How SMEs can make remote working a success
In today’s day and age, remote working is a given, rather than a benefit. In fact, research reveals that around 50% of the workforce works remotely in some capacity, with up to 80-90% of professionals claiming they’d like to work from home at least part of the time.
While it’s not always possible to enforce it in certain industries and roles, remote working still provides a lot of positive benefits to those startups and SMEs who can (or are forced to) work in this way.
For employers, it provides employees with greater flexibility to live a better life, which in turn, improves retention, morale and engagement. It also makes your company look a lot more enticing to 24% of top talent when it comes to hiring new personnel.
However, operating remotely does come with its challenges too.
In this blog, I share some practical tips on how to establish a remote work strategy based on your specific needs and circumstances.
The key to an effective remote work strategy
The issue is, when you introduce a new way of working, you may have to change the behaviours of some of your employees. It’s an area in which IBM’s ‘Making Change Work’ report reveals only 20% of organisations are able to successfully manage. As Charles Duhigg points out in his book, The Power of Habit, humans follow a system of cues, responses and rewards. We have to practice the response stage before it becomes a reliable and automatic habit.
So, when you first introduce the concept of remote working to your team, it will feel alien to most. New CRM systems and communication methods that help you effectively manage your team will often be greeted with resistance at first.
A new way of working requires additional work and effort, therefore, employees may sometimes naturally revert to their old habits. Humans are known to look for the most simple method and some people like to stay within their comfort zones.
They’ll naturally be more distracted by home comforts and find sticking to the same working structure challenging.
This is where the right remote work strategy and approach comes in. As a business owner, director or manager, you need to quickly establish a robust way of working and continue to practice the response stage until it becomes an automatic habit to your team.
Technology and process
Communication is an integral part of any remote work strategy. In the beginning, you may need to over-communicate to ensure everyone fully understands that you’re accessible, before easing off a few days later. Instant messaging platforms, such as Slack, is easy to use and manageable. Daily video calls at certain times, using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts will create the same order and structure employees are used to in an office environment. Although, don’t overdo it. Your workers need to still hit targets and remain productive.
Consider investing in good equipment for remote workers as well, after all, they can’t simply call upon an IT technician if they’re miles away. Some of our clients are using Microsoft 365, azure and Teams as part of their secure working from home strategy. Other cyber security providers include Knowb4 and Fortinet.
Remote workers operating in the marketing industry or when sharing work will need to have access to file managers, folders and basic software as well so they can share and collaborate with colleagues.
However, before jumping into a technology implementation, it’s important to examine how it integrates into your current processes and other technologies your employees are already comfortable with.
If you choose the wrong instant messaging platform or time-tracking software, you’ll hurt user adoption and your team will view things at a chore. The last thing you want to do is have your sales team spending hours trying to figure out how to use a new tool when they should be calling up potential leads.
Having the right technology and systems in place doesn’t replace the fact that you need to employ the right approach.
You must help remote workers connect on a personal level with colleagues and encourage a virtual office culture. Daily video calls don’t have to involve getting straight down to business. If you usually have beer Fridays, do it over the webcam.
Allow workers to use instant messaging platforms to send fun pictures and memes. Social media should be viewed as an opportunity to collaborate and drum up more business, especially LinkedIn. And don’t forget to highlight achievements in team conferences instead of focusing solely on addressing areas for improvement.
Leveraging screen sharing tools will make remote workers feel like they’re on the same page as their colleagues. They’ll no longer feel isolated or disengaged.
To keep things more personal and focused, run video meetings in smaller groups. The problem with huge team meetings is that most people will hit mute, daydream and leave the talkative ones to contribute.
Personal calls and messages are perfect for giving remote employees the chance to address any concerns with you and provide feedback. Just because a professional isn’t in the same room as you, it doesn’t mean they don’t require a human touch. Be available and approachable.
As a part of this focused, personal approach, always set clear expectations – including:
· Making goals and targets
· Giving these goals and targets a timeframe
· Telling employees how much work you expect or how long they should be working for
· Providing ways of submitting or showcasing their progress Streaks and Goal-Buddy are free tracking apps which can help you plan, monitor and assess targets.
At the end of the day, the key focus of any remote work strategy should revolve around trust. If you’ve hired the right professionals, they’ll do the work. While guidelines and tools are important in detailing what you expect from employees, micro-managing or checking up on them every hour will soon become tiring. You’re working with adults, not kids.
Give your team the respect and they’ll return the favour with quality work.
Yes, remote working might be a daunting prospect if you’re a start-up or SME. But the main thing to remember is to focus on what your business can achieve with the right remote work strategy.
What kind of values and ground rules do you want to introduce? How can you use technology to seamlessly keep your team connected? Do your processes and approaches produce a trusting environment?
Address all these areas and you’ll have an effective remote work strategy that helps create a successful remote working environment and a system that’s robust enough to cope with any pandemic or recession. For further guidance on how to fuel your business’ growth, get in touch with us today.