recognize extra worked hours over outcomes and results achieved on an ongoing, sustained basis. In a company where results are supposed to be valued above all, managers should be careful to not assume that results are automatically achieved during overtime periods.
Doing so would place team members in an unfair scenario, where they feel pressured to perpetually overwork in order to meet expectations, contrary to the official company direction.
Your people require training to manage the culture shift with focus on outcome and results? Your managers and leaders, as well, require coaching to successfully lead the transition? We’ve got you covered.
3.2. Remote mindset
The most challenging aspect of leading remotely is learning to let go and trusting that when the team is out of sight, and not under the thumbs of the team leaders, they are doing the work, and well.
Assisting managers and leaders on this journey through coaching is mandatory. You need coaches though who have successfully managed remote transitions successfully and are familiar with the effort needed on this mindset change journey.
3.3. Culture extends beyond work
Working remotely is known for its lifestyle benefits. However, not many resources address the challenges that employees go through working remotely both short and long term.
It is natural for people, when working remotely, to structure their work around their life. Whereas if you do not embrace flexible hours in your remote work transition, then the opposite should be true. This is a profound shift that requires structured communication, mentoring and clear guidelines.
Your people will gain time from not commuting. It is essential that you help them understand that this is their personal time and it would be great for them to use it to enhance their quality of living – whether this is for exercising, cooking, or a hobby, reading or even self-development.
3.4. Mental and Emotional Health
The mental and emotional health of teams while working remotely is a priority. Loneliness, isolation, and lack of social interaction should be proactively addressed. Not doing so and ignoring the need to create psychological safety to talk could significantly impact health, performance, and productivity.
Here are three ways that Gitlab advises their employees to avoid feeling isolated:
- Schedule breaks to interact with friends/family in your home or nearby in your community. If government restrictions allow, it may be helpful to schedule walks with nearby friends or enjoy quick board games with your children or significant others.
- Leverage video to connect face-to-face and serve as a nice break from the quiet of an at-home workspace. Video calls will help you feel connected to your team, friends, and family while staying at home for extended periods of time.
- Engage with colleagues on non-work topics, via Slack or ad hoc video calls. Foster a sense of connection with others over more than just work, the same as you would in typical “water cooler” conversations. Schedule virtual coffees with colleagues.
Talent is the true lifeblood of any company, and motivation is one of the key tenets of any healthy organisational culture.
Designing what works for you as a business to ensure a smooth transition for your team is needed. Communication and training around the same would be paramount.
This builds up the level of trust and engagement with the business. In addition to enhancing your EVP and reinforcing your duty of care as an employer. Need help?
4. Strategy & Goals
As organisations continue to suspend daily operations worldwide to minimize the spread of coronavirus, business leaders and owners are left with many questions to consider:
How do we care for our employees and customers, and protect our business in the days and weeks ahead?
More importantly, how can we make sure that we are ready if we get more waves and this happens again?
Staying on strategy can become difficult especially when your strategy is dynamic, and your channels of communication are not as simple as finding someone in the hallway or at their desk.
As leaders experience this today, planning a transition to remote work – whether remote allowed, hybrid, or all remote – requires readiness. Even without physical check-ins, you can still find ways to keep your organisation’s strategy clear for your remote employees and well communicated.
Staying on strategy in the middle of disruption is not easy. As strategic plans and priorities are constantly revised and new information comes in, you need to rapidly reprioritize, shift projects, or even pause them. Let us help.
5.1. Building high-performing teams
Both a challenge and an opportunity for any leader. A shared vision, alignment of goals, strong communication and a reward & recognition system that emphasizes team achievement are necessary to build a successful team whether the team is office based or remote.
The added challenge for leading a remote team is the need to nurture collaboration without the face to face interactions. One way to achieve this is to establish a sense of community within your remote teams. Virtual team meetings, whereby team and individual goals/tasks are shared, helps to establish the sense of community and a sense of psychological safety.
We designed a 9 week psychological safety programme to help you on this journey to foster psychological wellness, improve focus and productivity.
We just ran the first programme for 11 senior members with one of the biggest telecommunications companies in South Africa. Here’s message for the coach in a short video.
Let us know if you need more info on this programme.
