The facts about remote work support improved business outcomes and better performance. Telecommuting has been shown to increase efficiency, allowing for more concentrated work and fewer interruptions. It gives workers more control over their space and their time. By eliminating the commute, it also facilitates better work-life balance and childcare arrangements.
That kind of flexibility engages workers, and that’s what drives performance. Moreover, 29% of remote workers say they are happier than on-site workers, and they cite higher productivity and less stress when asked why. This is further borne out by decades of Gallup research that shows “when employees are engaged their performance soars: Highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects and 21% higher profitability.”
If you are not used to remote work, however, the presence of family members, a lack of dedicated space and the loss of direct oversight may be challenging. It may help to remember that 18% more executives work remotely than on-site, and probably many of them are both in your field and share a similar professional history. After all, the U.S. workforce is nearly 5 million strong, with telecommuting executives, specialists, staffers and managers in health care, finance, education, manufacturing, technology and numerous other fields.
Sector aside, all successful remote businesses are rooted in trust: The employer has to trust that workers will do the jobs they were hired to do, and well. By definition, remote work is less about face time and more about meeting or exceeding goals. Managers build trust by keeping goals clear, by providing the tools and information workers need to get work done, and by recognizing where workers excel. For the novice remote manager, this can seem like a tall order, but break it down and you’ll realize these are the same things you provide your staff in person. The only difference with remote work is some of your communication tools may change.
The Virtual Stand-Up Meeting
Stand-up meetings are a great way to start the business day. Using tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype, team members can share updates, have get-togethers, build camaraderie, get feedback and ask questions.
The format is pretty simple. Give each team member or department five minutes to share. Have them end their time with a simple request or provide the help they may need to complete an assignment. Leave time at the beginning or end for open, unstructured chat to allow the team time to catch up.
Once the process has been established, decide how often you want to check in with your team. Do you need to organize meetings daily, three times a week or just once on Fridays? When is it most beneficial to provide status reports or plan a response to events you didn’t foresee? This will then become the focal point of the new communication process for your virtual teams.
Which Software Suite?
The benefits of Microsoft 365 versus Google’s G Suite depend on what you’re already doing and what you need to do: If you seek user-friendliness, try G Suite. If you’re looking for special features, however, Microsoft 365 has more to offer. Users sometimes switch back and forth between them depending on their needs. Both sets of programs translate documents created by their competitor, but it’s best to reserve translations for your simplest documents to ensure you do not have to redo.
• If your focus is numbers: Excel may be your spreadsheet of choice due to its advanced features.
• If your focus is collaborative writing: Google Docs may be preferable if you write documents that require input from others. The app allows more than one person to write, edit or comment on a text at a time. Add audio chat through a phone or Google Voice and the process is as effective as in-person collaboration.
• If you need to share information: Widely used documents can be stored in Google Drive, DropBox or, if you are already subscribed to Office 365, SharePoint.
Engagement for Good Health
In a time of uncertainty, a flexible approach to how and where we perform our work will keep us all engaged. There is also no question that when life feels unstable, many of us prefer to stick close to home, especially those of us with families. So encourage your staff to take time out for meals, exercise and additional training in remote tools, new software or another area of interest.
The bottom line is, whatever your next steps are, comfort with the leaner and more efficient world of remote work will serve both your business and your team well in a time of rapid change.