The trend of remote working has been steadily growing across the globe for the last decade or so. Statistically speaking, remote working has increased by nearly 8% in the US itself between 2016-2017.
Table of Contents
- Clear Boundary Demarcation
- Improve Synchronicity
- Roadmap for Decision Making
- Use Project Management Boards
- Build Trust
- Daily Standups
- Weekly Planning
- Take Advantage of Time Zones
- Executive Summary!
Remote working has always been widely accepted by people seeking a better work-life balance. But in the middle of global pandemics like COVID-19, remote working is an absolute necessity.
As a result, even people with no prior remote working experience also have to do so. The lack of familiar office spaces, physical presence, and personal touch can be a daunting prospect for many. As a result, teamwork, join efforts, and productivity can get hampered.
Businesses of today must leverage the advantage of the digital world and put protocols in place that improve collaboration within a team during periods of extended remote working.
So what are some of these tactics? Let’s find out:
Imagine a typical day at the office. You walk in at 8-45 am and start work by 9. You work through the day in a focused manner and wrap up things by 6 pm. By 6-7 pm, you’re out of the office. You resume after 15 hours. There’s a distinct demarcation between your professional work hours and the time you devote to yourself. It’s seldom violated.
Things change when you’re working from home. There is no commuting time, and you’re sitting at home. The work hours start to get blurred, and suddenly, you’re expected to respond to calls, emails, and queries that arise at any point in time. You begin to work longer hours, and your time for recreation decreases. Fatigue sets in, and you continuously feel enervated.
Businesses need to set up clear boundaries about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Overworking employees can lead to good results in the short-term but never in the long-term. It leads to employee burnout, disinterestedness, and discontent.
Amazon recognized the need for employees to disconnect and unwind after a hard day at work, and they advised their employees to stop answering work calls or emails after 6 pm.
While working in an office, we take a lot of things for granted. People can usually worry a lot less since they know there are others to bail them out if they’re stuck in some work at any point in time. In cases of confusion, employees can simply walk into the adjoining cubicle or the cafeteria attached to their workplace. They’ll have their answer within minutes, most of the time.
However, things are seldom so rosy when people are working remotely. Employees may be scattered across the country or even the globe in times of remote working. As a result, allowances have to be made for the multiple time zones that can easily vary even by 10 hours. Internet connectivity may not be as robust as you’ve come to enjoy at your office. Calls can drop, and connectivity can get severed. Quite simply put, there is a palpable lack of synchronicity during remote work.
To improve collaboration and help it function at the workplace level, companies need well-planned protocols in place.
Companies need to train their employees comprehensively to make them adapt to situations quickly without any business process disruptions. They need to provide access to employee training software which can help employees face and overcome the collaborative challenges of remote working. It can go a long way in improving intra-team synchronicity and negating challenges.
Things tend to fall in place when you walk in for a meeting at the company boardroom quite easily. Everyone has an opportunity to speak, pass motions, disagree with resolutions, say their minds, and contribute to the overall decision-making process. You can even override your peers, and even modulate your voice as and when needed.
However, the simplicity of a face-to-face meeting is non-existent in the case of remote working. People usually have to log in for meetings using Zoom or Hangouts. High-speed internet connectivity is a pre-requisite for every participant, which can prove to be quite a hurdle for many. The lack of a familiar setting for communication can appear daunting. For introverts, speaking up in the workplace can be challenging in itself. Doing so in times of remote working can be even more grueling, psychologically.
Frequent technical issues and disconnections can hamper seamless participation in the meeting. People making a point may be cut midway and forced to drop off. Disruptions like power outages are commonplace incidents, especially in the second and third world countries. Getting everyone to attend a call at the same time, notwithstanding different time zones, can prove to be a massive problem in itself. All of this can inversely affect effective participation, proper communication, collaboration, and can mar the associative spirit between teammates. Decision-making procedures may, as a result, suffer from severe interferences.
To improve collaboration during remote work, companies can take various precautions. They can hold a meeting at rotating times so that everyone is benefited. They can draw up plans to provide internet connections and headphones to their employees remotely. Some are even helping their workers set up permanent workstations at home.
OfficeTimeline is one software that will enable you to quickly create stylish project visuals that showcase your work to clients and managers. With the Office Timeline add-in, you can make timelines and roadmaps directly in PowerPoint.
When you’re working from the office, you’re just a stone’s throw away from your colleagues and managers. You can be physically present to monitor the work of your peers. You can continuously monitor the deliverables for the day and ask workers who fall behind to catch up.
