How to Create a Successful Remote Work Environment
March 7, 2018
Many companies put an emphasis on the tools and technologies that assist remote work instead of the processes that allow it to run smoothly. Companies must create clear processes that support the three core principles that lead to successful remote work outlined below.
In fact, these processes are so important that the U.S. government wrote a 300 page document outlining the “Status of Telework in the Federal Government!”
Simply put, communication is the ability to exchange information. To avoid miscues and misinterpretation, match the message to the medium. The ability to observe body language, interpret tone, and visualize what’s being discussed is necessary in order to effectively share information that is complex and personal. For instances like these, videoconferencing is an appropriate medium. For small, non-urgent requests, email, IM, or platforms like Slack are best.
Frequent communication is also a key component to successful correspondence. Providing regular updates, responding to messages in a timely manner, and making oneself available at important times reduces barriers and builds trust.
Coordination is the ability to work toward a common goal. Create a formal process that mimics the informal ways employees connect when they are physically together. Managers should clearly articulate the company’s mission, assign roles and responsibilities, create detailed project plans, and establish performance metrics. All of this should be documented in a repository that is easily accessible offsite. It is critical that managers model and enforce processes until employees have completely assimilated. Additionally, they need to evaluate team members on how well they stick to protocol so they don’t default to old habits.
Making sure employees feel a sense of company culture is vital in order to encourage participation and continue employee performance in the long term. Establishing trust is the first step to creating successful culture within a company. Attending to communication and coordination issues will support cognitive trust—based on effectiveness and reliability—but fostering affective trust—based on feelings—is hard to build virtually and may require companies to bring team members together for short periods of time.
Having channels on online platforms can also encourage culture and give employees recognition. For example, Uncubed has a “Gong” channel where we post major accomplishments, similarly GitHub has a #toasts channel were they announce accomplishments and colleagues from around the world post selfies toasting them. You can see this in action if you go to 15:25. For remote workers unorthodox activities like this provides connection to colleagues. Further, it draws attention to a company’s unique culture and reiterates the idea that remote workers are just as important as their colleagues working onsite.
Successfully executing remote work is tricky, but when it is done well it’s incredibly rewarding. Increased productivity, happier employees, and savings all require considerate planning and reliable implementation. Applying these three core principles to your company will hopefully lead to a more cohesive and happier team that includes all team members, whether remote or not.
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