5.2. Remote teams need more structured management
Though flexibility is a great perk that comes with remote working, managing remote teams requires structure. Some leaders fall into the trap of confusing flexibility with less structure. They end up holding less meetings, less formally communicated expectations, and less planned team building activities. For team members working virtually, the lack of inter-personal relations and body language/facial expressions, can cause anxiety and lack of trust.
Managing a high-performance team requires:
- A clear vision for the team
- Clearly set goals & OKR’s
- Regular 1:1 meetings and team meetings
- A motivating team culture
These team management fundamentals hold true for any team but are especially important for teams working virtually.
In addition, remote teams also benefit greatly from having a formal Team Agreement. This can include things like the hours you expect people to work, the expectations of response times, guidelines as to what to communicate by which channels, etc. It should be a live working document that is updated as new practices evolve in your team.
5.3. What makes a high-performance team
5.3.1 Trust and Purpose
Building high performing teams requires all the below ingredients and we highlight those throughout the guidebook:
- Indicators of Success
- Clear Responsibilities
Keep in mind that:
Remote teams are built on trust and are purpose-driven
Purpose is not the only component of building high performing teams, but it sure is one of the most significant alongside trust.
Companies of all sizes have understood the power of a high-performance team model that involves purpose at work. If every employee has a job that matters to them, a job that brings a positive impact in the world, then that employee is a powerful asset.
5.3.2 Communicate the Strategy Clearly
Leaders want to make sure employees are clear and aligned to the strategy of the company. The most brilliant business strategy does not get you anywhere unless employees in your high-performance organisation understand what the strategy means and know-how to do their jobs to support it.
Leaders of remote teams can communicate the strategy in different ways by:
- Using a combination of video, audio, visual, story-telling and written strategy communication.
- Recognizing individual employee’s achievements when aligned with the strategy to reinforce the importance of individual contributors to the ultimate goal.
5.3.3 Develop Indicators of Team Success
One of the keys to building high performing teams is defining what success looks like.
When managing remote teams, it is essential that companies understand how remote work is affecting overall team performance. This asks for a clear understanding of the existing challenges in order for an effective solution to be identified and validated.
The first indicator of high functioning teams is the degree of connectedness between all members. When you have a well-connected team, you will see high levels of self-development, as well as high retention rates.
The second indicator of high performing teams is the contribution that the team is making. You should measure the quality of the output of the team and see how much of the work is valuable, and how much ends up in the rework bucket. When you have a high contributing team, you’ll see a high diversity of ideas, more innovative ideas, and overall a more satisfied customer base.
The third indicator of high performing teams is how quickly the team is able to deliver on their objectives. When you have a fast delivery team, you’ll see project deadlines met on time, improved cycle times, and agile set-up for new projects.
The fourth indicator of high functioning teams is how productive the team is performing. When you have a productive team, you’ll see rapid decision-making, a high % of time spent on doing work, and high levels of output.
More information on this in this Medium article.
5.4. Productivity – driving value and efficiency
Whether the team is fully or partially remote, it is the people that are mainly responsible for the success of the business. In a number of global surveys and reports, remote workers themselves have shared what drives them: a sense of purpose, the ability to work independently, and the chance to accomplish more while achieving a better work-life balance.
This makes it even more important to look beyond quarterly or year-end performance reviews and adopt a fresh approach.
5.4.1 Recognition for KPIs achieved
Managing a fully or hybrid remote team, is all about managing tangibly defined objectives and key results (OKRs) for every remote worker at your company. Waiting until end of year to recognize your team achievements on company objectives is not optimal.
You need to start rewarding and recognising performance and behaviour more regularly. You need to allow time as well for teams to celebrate as soon as the milestone is reached.
Crafting a communication strategy for communicating and celebrating individual results and team accomplishments is top of mind now.
A remote work setup challenges the existing traditional learning model. A remote workforce requires a new learning model that maintains the benefits of onsite trainer-led training and considers factors around cost, value and scale.
E-learning is widely used by businesses as a tool for virtual teams and the one you must be familiar with the most. It provides individual learners the flexibility to self-pace, as to how quickly they choose to consume content. Many businesses leverage on e-learning as a sole solution to train their remote workforce.
