23 Mar How to stay connected whilst remote working
Whether it’s ideal or not, most businesses are having to step up their remote working processes. Where face-to-face communication is limited, it takes a shift in your normal way of working and engaging to make sure your business stays connected while working out of the office. A full remote working policy isn’t something a lot of businesses will have put in place; if your business has, it’s likely to involve a few individuals on a consultancy basis, not your entire workforce.
Having to send your team, whether all of them or some of them, away from the office will undoubtedly disrupt your working life. It’s not something we would have expected to go through without much time to prepare the right processes. This has caused problems for many trying to ensure you have everything necessary to run your business seamlessly. This is only achievable with the right communication, software, processes and expectations in place. Here are some ways you can stay connected while working remotely:
Choose your communication channels
Establish the communication channels you’re going to use during your time working from home. Where you would pop your head up or walk to your colleagues’ desks to ask a question or have a chat, it’s no longer possible. Set your communication boundaries at the beginning of remote working so all your team know how and when they can catch up with each other. It doesn’t all have to be work related – set up some time to have general chit chat about how your day’s gone and what’s happening in each other’s lives. These are the core interactions that will certainly be missed not being in the office.
Make sure all your team have access to a mobile phone so you can always jump on a call when you need to. Phone calls tend to be the most productive when chatting to one person individually or in private. Ensure your team have each other’s contact numbers before sending them away so everyone is accessible. For both mobile and video calls, make sure team members have a strong broadband connection and good wireless coverage in work areas, otherwise, be sure to provide Ethernet cables for those that need them before leaving the office.
Video calls are great for wider group meetings of more than three or four people. You can share screens and present information so you’re all viewing the same thing. Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom are great video conferencing software that offer different benefits. Trial them to see which works best for your needs. Decide on certain meetings or calls where you all put your cameras on – it’s nice to see a friendly face to boost morale. If some team members are pulled out into other meetings, record the ones you’re having with the wider team so they can catch up and stay in the loop.
If you’re used to physical documents or documents that are all on your computer storage, consider moving them to the Cloud or Google Docs. This will allow you to access your documents online without storing them directly on your device. You can also share links to documents quickly and easily so everyone can see the relevant projects and make contributions.
Avoid emails internally where possible – they can clutter your inbox and get distracting with notifications constantly popping up in the corner of your screen. It can get confusing following long trails of emails with all sorts of people CC’d in when a simple phone call or meeting could be held. If you need to email, reserve it for times when comms need to be in writing and documents need to be sent externally.
For written internal communications, use instant messaging apps to drop someone a quick message that doesn’t demand a phone call. Apps including Teams, Skype, Hive, Slack or Yammer are great for regular check ins and quick messages. These platforms are great digital workspaces too. You can set out all your tasks and assign them to the relevant people with the right deadlines and briefs. You can then tick off what you’ve achieved and move things around to stay on track.
It’s really important to be as responsive as possible when you’re working remotely. It’s not fair on your colleagues if you leave an hour or so before replying. You have to remain prompt and timely to help everyone maintain their pace of work. You have to be willing to sacrifice some of your time during the day for these communications. You’ll feel like you’ve lost valuable minutes that could have been filled with your tasks, but it’s the right thing to do for your team.
Be realistic as to what you can actually achieve in a day. If you know you’ve got a lot of meetings lined up, prioritise your tasks and move the deadlines you have control over. If you overreach and fall short, it can be really demotivating. Remember to tell your team when you’re moving away from your screen for a long period of time or will be offline. This ensures they know when to contact someone else and not wait around for you.
Set realistic expectations
Moving away from the software aspect of remote working, simple shifts in your daily schedule can take some transitioning time. You may experience a drop in productivity if you haven’t got your team around you as a daily motivator. On the other end of the spectrum, you could feel totally focused and productive being alone in your home. Without distractions of the office, you could get more work done than usual. But this won’t be the case for everyone – this is where your regular communications come into play so you all know who’s done what.
As your workforce have more flexibility when working remotely, you’ll want to maintain structure and objectives that must be met. Start the week off by creating a schedule for everything you want to achieve for the week. Break it down into individual days and even mornings or afternoons- but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete it. Unexpected things come in throughout the day that demand your attention away from planned tasks.
Incorporate rules into this schedule to keep everyone on track. It could be a video call at 9am every day, a phone call at 4.30pm at the end of a Friday, or a project deadline at 2pm on Wednesday. This way, everyone will be aligned and on track to hit your goals. Ensure the senior members of staff take time to fill in their wider teams on any client and customer communications. While people are out of sight, they may be out of mind – it’s easy for you to forget to pass on messages to the relevant individuals.
If your business is new to remote working, it can take a lot of getting used to. Put measurements in place so your workforce can reflect on how you’ve performed. If you haven’t hit all your daily or weekly targets, why is that? Was the work you did produce to an exceptional standard? What do you need to do tomorrow or next week to reach those goals? It’s about trying things out and seeing what works best for your business. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to remote working and it will take time to figure out how it works for your workforce.