5 Remote Work Best Practices
More than ever we are living in a climate where remote workplaces are largely becoming the norm for a variety of workers. In recognizing this shift, it’s important to also recognize the changes that come with working remotely. We’ve outlined five best practices for remote workplaces to ensure your team stays motivated, connected, and productive.
1. Equal Access
The concept of remote work is not always something that is readily accessible to everyone. Because of this, it’s imperative to make sure that your employees have the resources necessary to work from wherever they reside outside of the office. This means providing technology such as a company laptop, printer, and any other supplies they may need to complete their work outside of the office. A common concept we are seeing more of are home office allowances. This means that many companies are paying for their employees’ desks and chairs, along with a WiFi and phone stipend. It’s also important to make sure that all employees have their relevant remote accesses set up, allowing them to connect to secure company systems even when away from the office. These accommodations require close communication between managers and employees to ensure their home office needs are met and they can perform with equal competence even from their own residence.
2. Remote Meeting Etiquette
In-person office meetings allowed for easy recognition of unfocused or preoccupied participants. This shift into remote working has also changed how meetings look in a quite drastic way. Meetings are now held virtually via platforms such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and many others. While there are some great features that come along with these remote working platforms, it is much more difficult to maintain engagement in meetings. The number one tip we have to maintain meeting engagement is to turn on that camera. It’s easier for people to tune out on audio calls, while video calls inherently hold employees to a higher accountability when everyone can see what they’re doing during the meeting. This also allows for people to read your body language to communicate better and establish a better sense of trust when they can see your face. Another great tip is to not be working on other things during the meeting and remain focused, especially when people can hear you typing in the background. Taking the time to engage in active listening such as writing down notes and nodding, allows your peers to know that you’re engaged and listening to what they’re saying.
3. Communicate Often
Effective communication can’t just be a check-box on your to-do list. This needs to happen constantly and consistently. There can’t be an expectation to communicate with your team once and be done with things because proper communication requires follow-ups, persistency, and honest conversations. Communicating with your remote team requires even more! A good way to think about it is to communicate with your team three times as much as you normally would if you were working in a normal office setting. This shows that you, as a manager, are earnestly working to keep the lines of communication open for everyone in your team. Some great remote work communication practices include scheduling team check-ins (and individual check-ins, if possible) 2-3 times a week, keeping calls on-schedule, and limiting the cancellation of team check-in calls.
4. Work/Life Boundaries
Working remotely tends to blur the boundaries of work and life. This is why it’s vital to make sure everyone sets up and stick to their boundaries. One of these techniques is called unplugging where you set a firm start and finish time to your workday, not working beyond those hours. It’s important to make people aware of your boundaries to help hold you accountable to sticking to them. Sometimes it becomes too tempting to sit down at your laptop and work through the whole day and night, not leaving any separation between work and life time. Unplugging entails physically leaving your laptop in your designated workspace and not turning it back on past your designated shut off time. This concept also includes not reading and responding to work emails on your phone past your unplug time. It helps to also have a designated workspace that where you can leave your work once the workday is over. If this is not possible due to space constraints, turning off your work laptop and/or work phone is a great alternative to officially unplug for the day. Don’t let your employees, peers, and yourself become burnt out due to lack of work/life boundaries.
5. Recreate the Water Cooler Effect
When working in an office setting was the norm, there usually tended to be a place in the office where employees gathered to talk. In more traditional offices, this gathering place tended to be the water cooler. Now that we have evolved to a hybrid or entirely remote workplace, there is no longer this physical water cooler effect. Similar to a physical office space, it’s a great idea to create a virtual “water cooler.” You can do this by using a messaging or chat application such as Slack and creating a channel for random or casual conversation within employees. Too often a feeling of isolation kicks in when this office chit chat and social interactions are missing in remote workplaces. This can help maintain a vibrant office culture and comradery, despite working far apart from each other. Make sure you do set some guidelines about appropriate language and behavior in this messaging channel. It’s important to still have some fun with it!