Remote working is a different ball-game altogether. Managers and leaders don’t always get the desired transparency in such cases. Employees can go on breaks at their times, visit the marketplaces, browse their personal computers, or take their kids to school. They can be late to respond to emails and calls. In such a scenario, employees emphasize more on finishing the task at hand rather than doing so in a synchronous manner.
But if it’s a crucial bottleneck in the scheme of things, the entire flow is impeded by one missing step. However, while working in teams, being on the same page is extremely important. Organizationally, tasks need to be completed as a whole and not by parts.
To improve cooperation between employees and enhance productivity, companies are adopting project management software. Software like JIRA allows managers to continually monitor individual tasks completed by the employees, which lets them figure out the whole picture efficiently. In the case of remote work, such tools are indispensable if you’re looking to improve concerted, joint efforts.
The in-built Kanban boards help visualize work, maximize workflow, and minimize work-in-progress (WIPs). Workers seldom miss work, and managers can always be on top of timelines.
For any employee to work at their best, they need to be trusted by the company. In turn, they also need to be able to trust their employers. A work environment that’s laced with suspicion will be marked by chronic indecisions, lack of openness and communication, a dearth of exchange of ideas, and a missing collaborative spirit.
People will lose interest in their work and may only continue for the money or as long as they don’t get another job.
It’s relatively easy to build up trust in a physical work environment. But what about when you’re working remotely? That’s even more difficult.
Here are some ways to foster a spirit of dependability and reliability:
- All the team-members must show inherent dependability. Managers should be able to rely on them.
- It’s essential to mean what you say and say what you do.
- Be team players. If you want others to help you out, you must stop making excuses, which are easier to make in remote environments, and help out your co-workers.
- Employees must take accountability for their actions.
- There should be transparency in the team. No one should lie about their work progress, status, and schedules.
- Never renege on a commitment. In remote workplaces, keeping your end of the bargain is seen as a core strength.
Trust isn’t generated in one day. It takes years of reinforcing behavior to create trust. If you tick the right boxes while working remotely, it’s possible to do just that.
While this is rarely seen while working in offices physically, this remains a popular method for remote working employees to be brought up to the same page at the start of each day at work. Daily standups are not time-consuming and can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Individual teams can set up meetings 15 minutes before their day starts and discuss what they’ll aim at completing, and the tentative timelines for the same.
Some of the common topics of discussion are:
- What tasks will they aim to complete in the next 9 to 10 hours?
- What are the allied tasks that can be completed simultaneously?
- What are the expected hurdles (if any)?
Setting it up early in the day before starting work can help employees get a clear idea of what’s expected from them. It also enables them to deliver their tasks in a well-coordinated, timely manner.
While daily standups vary on a day-to-day basis, a weekly plan offers teams a roadmap for the entire week. This is a list of tasks an employee is expected to complete within the week.
While working remotely, having weekly planning sessions can ensure that employees are never out of sync with their deliverables. Some can even maintain distinct calendars.
A weekly planning session can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 60 minutes. Unlike daily standups, weekly planning sessions work well when held at the end of work on a particular day of the week, preferably Thursday or Friday.
A typical weekly planning meeting can:
- Set the structure and expectations for the upcoming week
- Revise the tasks done in the previous week
- Target backlogs, if any.
While working remotely, businesses must take advantage where they can. While working from a single office in a specific time zone has certain benefits, there are numerous advantages of having a remote workforce scattered across time zones.
Businesses can ensure 24*7 productivity within their team, which can help them complete their tasks throughout the day and never fall behind.
This helps boost collaboration and teamwork since no team member is overwhelmed with an incomprehensible burden of tasks. Individuals keep working throughout the day with the knowledge that there’s always someone to back them up. It enables a relaxed environment that’s associated with less stress and fewer mistakes. Updates can be marked in tools like Jira, and employees can start working at the point where the previous one left off. This way, turnaround time decreases, and efficiency is improved.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the world into an environment where more and more companies are opting for remote work. Google has announced work-from-home until July 2021, as have a lot of other companies.
Inter and intra-team collaboration and communication can be difficult and severely impaired in case of remote work. Without proper training, employees can find remote work to be a massive ordeal. Productivity may go down, participation levels can drop, and turnaround time can increase.
There are a lot of tactics being put in place by companies to counter the problems of remote working. In this article, we have highlighted some of the common ones and how they can be negated. All the best!