Posts tagged ‘communication’

Remote working – is it a help or a hindrance?

More and more companies have turned to remote working in order to save money and to gain access to a larger pool of resources.  Interestingly, I was speaking to a manager this week who noted that remote working includes anyone in your team who is not sat in the same vicinity – they could be in another country, another town, half a mile down the road working from home, in the same building but on a different floor, or even on a different part of the same floor.

The challenge of communicating effectively is still the same.  They admitted that, even when people are in the same building, if they have to get out of their chair to speak to them the chances are they would send an email instead.  Not even pick up the phone, they would send an email – how worrying is that!  This is a sign to me that leaders have less time to spend with their teams.  Email is not the answer to that problem!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of remote working – I have done it for 30 years – although I have always been able to choose where I work rather than being remote all the time.  Whether you enjoy it or not is highly influenced by your own motivators (I need a balance of independence and teaming), but it is equally influenced by how you are managed, and the team culture that your leader encourages.

So let’s look at why you may have switched to remote working and what the issues could be.  Then we can focus on what you, as a manager, need to do to continue to inspire your remote workers.

Productivity

From personal experience, I know I can easily double my productivity when working at home.  However, that is because I have put in place the disciplines needed to enable me to be more productive – I have a separate office, with a door I can close, reducing interruptions; I have the technology I need to enable me to connect to the outside world; I take regular breaks to ensure I don’t over-work or get fatigued; I keep hydrated and fed so that my energy levels and concentration can be extended; I am accessible to others and let them know what I have achieved.  I’m sure you will have your own tips on this, but even these are not always easy to attain, so many people can be less productive at home, if their disciplines are poor.

Action: Schedule regular contact with your remote teams, either by video or telephone or by meeting up at a convenient location.  If they are not being productive, understand why not and what needs to change.

Stress

No commute, no queuing for a coffee or the printer, it is easy to see why remote working can be less stressful than being in the office.  It can also provide a better work-life balance, because some of that commute time can be put to better use, whether it be to do the school run, keep fit or to socialise more.  However, if your team interacts less with their colleagues they can soon become isolated.  Perhaps goals and expectations won’t be clear, maybe you won’t know who’s doing what or if achievements are appreciated.  All these can lead to higher stress levels.

Action: Make goals, targets and expectations clear to your team, as well as ensuring good performance is recognised and rewarded.

Costs

If you have thousands of in-office employees then they all need a desk, computer, phone, maybe even an office.  You’ll need a canteen, kitchens, toilets, some companies even provide a gym and a swimming pool in to increase staff morale.  So it’s easy to see how having remote working teams can reduce these costs.  However, a word of warning.  It is essential that your teams meet face to face on a regular basis and the company will need to provide a good base to do this. I don’t mean “a hot-desking area” where you get to sit with anyone from anywhere in the company, I mean areas where employees can sit or meet together with their team-mates.  This takes some co-ordination from you as a manager.  It is also essential for you to be clear that you expect your team to participate in these meetings.  In between these face to face communications, your teams will need to collaborate during their work, so you’ll need up-to-date systems for document sharing, video and teleconferencing, which don’t come cheap.

Action: Although you may be able to save money by switching to more remote working, in order to make it work you will need to invest in other areas, such as communications technology and shared meeting spaces.

Engagement

If there is one thing that builds the best employee engagement, I would say “trust”.  Allowing your teams to choose to work remotely at times shows a huge amount of trust. Finding ways to include them, listen to them, thank them and praise them can help to motivate them and maintain high performance.  Everyone needs different levels of interaction and independence, so it is key to be able to understand what makes them tick.  Of course if you are a task-focused leader who struggles to do these things when people are on site, you are going to find it harder when they are working remotely.  Consequently you are less likely to encourage remote working at all.

Action: Ensure that you understand your team’s motivators so you can engage with each individual in the best possible way.  Focus on what they deliver rather than how long they spend at their laptop.

 

So you can see that there can be pros and cons to remote working. If managed effectively, I think the pros far outweigh the cons.  If you have a remote working team and are finding effectiveness and engagement an issue, please get in touch.

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September 3, 2019 at 9:57 am Leave a comment


Alan Adair

Contact Details

Alan Adair

Extra Dimension
Helping you and your teams to be more engaged, motivated and effective.

21 Pelican House
Stone Close
Poole
BH15 4GE

Tel 01202 830047

Email alan.adair@extradimension.co.uk

Website
www.extradimension.co.uk

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