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Remote working challenges – and how to overcome them

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As the adage goes, “the clever learn from their mistakes, but the truly wise learn from the mistakes of others”. With remote working here to stay in a post COVID-19 world, offering great experiences to remote workers is the key to high engagement, effortless collaboration and – in the end – higher performance. Familiarise yourself with the fails and learn how to win with remote working.

Build teams – not groups of individuals

What’s the difference between a team and a random group of people? The members of a team can accomplish more together – with each person making a unique contribution – than they can separately. Their skills, competencies and personalities fit together, making them more productive, innovative, insightful, creative, etc. as a group.

Remote working as a true team means regular team meetings and team chats – even if there isn’t a whole lot of collaborative work happening. Maintaining the team’s identity is a must – in terms of culture and personality as well as competencies and responsibilities.

"Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are collocated.”
MIT Sloane Management Review

But how does that work when you hire ‘dispersed teams’ – teams that almost always work remotely? Skills are important, of course, but hiring for cultural fit as well as experience with remote work will make the transition much smoother. Also, providing rich, versatile collaboration tools will be instrumental to the success of your teams.

Communicate, communicate and communicate some more

The old, tired, yet extremely relevant phrase ‘communication is key’ keeps coming up time and time again – and for good reason. If a company fails to establish clear communication policies (including which channels to use and for which purposes) and put them into consistent practice, a dangerous disconnect is bound to happen.

Even more, in addition to communicating clearly, often (VERY often), concisely and deliberately about responsibilities, projects, statuses, etc., communicating about emotions is especially important in a remote working context. There are plenty of ways to do so – through video chat, piquant gifs, emoji, and more. Encourage their use! Create a channel to facilitate informal interactions and interpersonal exploration to facilitate that “coffee machine chat” phenomenon.

When new people come on board, always warmly welcome them to your company, even remotely. Take the time to carefully introduce your new employee, describing their role and letting colleagues know how to get in touch with them. A personal and emotional touch goes a long way!

Don’t leave culture back in the physical office space

Your culture is what defines you as a company, and it’s the first thing your customers and prospective talent will notice when they interact with you. But what happens when meetings go virtual? Communication comes in here as well, because leaders must communicate, time and time again, what it means to be a part of your company.

People working remotely can have an enormous influence on your company culture through continuous engagement, authenticity and communication. Motivate your remote workers to be transparent, to share feedback and achievements, to make themselves “seen and heard” in your company’s virtual space.

Why not go a step further and create an inspiring slide deck defining your company culture – not just for employees and prospects, but for the entire world?

Continuously gauge the sentiments of your people

Measuring employee engagement is absolutely essential in a remote working environment. Since you can’t simply bump into each other at the water cooler or pass in the hall on the way to a meeting, it’s hard to get a feel for each other’s day-to-day emotions and mood tides.

Consider investing in a tool specifically to measure employee engagement, one that includes both work- and responsibility-related questions, but also questions about mood and emotion. After all, an effective work environment isn’t a machine, but a living organism that requires more than just periodic tune-ups.

Best practices in a nutshell

  • Invest in rich collaboration tools
  • Keep the team spirit alive and kicking
  • Hire for cultural fit – not just skills and competencies
  • Create a concrete communication policy and overcommunicate
  • Definitively share your culture – virtually, internally and externally
  • Continuously measure employee engagement

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