The 21st-century has been an era of business transformation. Newfangled strategies, such as digital marketing, e-commerce, and growth hacking, have been all the rage. Companies have obsessed over how they can rocket to prominence and then sustain their success in order to become the new Google or Amazon of their particular industry.
And then, barely two decades into the century, the COVID-19 virus arrived on the scene and completely upset the apple cart.
How a 2020 Pandemic Completely Rewrote the Script
It’s not that technologically-driven progress stopped when the coronavirus broke out — on the contrary, the rush for businesses to shift their operations to online-only served to spur things along. However, it quickly became apparent that the rapidly deteriorating brick-and-mortar economy was creating nothing short of a new normal for business operations.
Perhaps the most jarring of these changes was the sudden rush to create fully remote offices. These had to function effectively and be productive without ever bringing employees into close proximity to one another.
While certain activities can be fairly easily shifted to an online format — such as sharing digital documents or using e-signatures — other traditional aspects of a physical office have been nearly lost in the transition. Of particular concern is the ability for coworkers to properly communicate, collaborate, and grow together over both the short- and the long-term.
If your company has found itself amongst the ranks of those trying to adapt to the remote-driven “new normal,” take heart! You’re not alone. Nor are you out of options. In fact, remote work teams have incredible potential. More than three out of four remote employees report that they are more productive when working from home and a robust 76% of them actually prefer to avoid the office when they need to concentrate on their work.
While the potential is clear, though, leaders and entrepreneurs must make an effort to properly tap into these benefits. Here are a few ways that you can ease the transition and ultimately take full advantage of your team’s new remote work setup.
The first and most important aspect of setting up a well-oiled remote system for your business is establishing healthy communication. The problem here doesn’t revolve around a lack of communication so much as an overabundance of it. There is an endless supply of channels, brands, and tools that your team can use.
With that said, one of the first steps that management should take is to establish clear communication guidelines for their team. You may have already done this to a degree, but codifying your decisions into formal guidelines is a wise option as well. A few things to include in your “remote work communication handbook” include:
- What video, voice, and text platforms everyone should use: It doesn’t matter if you use Zoom, Skype, Trello, Asana, or anything else, however, you must choose your company’s communication tools and then stick to them.
- Your preferred method of communication for various scenarios: Make sure that employees understand that they should use email for proposals, Zoom for larger meetings, Google Docs for marketing content, and so on.
- What tools are required: Each employee should be aware of what hardware — i.e. a computer, camera, microphone — is required for your remote workspace and whether or not they can expect you to provide them.
Setting up clear guidelines is an excellent way to pave the path towards a functioning, healthy remote workforce.
Once you have your channels of communication established, it’s important to take further steps to actively promote collaboration. Just because John can email a question to Sally doesn’t mean the two are going to spend time chatting, exchanging information, or brainstorming ideas together.
Watercooler talk and break-room chatter are both lost in a remote setting. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can proactively reignite that collaborative spirit in order to keep your team working together and on the same page, including:
- Setting up non-project-oriented opportunities: Assembling for a video chat to “shoot the breeze” or setting up a Slack channel for funny jokes and memes is a great way to help your employees maintain their relationships — and by extension their comfort levels and willingness to collaborate — with one another.
- Providing virtual collaborative spaces: Consider setting up project management software, shared documents, and even a virtual idea board where employees can be encouraged to deposit thoughts and ideas.
- Scheduling regular collaborative opportunities: Expect your teams to regularly gather remotely and discuss where they all stand on a particular project. This helps with accountability, thought-sharing, and collaboration, in general.
Collaboration is an essential aspect of prolonged remote success. As such, it falls to leaders and managers to ensure that it is always properly addressed.
Enabling Continual Learning
Finally, it’s crucial that you find ways to maintain a growth mindset throughout your remote-work journey. The concept revolves around a willingness to always be learning, adapting, and maintaining flexibility in an ever-changing work world.
There are many ways to enable your employees to grow, such as:
- Actively seeking constructive, two-way feedback.
- Setting up a remote class that you can all take together.
- Providing resources for employees to seek further education in their field.
- Creating group goals like learning how to use new software.
- Communicating the importance of continual learning on a regular basis.
A growth mindset is absolutely required if you want your remote team to remain relevant and effective over time.
Maintaining a Healthy Remote Team
If you can create clear lines of communication, establish collaboration channels, and encourage a mindset of continual learning, you can set your remote team up for success. Not only does this enable you to survive the ups and downs in the short-term, but you will be able to realize prolonged success far into the future, regardless of your physical working situation.
The critical first step that must be taken, though, is for leadership within a company to recognize the importance of collaboration and growth in their company’s future. If you can assign a proper value to these easy-to-overlook concepts, you’ll be able to benefit from them for years to come.