The number of remote workers has soared in recent times, which presents challenges for both the employer and employee. Russell Evans has some top tips on how to ensure home working adds value and increases business performance.
Increasingly more organisations are offering their employees the opporunity to work from home, as a means of reducing overheads and increasing productivity. However, with it brings a host of challenges not just for today’s leader, who has to ensure a team performs across significant distances, but also for the remote worker who has to stay motivated while aiming to meet targets away from the hustle and bustle of an office.
The key thing to remember is that managers need to recognise that their leadership is key to successful remote working practices. Here are my top tips:
- Decide whether you work with a team or a group. A team is generally a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they are mutually accountable. A group is a simpler affair with linear links to the leader where each person’s responsibility is principally to meet their individual target.
- Map out a clear and compelling vision that everyone buys into and that clarifies one another’s expectations.
- Become adept at engaging your people and enabling individuals or teams through coaching, rather than instructing to feel they are contributing to the organisation’s overall strategy even though they’re not at the hub.
- Recognise the importance of trust and that it is developed differently in remote working.
- Reward and compensate in line with individual preferences and set measurements of performance based on results not activities. This permits some flexibility in how things are delivered and avoids unnecessary micro-management.
- As a team, develop and agree how to communicate, make decisions, resolve issues and deliver results.
- Keep in touch using as many different media as possible. Regularly check in with members to monitor progress and provide necessary feedback. Keep members apprised of critical information and decisions. One recent survey revealed that while 80% of employees would like the option of working from home occasionally, they would miss the camaraderie of the office environment too much to want to do it full time.
- Consider what communication tools will deliver the desired results. Audio and visual conferencing might suit the leader but not have the attention of the participants. The return on investment of face-to-face communication will always pay dividends so long as the agenda is ‘how?’ not ‘what?’
- Monitor performance and constantly evaluate the processes in place to maximise the benefits of remote working. If productivity and overheads do not show immediate improvements, it may be because you have failed to engage managers and employees in the new working arrangement.
- Avoid imposing your own values and outlook, be open to diversity and recognise how everyone brings something to the party.
This way of working is far from straightforward, for instance, the communication needs to be more frequent, more overt and more specific. Working with people remotely or virtually might pose some challenges but, if approached properly and closely monitored, it can deliver significant benefits.
Russell Evans is managing director of organisational and people development consultancy Primeast.