Working remotely has increased exponentially over the past 15 years. Between increased flexibility for employees and emerging collaboration tools to keep remote teams connected, it’s no wonder that working from home has grown 173 percent since 2005. Thanks to this trend, many positions are now designed so employees can work from home. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees find themselves working from home for the first time. With little lead time to comply with new social distancing standards, companies are scrambling to equip teams with the tools they need to perform their duties from home.
To help companies empower remote teams, we’ve compiled a list of the best tools and techniques to keep employees focused, productive, and connected.
Focus on the benefits
Working remotely can be a great opportunity for people, so it’s important to focus on the benefits. Between no commute, spending less money on things like fuel and lunches out, and the ability to have more time with family and friends, there are a number of tangible reasons to love working from home. However, those who are new to working from home may have a hard time seeing the upside. By emphasizing the positives, managers and team members can help newly-remote employees stay positive while they settle into their new routines.
Deploy the right tools
Enabling teams to work from home isn’t as simple as setting up a laptop with some company firewalls. While it’s certainly important to have secure access to things like email and other business systems, working remotely requires an entirely new technology ecosystem. Applications like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams act as centralized meeting and communication hubs, while Trello and G Suite are great for project management or cloud-based collaboration. By choosing the right tools and encouraging user adoption, companies can set people up for success no matter where they are.
Communication is critical in a traditional office setting, let alone with employees scattered across locations. When deploying remote workforce it’s imperative to set clear expectations, and doing so often requires overcommunication. Managers should work with employees to develop short and long-term plans and create specific tasks, objectives, and milestones. This type of planning is not only key to productivity, it’s a critical part of employee engagement. In fact, 56 percent of remote workers agree that knowing what’s expected of them keeps them engaged, and 54 percent of remote managers felt the same.
Stay connected to boost morale
According to Gallup, hope is a huge part of employee morale, and that hope is what keeps people productive and engaged. Hope and morale are created through connections, which includes focusing on professional development, showing employees how they contribute to the overarching company mission, emphasize quality work, and empower them to build connections with each other. In addition, be proactive with encouragement and encourage employee creativity and innovation. By empowering employees to create new processes and think outside the box, companies can help them feel like a connected part of a broader team.
Avoid the pitfalls
It’s easy to deploy some of the tools and processes to help remote teams thrive. Unfortunately, it’s also easier to fall into some traps along the way. For many employees, it’s easy to hide behind a camera and work in a vacuum–but that will make them feel more disconnected than ever. It’s important to get on camera during team meetings and spend some time catching up, just like a normal office. In addition, don’t track hours, track output. Many employees are juggling a lot right now, so be mindful of their family priorities while encouraging productivity. By discouraging multitasking, companies can recoup as much as 40 percent of productivity time, helping employees focus on their work while separating it from their personal lives.
Working from home can be a challenge but it’s also full of benefits. By equipping and empowering teams with the tools and resources they need, companies can adapt to ever-changing COVID-19 standards and still keep the doors open.