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As many organizations around the globe have announced that employees will work from home for the remainder of 2020, or in some cases indefinitely, leaders are increasingly considering the question: is 100% remote work truly sustainable?

It can be a mixed bag when you consider the opportunities and challenges that come from a virtual workforce. On the one hand, many team members feel that they are more productive and benefit from greater flexibility while companies can expand their talent pool and save on expenses like office space.

On the other hand, staff may also get burnt out as they put in longer hours and the lines blur between personal and work life while companies can struggle with optimizing collaboration and building a positive culture.

A recent survey from our team in Asia Pacific underscores these points with 50% of respondents reporting that they:

  • Feel disconnected from their team and company
  • Find it challenging to collaborate effectively
  • Have difficulty maintaining a positive culture

Clearly, there are pros and cons to any situation that is 100% remote or in-person, and for many companies in the near-term, operating virtually may be the safest decision. As you seek to make remote working sustainable for some or all of your employees, I invite you to consider these practices.

Four Company Initiatives to Make Remote Work More Effective

Provide relevant learning & development opportunities

Offer meaningful training to help workers address the challenges that arise from remote work. Specifically, programming that enhance communication, collaboration and productivity like Emergenetics® will help your staff see a positive impact. You may also wish to invest in professional development that supports health and wellness so employees feel better equipped to navigate today’s unfamiliar times.

Invest in collaboration tools and technology

Work with stakeholders in your organization (or look at best practices from other companies) to understand which collaboration tools best support team performance and build connection across virtual groups. You may also consider providing best practices, trainings or standard operating procedures to help teams make the most of the programs you offer company-wide to enhance teamwork and productivity.

Host regular online gatherings

To help address the isolation that can come with virtual work, provide regular opportunities for your staff to connect with people across the organization. I invite you to utilize a broad range of events as some will resonate more with certain staff members than others. Consider hosting company-wide updates to share essential information as well as fun gatherings like virtual happy hours, escape rooms or one-on-one coffees to encourage connection.

Reconnect with the vision and values of the company

When employees connect with their organization’s core reason for being, the organization tends to run more efficiently and team members tend to be more engaged in work. Keep staff connected to your company’s vision and values through your communications, company meetings and even employee recognition programs and awards that reinforce the connection between staff and the core of the organization.

Four Areas of Focus to Help Managers Make Remote Work Work

Encourage regular “face” time

Stay connected with your team by regularly engaging them in meetings as well as reaching out with simple check-ins. Scheduling weekly one-on-ones can be a good first step to remaining connected on your staff’s workload, projects, concerns and areas of interest no matter where they are located. I also invite you to reach out regularly to team members through email or chat to check in and make sure they feel supported.

Communicate universally

Out of sight, out of mind can unfortunately ring true to many virtual or hybrid teams. Be mindful about what information you share and how you share it. By taking the time to make sure that all team members have access to the same information at the same time, you can help staff feel in-the-know and a connected, essential part of the group.

Apply the Platinum Rule

When you treat others the way they want to be treated (even if it’s different than your own preferences), they will feel more empowered, understood and appreciated. I recommend using the Emergenetics Profiles of your staff as a guide for your interactions. If you do not have a Profile, I invite you to download our guide for leaders of remote teams to discover some quick, helpful insights. By setting goals, giving feedback and communicating in a way that resonates with your staff’s preferences, you can better engage them in their work.

Support professional development and growth

Professional development can be extremely motivating to your staff, and it demonstrates that you and your organization is taking a real interest in their success and growth. Consider how you can support the development of your team members whether by connecting with Learning & Development professionals in your organization on potential trainings, seeking out learning opportunities or identifying stretch assignments to help staff grow.

Four Team Initiatives to Enhance the Sustainability of Remote Work

Establish team norms

By establishing protocols and processes around communication and collaboration, you can create consensus among your team on how you will treat one another and work together. In doing so, you can build connections and empower your group to work in a way that supports each of your needs. Keep in mind: if you previously had established norms, you may need to revisit them when some or all of your teammates work remotely. A virtual environment can (and likely should) impact the way you connect and collaborate.

Make connecting a part of everyone’s job

Team building can get a bad rep as it often brings to mind visions of trust falls, and the good news is that it’s very hard to do that with a virtual team! Still, making time for bonding is essential to establishing connection and building trust. Consider using check-in questions at team meetings, team building events and even creating chat channels for non-work-related topics to help team members learn more about one another and engage with each other.

Promote collaboration and celebrate cognitive diversity

By making teamwork an expectation and fostering appreciation for all the different approaches and perspectives of your team, you can enhance trust and achieve better results. Host regular small group or team meetings to discuss projects and bring each of your unique perspectives to the table. If you’d like to learn more about how you can identify and utilize cognitive diversity, click here to learn about our virtual workshops.

Create serendipity

In an office space, you typically have time for unplanned chatter or office run-ins that result in spontaneous conversations, ideas or simply laughter. In a remote or hybrid team, you may have to manufacture some of those serendipitous moments, and the more you get into the habit of reaching out at random, the more likely you are to benefit from impromptu insights.

While most companies likely will not need to make 100% remote work the norm forever, we do know that some of our staff will actively seek out this approach to work while others will prefer to be in the office. In fact, our recent LinkedIn poll indicated that about:

  • 21% of respondents prefer a 100% remote work approach,
  • 49% of respondents like a mix with more remote work,
  • 27% of respondents like a mix with more office work and
  • 3% wanted to return to the office 100% of the time

What these results indicate to me are two-fold. First, as much as we can – and is safe – it’s important to offer a choice to our staff so they can make the decision about what approach to work will be best for them. Second, the data suggests that we need to be prepared to make remote work – or at least a hybrid approach – sustainable. Following the steps above can help you set the foundation for a productive workforce no matter where you all may find yourselves working in the future.

If you’re interested in learning and development opportunities to help your staff communicate, collaborate and perform more effectively, fill out the form below or click here to learn about our virtual programs!

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