However, deeper skill development like dealing with a customer complaint for call centre operators (working remotely), conducting a performance review, managing conflict, or solving a complex business problem while working remote become difficult to address through an e-learning based model. Those are difficult to master without the right coaching interventions. This is where social learning comes to play as a powerful tool for remote teams given the mindset of ‘we’re in this together’.
6.1. Learning and development as a mindset
GitLab led the way on L&D practices for remote workers. They encourage any team member to suggest new learnings. Colleagues and those managing learning and development can comment, add feedback, and shape what is eventually added.
This is powerful as it encourages team members to continually be mindful of new learnings, and share. Learning modules become the result of a collaborative approach where the learners pulled the learning based on their needs.
6.2. Collaborative learning
With the above approach in mind – think collaborative learning! Collaborative learning allows individuals to interact and solve problems as a team, fostering a more effective model and realistic environment for peer learning and collaboration. Effective collaboration creates an environment where peers can evaluate each other’s ideas, remediate knowledge gaps and enhance shared understanding. Executed appropriately, it also can provide a platform that encourages individuals to communicate and clarify their knowledge to others, which in turn further reinforces ideas.
You need to understand your options on technologies available to integrate a collaborative learning strategy with distance-based e-learning technologies? We can help.
Here are a few tips for learning and development remote leaders to consider about a collaborative approach:
- Effective content is still key even when you have effective technology.
- Your trainers assume the role of facilitators as remote employees take more ownership of their own learning and progress at their own pace. The facilitator’s role is more to foster discussion, remediate when necessary, encourage participation, and hold learners accountable to intended learning outcomes.
- Facilitators and learners need to be seen and heard
6.3. Learning how to learn online
As a first step in transitioning to remote, it is essential to help remote employees with learning how to learn online. This enables them to understand and utilize the tools (e.g., chat rooms, polls, collaboration spaces, webinars, video-based learning, etc.)
Creating a level of familiarity, confidence and comfort in using the tools increases engagement and adoption of the learning.
6.4. Delivering feedback
A special focus is needed for leaders on how to deliver coaching and performance feedback without an in-person presence. This becomes a critical learning module for leaders. Experiential learning can enable the leader to practice giving feedback without the benefit of an in-person presence.
The learning function should plan to offer consulting and coaching until the skills and behaviours are embedded.
Having a learning and development function ready to implement and support these skills is vital whether you are implementing remote today or getting a readiness plan – JUST IN CASE. Need help to put this together?
Here’s a short message from Dustin, One Circle Digital Learning specialist to understand your option. Shout if you need help.
7. Communication & Engagement
7.1. Driving digital engagement
With the business no longer tied to the idea of location, engagement takes on a new dimension. A digital one. HR needs to think differently about what brings people together. It can be easy for people working remotely to lose sight of the company’s mission and raison d’etre. Remote workers are largely isolated from operations outside their own roles. However, being engaged in their work is important from an employee satisfaction and productivity perspective.
Fostering engagement for remote workers is an area where HR can really shine. One strategy is to keep everyone up-to-date on important events and milestones for the company.
A newsletter or company bulletin that discusses business goals, new initiatives, and employee matters can help to make sure that employees are on roughly the same page, and depending on the content, could get people excited about the work they’re doing.
Another strategy is regular virtual performance discussions. While they might not sound engaging, regular feedback can help all employees – not just remote ones – feel more fulfilled.
Here are four ways to build remote workforce engagement:
- Digital chats
Informal and drop-by chats are important to co-workers, regardless of whether they are in the same location or not. According to one study by Slack, 85% of workers want to feel closer to their remote colleagues. Not every communication with your remote employees needs to be work-focused. Replicated passage chats and water cooler conversations are important.
- Clarity About Expectations
Without clear direction, a remote employee can feel like they’re stranded, not knowing what to do next or who to turn to.
Not being able to answer those questions can leave a remote employee completely disengaged. Make sure a remote employee knows about the tips, tools and processes that will help them succeed.
It is important to set guidelines on the best way of getting in contact with their manager; whether through email, instant message or another tool. This provides clarity on the preferred way of working and helps avoid conflict.
