Making it work: How employers and employees can take control of remote work

Remote work presents unique advantages to both sides — employer and employee. If executed well, remote work enablement strategies prove to be a win-win for enterprises as well as their employees. The immediate benefits that remote work can deliver to your enterprise are:

  • Loyal employees who cherish the work-life balance offered by your enterprise.
  • Option to hire a more talented pool of employees from distant geographies. (This would not be Alan Harper from “Two and a Half Men” or Michael Kelso from “That 70s Show” — these would not be ideal hires for anyone!)
  • Lower costs of workspace.
  • Better employee engagement.

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But it must also be acknowledged that remote work comes with its unique set of challenges. Among these, the most critical ones are:

  • A growing sense of isolation and disconnect among remotely working employees — most humans like to be around other humans.
  • Technology could become a hindering force rather than a helping force, particularly if the employee’s routine work requires access to multiple applications.
  • Low visibility and lack of supervision over the work practices of remote employees.

Operations managers as well as team leads, however, can ensure that their colleagues are able to leverage the option of remote work to work in a highly flexible manner, and even deliver on-call support if and when needed. In this guide, we’ll cover some technologies and methodologies for the same.

The enterprise’s goal for remote work

remote work

The first step toward a successful remote work strategy is for the key decision makers of the enterprise to understand the organization’s goals for remote work enablement. This, then, becomes the source of guidance for remote work policy drafting. The policy must clearly address key elements of the remote work ideology of the enterprise, such as:

  • Which roles qualify for remote work arrangement?
  • How many days a month/week can an employee work remotely?
  • What kind of IT support can employees expect from the enterprise for their remote workplace enablement?
  • Specifics relating to the hours when the employee is expected to be online and whether there is a need to work with the team in person for at least a couple of days a week.

Being deliberate about remote work policy is a key to communicating expectations for employees and helps them deliver quality work.

Critical question of communication

Communication, of course, is the make-or-break factor as far as remote work strategy is concerned. For enterprises just beginning with remote work strategies, over-communication is natural and almost necessary, until there is a level of comfort and trust among the remotely connected employees.

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  • To make sure that your remotely connected teams are able to communicate seamlessly, you’ve got to leverage the right technologies.
  • Arm your remote workers with the tools that make them feel like a part of the team (instant messenger, file sharing, video conferencing, and free international calling).
  • Understand how employees work at their desks in your office, and deploy technologies that help them replicate their ways at home, too.
  • Evaluate how easily the technology fits into the existing mix of technologies in use.

Remember, technological challenges in remote work will always be there; having IT support processes that enable super-quick remediation go a long way in making remote work seamless and productive for employees.

Some good tools

Now that you’re convinced that technology is a make-or-break factor for your enterprise’s remote work strategy, let’s tell you some of the most important tools you’d do well to deploy.

  • Group chats: Enable teamwork collaboration with basic content sharing and video calling (Slack, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, HipChat, Yammer).
  • Document sharing: enable easy information logging, archiving, and searching (Confluence, SharePoint, Box, Dropbox).
  • Screen sharing: enable quick visual information exchange and troubleshooting (Skype, Webex).
  • Prototyping tools: for collaboration on design projects (inVision).
  • Code repository: enable collaboration on programming (GitHub).
  • Project management: enable overall management of project tasks distribution, workflow management, and reporting (Trello).

These tools can go a long way in helping employees collaborate on complex projects.

Building a remote-ready team

After you’ve covered the bases we’ve discussed, it’s time to build a team that’s ready to deliver top quality work even though they are working remotely most of the time.

Look for these traits that make employees decent candidates for remote work:

  • Collaborative: People who are inherently aligned with the idea of collaboration, experienced in working with people from different geographies and cultures, and proficient in English to independently manage communications with stakeholders.
  • Doers: People who are self-driven, can get things done, and can find their way even in the absence of consistent and clear guidelines, can prioritize among different tasks, and proactively report progress.
  • Scribes: Remote teams need to upgrade their written communication skills because teammates need to refer to emails, meeting minutes, and brainstorming notes to be able to connect thought and ideas. Workers with writing skills can prove invaluable in succinctly capturing important details for everyone’s easy reference.
  • Honesty: Because of ambiguity and insufficiency of oversight, there is a real likelihood of remote workers committing mistakes. Honest workers will not shy away from reporting their follies to allow supervisors to make course corrections.

More practices to manage remote work

Here are some more helpful practices:

  • Have a superhero in every team, a self-driven individual who can help remote workers overcome challenges, and connect them to the right resources for their empowerment and enablement. (See Larry Bird, Peyton Manning, and Jose Altuve for examples.)
  • Shift the burden of organizing meetings and progress tracking on the managers.
  • Don’t forget to address mistakes and lessons learned en route to help everyone get better at working independently and remotely.
  • Reward responsible behavior and instances where a worker exhibits great self-drive to get things done.
  • Devise a feedback mechanism to let your employees know about how they can get better at bypassing the challenges of working remotely.

Remote work strategies can deliver tremendous benefits to enterprises, provided managers and supervisors understand how they can make the most of tools, technologies, and best practices to help employees perform their best while working from their homes.

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