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Managing a remote team

The modern workplace is changing, for many years, the traditional nine to five working day in the office has been the norm; and although the modern office has seen improvements such as open plan working, better lighting, cleaner air and spaces for employees to unwind, what has remained are the same four walls, the daily commute to the place of work and the same old arguments about who used the last of the milk.

In recent times things have started to change. This is partly the result of improvements in technology which have made communication and remote collaboration much easier. The increase in office rental costs and travel costs have also contributed to employers and employees rethinking the traditional model. In addition, the demand for flexible working and the rise in remote working has been fuelled, in no small part, to the rise of a particular generation within the workforce.

This has all been exacerbated by the options forced upon businesses by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

However putting aside, the global situation of the Pandemic, the need for businesses to be able to offer flexible and home working is becoming more and more prevalent. As of 2020, millennials, people born between 1980 and 2000 approximately make up just under half of the workforce. By 2025 they will account for around 75% of the workforce. Crucially, many millennials are not fond of the traditional workplace model. A recent poll showed that 69% of millennials reported that they would choose flexible hours and remote working over other workplace benefits1.

If we pause to consider the possible reasons, we have to remember that this age group have grown up during a time when technology began to rule the world; computers have become a staple fixture of every household, the internet has become a basic requirement for most, if not all, and telephones, tablets and laptops have kept us better connected to the world more than at any other time in history. It is not unreasonable for this generation to expect technology to transform the workplace as well.

That is not to say that the older generations are averse to the idea of remote working, in fact it has been steadily growing in popularity since the beginning of the century.

The question is therefore, how do businesses prepare to offer remote and home working as an option to new and existing employees?

How to prepare

When implementing a remote team there are some crucial elements that need to be considered in order to adapt to the challenges that remote working presents.

  1. There needs to be structure and a culture of trust. When the structure, and the general pace and flow a traditional office provides is no longer there, it can be easy for people to feel adrift, to lose focus, and to become disconnected. It is up to the employer and management team to create a working structure and goals for your team that promotes openness, transparency, and trust.
  2. You should consider the removal of obstacles. Obstacles come in all shapes, sizes and forms and it is up to you to anticipate where they may arise, how you deal with them, and how you can equip your team with the tools they need to handle those obstacles on their own.
  3. Most importantly you need to communicate. When everyone is working from different locations, it is crucial that you establish main lines of communication between you and your team, and between your team and your customers. Also, the communication between team members themselves cannot be overstated.

There are many ways that different companies, their teams, department, and managers work together. However the three aforementioned key areas are essential if you are to successfully implement remote working.

Provide equipment

When you have a team that works remotely, it is important to ensure that reasonable provisions have been made to provide them with the all the equipment, resources and support that they will need to perform their roles effectively.

For most people, the essential items include:

  • A laptop or desktop computer
  • A Monitor
  • A keyboard and mouse
  • Access to the internet
  • A desk/table
  • A comfortable office chair
  • Any role specific equipment (e.g. a work telephone, a tablet, or a headset)

Of course, your organisation may provide all of these, some of these, or more than this. You may opt to pay remote workers and allowance to provide equipment for them. Find out what your team requires and work with them to make sure their needs are met.

Also, consider the support your remote workers need and whether they take priority. Office based workers can usually find another spare laptop to use, but your remote workers may be left helplessly adrift until support arrives. It is important that you have procedures in place for providing and maintaining equipment so that your remote team can work effectively.

Collaborate and communicate

One of the biggest hurdles for remote workers was having real time, effective, collaboration and communication. Arguably in the past there was no substitute for face-to-face meetings to iron our details of a project, for sharing and building on each other’s ideas, for receiving feedback and editing each other’s work, or for discussing how a new project should proceed. But that is no longer the case.

There are a wealth of collaboration and communication tools available, there are instant messaging tools. There are video calling tools that make face-to-face meetings easy to organise. There are file management tools which allow you to store, share and edit documents as a team.

Crucially there are solutions in the marketplace that bring all those tools together as an internal form of communication as well as offering those forms of communication to your customers.

1 Source: Strategy analytics

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