- Meeting Presence
Your meeting organizers could be managers, team leaders or just peers. Remote workers need to be briefed about meeting etiquettes. To help remote employees engage during the meeting, the meeting organizer should let them know who’s in the room and stop to gain their feedback whenever possible.
An employee engagement tactic that focuses on a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is key to motivating a remote audience.
Are you looking for more information about engaging with remote employees and creating a great employee experience for all of your people? Reach out to remote work experts for help. Culture and engagement consultants with a depth of remote work expertise can help put together a digital engagement strategy and develop the right tools and interventions.
- Facilitating Communication
Employee isolation could be one of the downsides of working remotely. This can lead to remote workers feeling undervalued or left out of project decisions. Putting together guidelines for regular and frequent communication, and coaching managers to do effective check-ins will help. Some introverted employees may not appreciate video calls, so incorporating guidelines on the use of video may allow for more interaction from these individuals.
8. Reward & Recognition
8.1 Celebrating everyday wins – making it a habit.
Creating a culture where employees feel continuously valued was always a key objective; managing this in a virtual setup can be challenging.
There are many ways to do so though, and here are some tips:
- Empower peer-to-peer recognition for team members to support one another.
- Reward for supporting the company mission.
- Showcase your team members in external channels, such as social campaigns and newsletters. Highlight the contributions they make to your organisation, as well as your mission.
The current overwhelmingly prevalent reward model was predicated on the traditional centralized workspace environment. Financial reward in a predominantly remote work business world would require the following:
- Guaranteed pay: Output based reward does not affect GP but many companies used physical presence as a proxy for the regular monthly salary transfer. With remote work, it is important that over-zealous leaders do not start linking a “40 hours” mentality, supported by system monitoring, to salary. The perception of salary will shift towards something closer to a retainer, and old-fashioned job descriptions replaced by the role designs described under an earlier section. The current rigid market benchmarking studies takes a back seat to a greater focus on your overall company’s internal relativities.
- Variable pay: This is an area that is going to get really good and accurate in a remote working world. Link performance targets to measures or outputs that are delivered over a platform with auditable footprint, and you ensure no more hiding spaces for laggards. Enhanced communication and self-service functionality to show employees how they track on the different plans should be considered.
- Benefits: Proactively ensuring that employees have individualised benefits best supporting their WFH will be a key component of your EVP. Allowing the pick-and-mix in line with personal circumstances will be powerful, and the addition of specific categories of cover to cater for WFH should be done. See section 9 for more details.
Some remote companies have created sabbaticals as a reward for hard work and loyalty; after five years at Buffer, for example, employees can take a six-week fully paid leave to do whatever they want.
Whether your untethered teammates hit the beach or just the couch, they’ll rest easier knowing that your culture is designed to preserve and promote their mental and emotional well-being.
Do you need to design a recognition framework, recommendations on digital tools, and guidance through implementation and communication plan? Need help?
9. Employee Wellness & Ergonomics (psychological safety)
The transition to remote should be underpinned at all times throughout the process by building TRUST and PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY (4)
Psychological safety relates to a person’s perspective on how threatening or rewarding it is to take risks at work. Will others give me the benefit of the doubt? Whereas trust is more personal. It’s whether you will give the benefit of the doubt to others when they take risk at work.
Creating psychological safety is a process and can’t be achieved overnight.
Awareness around the change impact from a psychological safety perspective is crucial. The role of psychological safety in the success of remote transitioning is paramount.
As Josh Bersin highlights, the reason some companies don’t often have remote work policies for remote work is that they don’t trust people to be on their own. Such an approach does not create a sense of trust or clarity.
The real issue of trust is creating what Amy Edmondson (Harvard faculty) calls “psychological safety” (5) .
Giving people the freedom to speak up and be themselves.
In her book, “The Fearless Organisation” she details this topic and Amy’s model is adapted in our framework.
The ultimate goal during the transition is to progress from a state of apathy or anxiety, to a state of comfort as we put the standards in place, to ultimately a learning and high performance zone(6) once we have established high trust and are ready internally from a remote standard perspective.
Watch Amy Edmondson’s full TEDx talk on building a psychologically safe workplace.
Remote work is a business process, not just a policy. It changes the way your company operates. You do however need a remote work policy as much as you need a remote work transition plan.
