Adapting a remote work culture involves key strategic considerations to determine an optimal policy
What’s the right mix of remote work for your organization? Possible scenarios include a primarily remote, hybrid (with employees in the office part-time, typically two or three days per week), or a primarily in-office setting. Recruiting strategies may need to focus on new or different skills and competencies for potential candidates, such as self-motivation, initiative-taking, and effective virtual communications.
Aspects to consider
To determine the optimal policy for your organization, leaders should factor in one key strategic consideration: nature of the work. Independent tasks — that do not rely heavily on collaboration or coordination with others — are ideal for remote work.
Highly collaborative work can also be successful remotely; however, it would require more effort to manage. Obviously, some jobs simply cannot be performed from remote locations, although these may be fewer than you think. Companies continue to stretch the boundaries of remote work, with technologies like robotics and augmented reality being used to enable remote machine maintenance in manufacturing, and even some medical screenings and diagnosis functions.
Another factor that would come into play while considering a remote work policy is the experience level of the workforce. New employees or those recently promoted, or have undergone a lateral shift of job role, typically benefit from an initial period of time in the office – both to build relationships and to gain the implicit knowledge that can be more easily absorbed in a person-to-person interactive office environment.
Be ready for disruptions
Remote working almost always involve unexpected situations that perhaps would not have occurred in normal office settings. The two most common among these are network/bandwidth problems and IT infrastructural support. Despite big organizations trying to provide 100 percent remote IT assistance, some issues – especially those related to hardware – would still require in-person attendance. Also, full remote IT support is often beyond the infrastructural capabilities of small and med-sized companies. Anyone working remotely must be ready to adapt in any such exigency. Always be prepared with a backup plan and keep updated on who are the key contact points for any given problem scenario.
Not my way
Especially in the current situation, remote working is being performed worldwide under a compulsion – the shadow of the pandemic. True, it seems that over time companies would want to continue with this model – at least on a hybrid-basis. However, as of now, it is an enforced necessity. This means not everything in this new setup might be to your liking. Such changes can be disconcerting. You need to understand the ground realities and remain adaptable. It’s important to remember that any transition is a gradual process that takes time to sink in. So do not feel frustrated.
Remote work requires exceptional communication skills because the persons with whom you are communicating are…well…remote! Working remotely doesn’t mean working alone. You are still part of a team – collaborating with colleagues on projects and tasks, just as you did in office. So, you have to keep all communication channels open and smooth. You need to remember that the same communication can be interpreted differently when people are at workplace and when they are at home. Leaders need to be aware of this and consciously modulate the tone of their messaging. Experts often suggest that managers discuss with their teams how they prefer to be communicated with, and how often. It has also been observed that remote teams thrive when someone assumes responsibility of formalizing informal communication within the team.
Focus and motivation
Distractions will always plague someone working from home. Accept the fact that there will be interruptions and try to find a way around. Discipline and self-motivation are two habits that can help you tide over distractions. Remote employees need to be proactive and take initiative without being constantly monitored by managers. Workers who enjoy working from a remote location are people who love to have a high degree of autonomy at work. They relish the freedom to accomplish goals on their own terms and recharge when it’s time to recharge.
If the workforce is primarily remote, synchronous virtual orientation sessions or on-site retreats may be beneficial. Individual choices should be taken into consideration given differences in personalities and preferences for remote work. Although some employees may indicate preferences now, those conversations should be revisited as work patterns and routines normalize. Less may be more to position for sustainability or scalable growth.