In the post Covid working world, remote working is now commonplace. From avoiding a long and uncomfortable commute, to improving productivity and wellbeing, remote working has tangible benefits for employees and employers alike.
But introducing remote working is not without its challenges. There are numerous issues that need to be addressed to develop remote working practices that support the needs of the individual needs of employees, as well as ensuring that teams work effectively together.
These challenges can include:
For organisations that have traditionally had most employees sharing the same workspace, informal interactions can organically develop and reinforce strong individual and team relationships. Remote working environments do not automatically provide those throwaway conversations that occur naturally in the physical work environment. When developing remote collaborative working environments, employers need to consider how to ensure that individuals feel connected to their team and can develop effective ways of working together.
While some employees may embrace a solitary working environment, others may find it isolating and lonely. When introducing remote working practices, employers need to be mindful that they have a duty of care to their employees to ensure that good health – both physical and mental – is at the forefront of their consideration.
Blurring the lines between home and work
Remote working can be great for work/life balance, potentially offering more flexibility in working hours and freeing employees from a lengthy commute. But the downside is that it can also blur the lines between home and work. For many, remote working equates to working from home, where it can be tricky for work to be turned off at the end of the day. Home-based employees need to be given guidance on best practice to cope with new changes to their working day – and how to adapt their homes to a new dual function.
Remote working takes a leap of faith on the part of any employer, which for many, can be challenging. Although numerous studies suggest that working from home is more productive, many employers may still believe that this isn’t the case – and that being closely monitored in the office environment is still best for business. For some organisations, trust may need to be built on the foundations of tangible results – so introducing tools for benchmarking and measuring performance may just hold the key to effective remote collaboration.
Best Practices for Effective Remote Collaboration
For many employees and organisations, a post-Covid, full time return to the office is not an attractive prospect. This, coupled with the need for organisations to adapt to the new normal and adopt best working practices, creating effective remote working environments is crucial. To do this, there are some key steps that organisations can take, including:
1) Select and implement the best tech for the job
For many organisations, the development of online tools and platforms have been fundamental to the rise of remote working. Choosing the right platforms to support individual employees and the collective productivity of the organisation, as well as streamlining operations is crucial to the successful adoption of remote working.
Zoom has become synonymous with remote working throughout the Covid pandemic, offering a great interactive way to stay connected. But it’s by no means the end of the tech story for remote workers. Document sharing platforms, such as Googledrive offer a brilliant way to collaborate simultaneously on live working documents and share information, through to platforms such as Trello and Slack, allowing teams to identify and prioritise project tasks.
2) Explore the potential of other worlds
Immersive tools, such as virtual reality are, quite literally, opening a whole new world designed specifically for collaborative working. Platforms such as Future Visual’s VISIONxR can create virtual environments where employees can learn and work together in one space, regardless of their geographical location. This is a great option for teams working on design driven projects as it can significantly accelerate prototyping, allowing teams to work interdependently to solve problems, test and tweak realistic prototype models.
3) Assess working environments
Remote working should improve, rather than have a negative impact on employees’ health. Moreover, employers have a legal responsibility to have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as for any other worker.
Risk assessments should be undertaken for all homeworkers – from using equipment safely to individual working environments and the practical risks of people working home alone. This should also take into account the impact remote working can have on an employees mental, as well as physical health. The Health and Safety Executive can provide businesses with great practical advice on legal requirements.
In addition to the legal requirements, organisations should think of guidelines and informal advice that can address employees leading a more sedentary existence, such as when to take breaks from their screens and move around frequently.
4) Set clear individual and team goals
Working remotely can be an insular experience for employees and developing functional remote working teams can also be challenging for employers. Setting goals can help to build the foundations of a fantastic team, as well as help motivate individual team members. Having clear, measurable and achievable goals that feed into overall team goals can help employees to have a laser focus and stay on track, while gaining a greater understanding of how their work fits in with that of their team members.
5) Introduce regular team communications
Keeping teamwork on track requires strong communications strategies, including regular meetings. The rules of more traditional meetings are as important as ever for online meetings – so an agenda can help to keep a meeting on track and this, coupled with taking action notes is crucial. Adding an introductions section when meeting new people – and keeping cameras rolling to put a face to a name is a great way to develop connections with team members.
Unlike traditional meetings, attendees in remote meetings can be dogged by distractions and potentially tempted to multitask, such as replying to emails or carrying on working during a meeting. Keeping meetings interactive is a great idea to address this, from encouraging participation, rather than attendance – and possibly use tools such as Mentee or virtual whiteboards such as Mural to spark conversations and gauge opinions.
6) Utilise informal channels
Informal communications are as important as more formalised working structures – but replicating the water cooler moment across remote workplaces can be challenging. Zoom chat is great for giving team members a way to shout out for help quickly and easily, enabling them to fast forward conversations. It’s also a great way to have fun across teams, sharing thoughts and adding a more social aspect to the working day.
7) Celebrate success
Individual and team successes can sometimes be hidden when employees are regularly working from home. But celebrating success and recognising excellence is crucial to boosting team spirit and making an individual feel valued. Including good news stories in meetings, internal newsletters and intranets can also offer great outlets to do just this.
8) Introduce regular face-to-face
For many organisations, introducing widespread remote working was triggered by necessity in reaction to the Covid pandemic and lockdowns. But as the world starts to open up to the ‘new normal’, opportunities to bring together teams to meet face-to-face is now a viable reality. While businesses may be embracing new ways of working, having regular get togethers – whether for formal meetings, training, team building or social gatherings throughout the year is a great way for team members to get to know each other and share ideas.
Remote working is here to stay.
This seismic shift in the way we work (and, by extension, live) can reap tangible benefits for both individuals and organisations alike. However, for it to be truly impactful, employers must rise to the challenges of supporting employees through the introduction of new technologies, policies and procedures. It also requires employees to embrace the opportunities that remote working brings – and work hard towards outstanding individual achievements, but to build and nurture impactful working relationships with their colleagues.