The policy gives people direct guidelines and the remote work transition plan maps out the way of working, culture and growth, communication, governance and performance for results and output.
Your HR programs remain in place. Programs like goal setting, feedback, rewards, recognition, and leadership behaviours can all be adjusted for remote work.
Psychological safety presents the extent to which the team views the social climate as conducive to interpersonal risk; it is a measure of people’s willingness to trust others not to attempt to gain personal advantage at their expense.
Lastly, psychological safety is something you can benchmark within your team and measure for improvement.
Questions to ask yourself
Asking a few simple questions, either directly or through a pulse survey, will help you to gauge how safe your team feels and what you should improve on.
(below Key references: Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behaviour in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44, 350-383.)
- When someone makes a mistake in this team, it is often held against him or her.
- In this team, it is easy to discuss difficult issues and problems.
- In this team, people are sometimes rejected for being different.
- It is completely safe to take a risk on this team.
- It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help.
- Members of this team value and respect each other’s contributions.
10. Technology & Tools – providing the right technology, tools and rules around them
When you set up a remote working arrangement, your remote employees need to be able to do their work away from the office without incurring any expense, aside from sourcing good internet connectivity and a suitable workspace.
This means that you need to provide (and pay for) all the equipment they need. Working with your IT department to address some of the items below is an absolute must.
You need to ensure that you have your relevant policies in order, accessible for your employees to read and communicated accordingly.
It’s also a good idea to educate your employees on basic cybersecurity best practices, especially if they are planning on working from a public space, and to set rules on what company equipment should not be used for.
10.1. Protecting confidentiality.
You need to clarify your policies and practices when it comes to protecting the confidentiality of sensitive information.
For example, it needs to be made clear that remote workers who are planning on having confidential conversations with customers and colleagues can’t do so from a place where they can be overheard. And if you are working on something sensitive, keep an eye on your screen; visibility needs to be considered.
10.2. Network Security.
This is where a VPN service (Virtual Private Network) comes to play as a tool to create a secure connection between your remote worker computer and your company network. Your IT department will help you with this.
10.3. Data security/privacy.
Copying data around multiple work devices, personal devices etc. can cause a risk of losing control of most sensitive information. Ensuring your policy in this regard is well communicated to your remote employers and placed centrally in a place that is accessible is important.
10.4. Meetings and collaboration.
A whole range of programs exist today to help your teams easily and quickly collaborate. Some of the benefits of remote meetings include increased opportunities to schedule and attend meetings and webinars remotely, and the ability to connect with anyone, cutting the time and costs associated with travel, taking just minutes to set up a connection.
Online meetings are also environmentally friendly, eliminating the need for trips and reducing paper usage.
Find the right video conferencing tool that works for you. A lot of these programs also include free chat tools. This way, your employees can collaborate on projects even though they are not sitting next to each other.
These tools aren’t limited to meetings, either. They can accommodate web conferences, presentations, and training courses.
You will need to have a virtual meeting etiquette document in place. As well as training your employees on the efficient use of those tools.
10.5. Team communication.
There are a lot of ways to promote collaboration and communication within your team outside of remote meetings. Team communication tools enable the sharing of editable documents to make content creation seamless. And because you can invite everyone you need to work on a project at the same time, there is less need for all the back-and-forth of constant emails and updating the version number.
If you want to talk with team members without using audio-visual features, many apps provide a chat to exchange feedback in real time. Structure your team conversations, utilize collaborative editing and information-sharing functionality for intensive, remote teamwork and group decision making from the comfort of your own home.
10.6. Project management.
It doesn’t need to be difficult to manage your team’s work remotely. There are lots of different project management software tools that allow for planning and organisation online.
Empower your leaders through providing them with project management tools that allows them to:
- Collaborate using file sharing
- Coordinate individual tasks and deadlines with a visual board
- Have an overview of what everyone is working on, at all times.
- Track the progress of everyone involved on projects in real time
The ability to have an overview of the progress on work, gives everyone a greater sense of responsibility, accountability, and transparency.
This enables leaders and managers as well to give real time feedback and ensure credit is given when due.
During such a transition, the following tools brings about clarity and calm amidst the ambiguity, complexity and anxiety that individuals and organisations face. These can be facilitated and run as a virtual group learning sessions or as individual virtual coaching conversations.
