In the wake of this global crisis, many firms are under extreme pressure and disruption due to the advice to keep workers home. While many jobs can be performed remotely, many are just not yet set up to do so.
At WiseTime, we’ve had a remote working culture from the beginning due to the nature of our business. We do have offices around the globe, but we are also fully equipped to handle all of our business as usual with our teams working only remotely. We understand however that this isn’t the norm, and many are just now seeing the importance of having the processes in place to allow employees to step away from the office, but not from their jobs.
While there is a lot of advice already circulating to help ease the panic and pain of the transition, we hope to put this in a different light. We have long been advocates for agile and flexible working. There are vast benefits to making flexible arrangements available for your teams. We hope that while companies are putting measures in place to tackle the current climate that they also think ahead.
If we set our teams up with the tools and processes to be able to collaborate remotely, then this is a huge benefit that all companies can continue to realise even after our office doors reopen. While many companies would have put flexible arrangements in the too hard basket, or simply mistrusted the concept (thinking sweats on the couch equals ‘working from home’) this might be the enlightening moment that we all needed to realise the merits and great opportunity that working remotely can bring.
Here are a few learnings from our team:
Our team communicates regularly in two main ways – our chat tool (with channels for specific topics, teams and a ‘water cooler’ for any type of chat) and video. Video calls have been crucial to creating our collaborative culture. When new employees join, there’s often a bit of a hesitation about this mode of communication, because it still isn’t the norm in business comms. However, as everyone grows comfortable with video and chat, the benefits multiply over and over. The difference between a phone call and video call is immense, and when building relationships with colleagues, there is nothing more important than connecting you face to face. Albeit through a screen, the benefits of visual cues and communication are the same. Similarly, the agility of a live chat vs. the slow and oftentimes confusing nature of email (in particular if huge threads evolve) makes a huge difference in the quality and efficiency of communication.
Embracing these tools will make relationships flourish despite the distance, communication gets easier, and the more it becomes part of your culture, the better. A quick chat or video call can replace 50 back and forth emails and does to culture and morale what nothing else can do in a remote working environment. So don’t shy away, turn your camera on and give your colleagues a smile the next time you need to discuss something.
A very common hesitation to begin flexible arrangements stems from mistrust of employers and employees. If you really consider this: mistrust isn’t really alleviated by the act of showing up in the office – one can be physically present and mentally on vacation. So the fear that remote workers aren’t focused really brings to fore a bigger trust issue that employers, or team members, might have. At WiseTime, we foster trust in the workplace and keep an eye on productivity in two main ways:
Whenever you can, keep your hours regular. This builds confidence amongst the team that colleagues are there when they are needed, and it helps teams to make plans to collaborate effectively when they know each other’s schedules. Whether you are taking a flexible day, or work remotely full time, it might often be that you need to alter your hours on occasion. Make this known to your colleagues so that they know to expect you to be unavailable at this time (e.g. by a quick chat message in the group chat). Setting expectations is the key, and one great way to do this is to share a common spreadsheet of everyone’s intended regular hours and communicate with each other when you deviate from this.
While it might be tempting to enforce some kind of monitoring to ensure productivity is staying on point, resist the urge. Big Brother monitoring tools, though allowing you to see what’s happening outside of the office, are the quickest way to lose any trust with your employees. It is still important to know what work is being done and how projects are progressing, however steer clear of any services that show you what employees are doing in real-time or take random screenshots throughout the day. Instead, give your employees a privacy-first tool that allows them to review and submit this information when they are ready, and retain the utmost privacy while they work. At WiseTime, we eat our own dogfood and use our software every single day, and we’ve built it from scratch with user privacy as one of it’s foremost priorities.
Once you alleviate any mistrust, the common concern for teams working remotely is that it might stifle collaborative efforts. To this we say – embrace technology! There are tools to enhance every type of collaboration remotely, including video conferencing, ‘live’ whiteboards to help you have those creative brainstorming sessions and live document editing tools to avoid double-work. We use GSuite to share and edit files collaboratively because it’s accessible, intuitive and perfectly equipped for our needs.
If your team needs to collaborate on bigger projects, workflow management tools, such as Jira or Asana, make it easier to define what roles and tasks are assigned to each person within the project. They also allow you to assign tasks back and forth throughout different stages and offer an overview of the status of each task and project at all times so that everyone is always on the same page. We personally love Jira, and connect it to WiseTime so that we can track productivity and project progress along the way.
“Move! Because you cut out travel, meetings and strolling out to lunch, it’s easy to be incredibly sedentary when you are working from home. Get up at least every few hours – stretch your legs, walk around the block or even do 5 minutes of exercise. The beauty of working remotely is that you can do push-ups next to your desk at morning tea without judgement!”
“To keep your vision in check, get up every hour or so and look out the window somewhere in the distance for at least one minute.”
Don’t underestimate the value of the incidental conversations in maintaining a strong team. Make the extra effort to connect with your colleagues on a personal level, despite your distance. Utilise your team comms to ask about your colleagues’ weekends, find out about the weather in your respective locales, just as you would when working in an office space in real life.