Working Remotely – The New Normal

Amanda Mitton, Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Magnet, states that while there’s no certainty about when lockdown regulations will be relaxed, the reality is that the coronavirus is likely to be with us for a long time ahead, with the allied need for social distancing measures continuing to be encouraged.

As such, it’s highly likely that organisations that have made a success of remote working options will continue working in this way, at least for the foreseeable future. Mere weeks ago remote working was little more than a pipedream for many employees. Then came the global Covid-19 threat and lockdown hit, and within a matter of days, remote working became the de facto business as usual.

It’s useful, therefore, to examine the key considerations that inform remote work, and that drive its efficacy. Effective remote working starts with ensuring everyone in the team is on the same page. Employees need to understand how their individual tasks are linked to revenue generation. No matter the industry you’re in, it’s a tough economic time for everyone, and it’s critical that employees are fully aware of how their work impacts the bottom line. 

Plans and processes

As with every other aspect of a business, it is important to make a plan for how remote work needs to happen. Many of us wouldn’t have had the time to put a system, plan or process in place before the lockdown, which simply means some quick decisions had to be made on the fly.

Now, more than ever, the output takes priority over the process. The quality and timeliness of the output are what matters most, so make sure everyone is very clear on what that output needs to look like. And yes, it may be important to track progress – to assess a quality or to manage client expectations – so find a way to do that which is simple but effective, and then get everyone’s buy-in to ensure smooth sailing. 

When there’s a clear, attainable goal, and all team members are made aware of how their input contributes to that goal, remote working becomes less about working remotely and more about aligning to the objectives and achieving the targets that matter – the ones that impact the bottom line.

Manage meetings

When each member of the team understands what is expected of them, there should be no need for additional meetings. Meetings that are held for the sake only of meeting tend to be nothing but a great waste of time, which in turn leaves everyone feeling anxious about the time they’ve lost unnecessarily.

Curiously, we find that when teams work remotely, more meetings seem to take place. It’s as if they are seeking the validation that automatically results from working in the same space, by compensating with video calls. Caution against this and limit meetings to only the things that cannot be resolved on email. In the same way that in-person meetings are time-consuming, so too do video meetings encroach on productivity and time management.

A meeting needs to serve a clear purpose, and should be underpinned by a good structure that includes an agenda detailing what needs to be discussed and done. While this may seem elementary and even old-fashioned, it can provide much-needed structure and direction to all video meetings. Online meetings, in particular, can become haphazard and extend unnecessarily. An effective way to tackle this is to appoint a timekeeper whose responsibility it is to monitor time spent on any given topic. The idea is to prevent over-debating and to rather get clarity on the action that needs to be taken around a specific issue.

The best approach to a meeting is to keep it short and sharp, and to always first ask ‘should this be an email?’.

Mind your manners (and emotions)

Non-verbal cues form more than 70% of communication. When we’re communicating remotely we tend to miss those cues, which may lead to misunderstandings. Effectively negotiating this relies on a high level of emotional intelligence, but also a willingness to manage your own emotions and expectations with regards to your interactions with others. Team members can navigate this by agreeing to communicate openly and honestly, with the necessary respect, while remaining cognisant of the fact that people manage situations differently, particularly in times of stress.

Lockdown is an unprecedented time for everyone, and that stress will still be with us all when we emerge on the other side. As you work remotely, try to be more thoughtful while committing to communicate as effectively as possible.

High-performance culture

The secret to driving and nurturing a high-performance workplace culture – both in-office and remotely – is to create a space in which team members can trust one another. This typically means foregoing hierarchy and choosing to focus instead on what each member of the team contributes, and how that relates to the broader organisational goals. When team members trust one another, they also trust their colleagues to perform to the best of their abilities. High-performing teams also hold each other accountable – an extension of a culture of trust – which allows them to focus on collective results.

A space in which trust is prioritised also becomes a space in which conflict is not avoided, but embraced as part of a process that allows for better work to be done, and for individuals to flourish. When there is a keen sense of trust, team members usually understand that conflict is necessary to achieve the best results, and that it is about questioning (or even dismissing) an idea, and not an attack on the individual. 

Keeping an open mind, allowing for a measure of flexibility, and committing to a collective goal that supports revenue generation is what it takes to effectively work remotely while still being part of a team. Now’s the time to give it a go – it may entirely change your workplace culture. 

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