Ever since the pandemic started, we’ve all been hearing about the “new norm” that people all over the world would have to adopt towards the end of the pandemic, especially on a business level. With more and more people getting vaccinated, CEOs and business owners now have a tough decision to make—do we keep our newly-formed remote workforce? Do we go hybrid? Or should we gradually start bringing employees back to the office?
Remote work options are spreading
There are many companies—big-name companies, even—that have either decided to go fully remote or take a hybrid approach. Slack, Ford, Spotify, Dropbox, Microsoft, and so many others have taken either one of these routes, and there’s a myriad of research out there to back up their decision.
About 85% of businesses who took part in this study have all reported that productivity levels have gone up ever since they introduced a more flexible work policy. And another study from LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index shows that most US professionals working in major industries such as tech, finance, and media have reported that remote work or a hybrid work policy is the future of business.
As many benefits as there are, there needs to be a clear distinction between leading a remote workforce and leading a remote workforce effectively. Managing a remote workforce can still be challenging, and when not dealt with properly, your business will crumble apart.
How to successfully lead a remote workforce
Business structure is of high importance
We were as unprepared for the sudden shift to remote working as we were to a global pandemic. The whole business structure was turned upside down when everyone started working from home, but without structure, it’s almost impossible to carry-out day-to-day tasks that are crucial to a business’s ability to execute its strategy.
Instead of leaving your teams floundering about trying to navigate their new “business as usual,” create a fixed, scheduled routine. That includes setting strict schedules for regular check-ins throughout the day, establishing a fixed—and flexible—set of communication channels they can contact each other through, and setting strict time limits on meetings.
Having a routine in place will help your employees to better adapt to the new changes and to make more informed, calculated decisions.
Be clearer than ever
Clarity has always been an important aspect of communication, both in our daily interactions with people and in business. But now more than ever, clarity needs to be on the very top of your list of priorities. Working remotely means that your teams will be communicating with you, and with each other, digitally, which puts you at a disadvantage compared to communication face-to-face—important elements of communication such as body language are off the table, and this gives more room for goals, objectives, and messages to be misread or misunderstood.
Put more effort into making your point clear to the person you are speaking to through video or on phone.
Make room for small talk and casual social interaction
Remember the water cooler in the hallway? The one where you or your teams would gather around right before the start of a meeting? You may have thought your employees were engaging in useless banter, but there’s something very important happening there. According to business coach and author Keith Ferrazzi, these 5–10 minute water-cooler or hallway conversations before a meeting are actually crucial for keeping your employees’ anxiety at bay. This increased sense of connectedness is what encourages your employees to engage in more open dialogue and take more risks during a meeting.
Now, meetings are initiated with a click of a button, leaving no time for employees to engage in the anxiety-releasing small-talk they’re used to having before meetings. You need to find a way to integrate this back into your team mates’ lives to help in their ability to take more risks and engage in fruitful conversation during meetings. Ferrazzi suggests starting meetings with a technique he calls “sweet and sour”, where employees are given the chance to talk about what’s going well in their lives now (sweet) and what isn’t (sour) . For example, one team mate might comment and say, “remote work gives me more time with my family,” and then he or she mentions the sour part of their lives by saying something like, “I feel disconnected to the world around me.” When you try this, we recommend that you take the initiative and go first to get the ball rolling.
Have the right tools in place
It goes without saying that your employees can’t do their job right when they don’t have the appropriate means to do so. For smoother and more streamlined workflow, you need to sit down with your teams and get a checklist ready to make sure you’ve covered the essential software needed to perform day-to-day business. And more importantly, don’t leave your teams in the dark; if need be, get someone to coach them on how to use these tools properly or schedule a call to show them how to use these tools.
For a quick list and guide to some basic, useful tools your teams will need to get started, here’s a link to a basic overview of some of the tools you’ll need.
Lastly: Constantly remind yourself and team members of the company’s main objective, vision, and goal.
Leading a remote workforce can be a real challenge, and it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and anxiety of it all and lose sight of the bigger picture. Always remind your teams of the company’s vision as well as the value they’re adding to consumers’ lives. Make them feel like their contribution and participation within the company is both important and valuable.