5 Ways to Improve Your Remote Work Strategy
Advances in technology and changes in work environments caused by the pandemic have made remote work the norm for many organizations. Despite the ongoing discussion about a potential return to the office, the likelihood of companies dropping remote work entirely and forcing employees into a blanketed return to the office is low.
A study conducted by Stanford found that productivity increased by 13 percent among employees working from home — a sure win for companies across the country. What's more, employees themselves are also favoring the remote workplace over the traditional office space.
Taking into account the current state of the labor market and the lingering concerns over COVID-19 and its variants, leading organizations recognize the need to be intentional about their remote work strategies, including how their infrastructure, communication and policies are organized.
Here are some key takeaways for remote leaders looking for ways to improve their approach to remote work to keep everyone aligned and focused on company objectives.
The Key Elements of a Remote Work Strategy
A remote work strategy incorporates the policies and procedures an organization implements to manage a remote workforce efficiently. While the benefits offered to remote employees in lieu of having a physical office space are important, the key element of a successful work strategy is providing an environment that enables teams to accomplish the same goals they would have accomplished working in an office — and perhaps even better.
“Your remote strategy should support your in-office priorities to produce an environment that’s as productive, healthy and happy as possible, so your team can do their best work,” said Flo Crivello, CEO and co-founder of San Francisco-based virtual office platform Teamflow.
Before the concept of remote work became widespread, office redesigns often focused on creating a casual atmosphere. With remote and hybrid work arrangements more common now, where should companies place their focus for improvement? Ultimately, said Crivello, it comes down to two things: keeping people happy and productive.
“Companies are just teams of people united in a common purpose. When you focus on keeping your people happy and engaged, everything else has a way of working out,” he said.
To keep people happy and productive, Michelle Caruana, founder of Lake Forest, Calif.-based Hana Resources, an environmental consulting firm, said companies need to focus on communication, collaboration and flexibility as part of their remote work strategies.
"Working remotely may mean you don’t have a shared workspace, but that doesn’t mean you have to work alone," she said. "Harmony in the workplace and the absence of silos are essential for a healthy workplace."
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Where Culture and Processes Fit
For many businesses, a remote work strategy involves doubling down on culture and processes, two areas of an office environment that can translate to the remote work space and provide employees with a sense of belonging.
“A lot of companies misunderstand what a company culture really means," said Crivello. "Company culture boils down to whom you hire, and how they act when you’re not in the room."
To get this right, teams need to communicate and collaborate. But Crivello said the current tools for communication, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, are focused on structured meetings, so remote leaders may need to find alternate ways to create casual conversations that help maintain a positive culture.
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5 Tips for Improving Your Remote Work Strategy
1. Streamline Company Processes
In today's era of digital transformation, companies with remote work policies must find ways to streamline their processes to improve productivity and increase collaboration. Accounting for the new workplace reality is essential for organizations to thrive under this new model.
2. Host Annual Company Events
“Annual company events foster a sense of belonging among employees and allow them to meet for the first time in person,” said Caruana.
Since remote workers often won’t be able to meet in person, creating planned activities where employees can meet and interact with others, similarly to a company retreat, are a great way to improve the employee experience and productivity.
These events don’t need to be limited to employees that work in the office either. They could include spouses and children, just as many companies used to do before remote work — or even pets, if it's a small, more local team.
3. Take Time to Get to Know Employees
If you’re a company leader, regardless of level, it’s essential to take time to meet with employees to get to know them on a more personal level. While this can be achieved in person, Crivello said it's critical for leaders in a remote setting to connect with team members. Not only does it allow leaders to uncover potential areas of concerns, it also affords an opportunity to grow loyalty and attachment to the team and organization.
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4. Allow Flexibility
"A remote work strategy should definitely include the possibility to choose where and when you work,” said Tytus Golas, Warsaw, Poland-based CEO of virtual customer service platform Tidio, which operates as a remote company.
Companies need to be adaptable so that employees with different lifestyles and preferences can be accommodated while maintaining office productivity. This ultimately leads to more efficiency and increased happiness.
5. Maintain Clear Policies
Through it all and despite the flexibility, organizations need to maintain clear and objective policies, from assigning tasks to communicating and reporting.
“People have to be aware of what they should do and in what situations; otherwise, remote work can get very messy," said Golas. "If the guidelines are clear and neat, you shouldn’t experience any problems."