Working remotely has changed the shape of our teams as we know it. Since disruption began in March, many businesses have been forced to embrace remote working practice, manage furlough, and introduce new ways of working. Making such a sweeping adjustment in a short period of time has been a shock to even the most long-established businesses.

But once the shock of implementation was over, other issues arose.

Working remotely requires an entirely different discipline and set of skills from conventional practice. And while having an increased degree of flexibility and efficiency has been useful, many companies have struggled when it comes to managing remote teams effectively. 

So, how exactly did we find ourselves in the current situation and what do you need to know and consider when it comes to managing remote working?

Where are we?

Currently, in the middle of a global pandemic. And unfortunately, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon.

Since the outbreak began in January, companies throughout the world have struggled to stay afloat in an incredibly disrupted marketplace. Travel bans, changing government guidance, and lockdowns may have caused uncertainty, but one of the biggest constants was a need to socially distance in order to help reduced the risk of infection.

As of the time of writing, Covid-19 has forced many companies to implement bespoke and out-of-the-box solutions that allow their teams to collaborate on projects, update clients, and carry out unique roles. But while a technical solution may be in place, having employees use software as intended and also managed correctly can be very difficult.

This makes it essential to understand the issues around remote worker management and some of the best practice options at your disposal.

What challenges does remote working involve?

Many companies have needed to reassess their daily practice and push for a remote working policy. Though the specifics may change from sector to sector, working from home or from remote locations instantly brings some novel issues into the mix.

Home working dramatically cuts back on much of the face-to-face interaction that managers need to carry out their job. With large amounts of unsupervised time, this can lead to employees working too much (or too little) and under or over budgeting, struggling with work prioritization, and failing to validate key principles.

This can also lead to significant disruptions to individuals throughout the day from poor internet infrastructure, domestic interruptions, emotional problems stemming from isolation and more. This can have knock-on effects for immediate productivity and long-term happiness, potentially resulting in a short-term drop in quality that evolves into the loss of a valued employee due to burnout or dissatisfaction.

What do I need to watch out for?

Some of the most common obstacles encountered by managers include, but are not limited to-

Disruption: Shifting to a new working methodology has a number of practical issues attached to it. Companies are quickly met with the challenge of providing new kit and equipment for employees, alongside any software packages and licenses required to allow team members to continue working. This represents a significant resource expenditure that many businesses may be reluctant to cover. Failing to correctly budget for a new system, training, and more can quickly result in additional expenditure that might not be correctly costed for. This can place additional stress on internal teams and result in loss of trust with clients and the potential of bad press.

Clear Communication: Arguably the greatest obstacle brought about by remote working is a change in communication style. Face-to-face interactions have been replaced with zoom calls, text chats, or voice notes. This can rob conversations of nuance and be a challenge for customer-led industries where negotiation and cultural differences form the heart of your value proposition. Taking the time to allow individuals to refine their communication styles, explicitly validate conversations, and practice email etiquette is essential but can be incredibly challenging.

What best-practice should I follow?

Failing to Optimise: In an ideal world, technical change is only brought about when it adds value to your business. With Covid-19, remote working platforms have been embraced through necessity. This can result in a failure to adopt by many team members who see it as a temporary imposition or an obstacle to them doing their work. However, just because you are being forced into adopting new working practice doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit. Taking the time to road-test a solution with your teams can help highlight holes in your process and areas for additional efficiency. And choosing a reliable provider can help you look at your existing workflows and suggest areas for long-term improvement, letting you drive value throughout your business.

When it comes to implementing a remote working solution for your business, it’s essential to put your teams front and centre. No matter whether you’re rolling out a fresh solution or making tweaks to an existing platform, it’s helpful to follow best practice guidance to make sure that your staff are supported. This includes-

Clean Onboarding: Once the system has been introduced, having a regimented onboarding process can help people get up and running fast. Choosing a reliable solutions provider can allow you to take advantage of tailored materials to help your remote workers get up to speed with confidence. This process can then be iterated and improved upon, ideally allowing for in-depth training for key team members who can then relay information to other members of staff.  

Regular Check-ins: Taking the time to check in regularly can allow you to embed best practice and use communication channels that can then be used between your teams. Using regular check-ins as a way to soft validate employee awareness can help provided targeted training for individuals that may be struggling with new ways of working or partner certain employees with experienced team members to help them get up to speed fast.

Support and Transparency: If you are rolling out a new system, it is essential that you take an open approach when handling employee concerns once the system is online. Changing daily working practice can be extremely disruptive for established members of staff and prove to be a significant burden to everyone else. Being clear about the purpose of your working practice and creating a supportive atmosphere is very helpful when it comes to building trust and encouraging ongoing adoption.

Providing training materials and a ‘bedding in’ period for each employee can help people get to grips easier. And encouraging an open ‘all in this together’ atmosphere can help support those with families or other responsibilities when working from home. This can help prevent burn-out and employees hiding a sliding workload til it is too late.

Listening to Issues: Once a system is up and running, it’s easy to become complacent and assume a job has been well done. Nothing is further from the truth.  Committing to regular reviews and seeking out feedback can help your managers understand where the system is falling down and the process steps where employees are encountering pain and frustration.   

In practical terms, this means committing to seeking out feedback from clients, staff, and managers to understand where friction is occurring and what element of the system is causing it. This can allow you to make changes in your practice, deploy additional training, or consult with your provider to put in place a solution that stops the issue. While software may be a great way to work remotely during Covid, always remember – it’s only as useful as the individual using it.

While there is no one-size-fits all solution for addressing your remote issues, carrying out some of the following can be a fantastic start.

Conducting Structured Online Meetings:</b> Holding structured online meetings allows your teams to share tasks for the day and give additional structure for their work. This can be broken down to one-on-ones on a semi-regular basis, giving employees a chance to raise issues that would normally come up organically.

Unifying Communications: Take some time to look at how your teams talk and choose a channel that allows no message to be wasted. Many bespoke platforms allow you to capture calls, emails, and text chats – letting you plan and collaborate with ease through the use of cloud technologies.

Embedding Analytics: Choosing a software platform that allows you to digitally track projects and automate updates can help you stay informed about progress and make things easier for employees. This can help avoid scope creep, over-budgeting, and allow remote workers to flag issues before they become severe.

What next?

If you want to learn more about improving your remote pipeline, embedding technical solutions, and more, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ professional experience working with a range of clients, we understand the importance of implementing a  bespoke solution that is right for you.

No matter the size of your business, we work with you to understand your unique value proposition and help your teams work the way you need, with maximum efficiency.