Remote working best practices: the key to success
Remote and hybrid working is becoming standard procedure for many organizations – and it’s popular with employees. But how do leaders, managers and staff make the best of it? We find out.
Remote and hybrid working is here to stay. And while some people are returning to the office full time or for a couple of days a week, the general feeling is that pre-pandemic ways of working, for office-based workers at least, are gone for good.
Around the world, 38% of employers expect remote employees to work two or more days a week away from the office after the pandemic compared with 22% beforehand.
And as more businesses embrace remote work, managers and team leaders may need to rethink the best ways of doing things.
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What is remote working best practice?
When it comes to best practices for remote work, it’s all about putting in place an effective strategy to get the best out of physically separate teams. It should focus on these four key areas:
Establishing your own best practices for working remotely is key to the smooth running of your organization. But they don’t have to be set in stone. You’ve probably realized over the last 18 months that the best way of doing things is as much trial and error as it is perfect planning. And processes can keep evolving because of new technology, fresh insights or better awareness.
Remote work best practices can overcome key employee challenges.
From scheduling conference calls across different time zones to keeping spirits up, managing from a distance can be quite the challenge. Remote teams may struggle to remain productive and engaged, and managers will have to think of new ways of keeping morale high.
Yet things are evolving. The biggest challenge facing remote workers has changed since the start of the pandemic, according to Buffer's 2021 State of Work report.1 In past years, collaboration and communication difficulties were top of the list, but this year it's different.
Being unable to unplug at the end of the working day topped the poll, with 27% of employees seeing it as their biggest struggle with remote working
Collaboration and communication is still the biggest challenge for 16% of participants. Remote working makes it harder to read body language and ask co-workers quick questions at their desk
Loneliness and isolation is also a struggle for 16% of remote workers. Sitting at home without speaking to anyone day after day can take its toll on mental health and make people lose the essential essence of being part of a team
Another key challenge is training. How do you onboard new recruits or less experienced members of staff when they have no one alongside them to offer guidance? You'll need to find a way. A report by PwC found that 34% of inexperienced workers are more likely to feel less productive while working remotely compared with 23% of experienced workers.
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Why is best practice important for remote working?
The pandemic has convinced many organizations that remote work has advantages in driving business success. Here are just some of the benefits of implementing best practices for remote workers.
Remote workers tend to be more productive because of a more flexible schedule, lack of distractions (and a lack of a commute), organizing work on their terms, and self-motivation to finish jobs quicker. A Gartner survey shows that 36% of employees who have spent more time working from home since January 2020 reported increased productivity.
Staff retention and loyalty
Employee happiness plays a major role in whether workers decide to look for a new job. The option to work from home improves work-life balance and makes people more likely to stay with their current employer. According to McKinsey, 30% of employees would consider switching employers if their organization returned to fully on-site work after the pandemic.
Remote working gives employees more time to focus on their personal and professional development. This could be enrolling in online courses, signing up for free webinars, or reading e-books to broaden their skills. Personal growth builds self-esteem, confidence and motivation. That's good for individuals and good for your business.
Greater employee autonomy
Giving employees the freedom to make decisions empowers them to take charge of their own work. When you give people greater responsibility and accountability, you’ll often find that they go the extra mile to achieve the best possible results. Research shows that organizations with high levels of trust increase their average employee engagement by 76% over those with low levels of trust.
Remote work best practices. How many do you do?
6 best practices for successful remote working
Virtual workers can overcome the challenges of not being together in the same workplace. Follow these six key tips for successful remote working.
Create boundaries between work and life
Working from home can blur the lines between your work and personal life. It's essential to separate these two worlds and switch off after your working day ends otherwise you risk burnout. Ideally, create a workspace that you can physically walk out of when you're done for the day so you can distance yourself from your laptop and other work devices.
Get more advice on balancing working from home with your personal life.
Keep track of your time
One of the golden rules of remote working is managing your time effectively. As a homeworker, you're likely to work longer hours and take fewer breaks.
Estimate how long each task is going to take and set yourself realistic targets. You could also use a time tracker app or alarm to help you stay on track.
Be present when you're in work mode
Unlike in a traditional office, nobody is watching you, and colleagues won't always know what you're working on. Stay visible by replying quickly to messages and comments and regularly checking in with your co-workers.
When remote workers know they'll be accountable for their work, they're more focused on doing tasks well. One idea is for each team member to share what they've achieved over the previous week and what their plans are for the week ahead. That way, you can see what others are working on and what they're responsible for.
Connect with your colleagues
When employees aren't sharing a physical workspace, it takes extra effort to make sure they feel connected and still have those 'water-cooler moments.'
Getting to know your colleagues beyond just work helps you build a stronger bond. Connect with your social communities and take time out for virtual coffee breaks and fun activities where you can have a laugh together.
Evaluate your productivity
No one expects you to be at full speed all day, every day. That said, you probably shouldn’t be going AWOL for half the day when you have things to achieve. Being a happy and successful remote worker means figuring out what works best for you.
For example, are there times of the day when you’re more focused and can tackle some of your harder tasks? Or would a different break time mean less chance of flagging in the afternoon? Work it out and work accordingly.
5 best practices for managing teams remotely
As a manager, you need to strike the right balance between being visible to your employees and not micro-managing them. Follow these remote management best practices to create a happy and productive workforce.
Get to know your organization’s remote work policy
Your organization’s remote work policy should outline when and how employees can work from locations other than the office and go into detail about all aspects of remote work.
This includes things like flexible working, legal rights and security requirements. Knowing your way around the policy will support your decision-making and help you answer questions from your team.
How you communicate is a big factor in successfully managing a remote team. Reach out regularly, not just when things go wrong.
A daily check-in can be as simple as asking how everyone is, then following up with what deadlines you have coming up or what everyone is working on for the day. For weekly catch-ups, it's a good idea to have video chats to keep the personal connection going.
Get good software
Make sure people have the tools they need to perform at their peak no matter where they work. Choose software that everyone on your team feels comfortable with and helps people share resources, make comments and work on documents together in one single location.
The 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report shows that business leaders see introducing a digital collaboration platform as the most important factor in making remote working sustainable for organizations.
Offer training opportunities
But it’s not all about software. It’s your people, too. Remote staff still need training, just as they would in an office environment so don’t let development opportunities slide just because they need to happen online.
Invest in virtual learning resources for remote employees to access from anywhere. This can include a digital library, access to online learning platforms, regular webinars and lunch and learn sessions.
Working remotely can make people feel unnoticed and undervalued, so it’s important to create a positive workplace culture where team members feel appreciated. An effective recognition program motivates people and makes them feel part of a community even though they may be working alone.
Recognition doesn’t need to be monetary – it could be public acknowledgment, development opportunities or low-cost perks.
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