The TransforMAP – A guide and structure for a conversation with those embarked on change. The tool focuses on the various conflicting voices of change, how to recognise these and help people move along the change journey. Each voice has a thinking, emotional and action expression voice which we are likely to use during a transition. Caring for ourselves traveling through our life or during work upheaval is a labour of the heart as well as the mind. There are no right answers. There is only patience; a coaching viewpoint; allowing time for the unfolding to take place in conversation; a willingness to sit with ambiguity; indecision and having no idea what to do next except wait to find out what our heart suggests. This process allows one to uncover worst fears and resistance triggers, allowing them to then move towards exploring different possibilities and eventually realise and invest in a new way of being or working.
Interested to know more – get in touch
Implemento – A tool that designs action plans to confront reality, engage resistance and provide hindsight. It combines a rigorous situation analysis with an opportunity for innovation and ‘making it up’. This way it allows one to understand the worst and best outcomes and acts to recover or enhance. This process would be helpful to organisations needing to adapt their strategy to the current crisis, gain some wisdom upfront and understand the best course of action.
Interested to know more – get in touch
Individual Coaching for leaders – Through the use of open-ended insightful questions and working through the action learning cycle in our coaching approach. Action changes both the problem and the person acting upon it. Insight is most powerfully gained by questioning the existing knowledge that we take for granted. The power of insightful questioning is that it creates insights and experiences which bring about change. It also creates possibilities of getting work done through people and allowing them to confidently make decisions and take action even when all context knowledge is not yet to hand.
Interested to know more – get in touch
Reach out should you need any of the free templates below!
Remote Work Policy Template(7)
Working from home tips checklist (7)
Resources for new remote managers Stanford remote work productivity study.
Looking for more remote management advice? Check out some of our other resources (8):
- Remote: Office Not Required
Shows employers and employees how teams can (and should) work together from anywhere in the world, and how both groups are restricting their options if they’re not embracing the remote future of work. Written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), the co-founders of the software company Basecamp (formerly called 37signals — the same Basecamp as the popular project management software used by many a remote team), the book offers lessons learned from running their business remotely. It also covers the benefits and challednges of remote work, debunks common arguments against it, and provides tips and recommended tools to help both managers and employees collaborate successfully.
- Your Brain At Work – Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long.
David Rock, a leadership coach and the co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, wrote the book to help readers understand how their brains function, and then apply that knowledge to improve their focus and productivity at work. He draws on interviews with 30 leading neuroscientists and more than 300 research papers based on brain and psychological studies conducted in recent years.
The book is broken into “scenes,” where we watch two characters (Emily, a VP of marketing at a large company, and Paul, who works from home as an IT consultant) juggle their personal and professional responsibilities. Each scene explains their behaviour according to what’s happening in their brains, and then shows what they could have done to improve each situation. Through these demonstrations, Rock teaches readers the smartest techniques for handling common workplace challenges like endless emails, interruptions, and stress.
- The Year Without Pants
When Scott Berkun accepted a position to lead a team of programmers at Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com), he did so on the condition that he could write a book about his experiences there. The result is The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work, which argues that WordPress’ model — which involves 100% remote, distributed teams collaborating both online and occasionally in person at team and all-hands meetups — may be the future of work.
The book offers a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of an extremely successful remote company, as well as what Berkun learned about creativity, productivity, and leadership from his time there.
(1) Source amended from: https://doist.com/blog/remote-career-advice/
(2) Source amended from Workplaceless – Remote Work Dictionary
(3) ‘Work Life with Adam Grant’ Podcast series.
(4) Source: Newman, A. Danohue Psychological safety: A systemetic review of the literature . Human Resources Management Review, 27 (3), 521-535.
(5) Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams Author(s): Amy Edmondson Source: Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 350-383 Published by: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
(6) The Fearless Organization – Leadership Now
(7) SourceL: Amended from Workable https://resources.workable.com/
(8) Source: Amended from Ian Giles, 5 Must-Read Books for Remote Teams and Leaders – Medium Article https://medium.com/the-crossover-cast/5-must-read-books-for-remote-teams-and-leaders-d0711265f70b
The Remote Playbook by Gitlab https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/guide/