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Your Workforce Has Gone Remote: Now What?

May 07, 2020 Leadership
Gunther Rothermel
By Gunther Rothermel

Working remotely is no longer “somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away.” It has arrived — and in a very big way. While just a few weeks ago many companies could have never imagined their employees sharing every interaction, from brainstorms to conference calls, over a screen, it has become the new norm. For myself, I’ve become accustomed over the last 22 or so years to working digitally with colleagues across the world. This way of working is now a new reality that all businesses have quickly had to shift into — even if the majority of workers reside in the same city.

For some, it’s easier said than done. As businesses continue to adjust, let’s examine how they can keep productivity and morale high — without in-person interactions — with the following tips.

1. Practice Effective Communication, Not Always-On Communication

During any time of change, it’s important to make sure leaders are staying connected with their employees.

Regularly Check-In With Your Staff

Especially in companies with a remote workforce, employees want to make sure they are performing well and are not forgotten. Without coworkers and managers directly in sight, this is more top-of-mind for employees than ever before. Thus, it’s up to leaders to help put employees at ease by promoting regular communication.

Making sure people know your door — or in this case — video chat, phone call, text message — is always open, goes a long way. Be sure to utilize video calls to check in face-to-face and get a sense of non-verbal cues. Discuss current projects, questions and how they are feeling about their performance. Taking the time to dive deeper into complex projects “live” shows employees you care and goes beyond digital messaging that cannot always address the intricacies of a face-to-face conversation. 

Balance Interactions: Avoid Over-Communicating

While communication is key in times of remote work, finding a balance is critical — for both your own benefit and the benefit of your employees. Times of change can make people feel like everything is urgent or should be communicated to keep people involved and informed. However, this leads to the danger of collaboration overload.

Employees should give one another time to breath, process and respond. Remember that “open door” policy? It’s important to be available, but this doesn’t mean 24/7. Use messaging platforms to let your direct reports know when you’re going heads down and, above all, maintain a reassuring presence that even though we’re experiencing a heightened sense of urgency, not everything is actually urgent. No one has all the answers right now, but you can help put them at ease and ensure they’re feeling good about their current work and what’s next.

Related Article: 5 Cultural Remote Workforce Challenges Every Business Must Address

2. Workplace Collaboration & Engagement

As a leader, become a master of collaboration and find new, unique ways to keep everyone informed and involved. For instance, make use of cloud-based collaboration platforms for employees to work together on projects and converse.

Mix in the Personal With the Professional

It’s your role to keep comradery high as an organization’s leader. In an office setting, everyone can see and hear in real time what everyone is working on and know they are part of a common goal. When everyone is dispersed, it’s almost impossible to understand how the business as a whole (beyond your personal bubble) is doing. Use group discussions, virtual events and team meetings to combat this.

However, don’t forget the personal side of work. Working remotely, everyone in your company loses out on “water cooler conversations.” Encourage your staff to set aside a few minutes before meetings to catch up on the latest in their lives — and also do this yourself. Teams work stronger when working together and this type of personal connection will go far — even over online networks.

Related Article: How Leaders Can Foster Good Mental Health for Those Working From Home

3. Define Clear Goals and Milestones

Having a united mission helps businesses remain on a clear path. Even in an untraditional office format, remind employees of the goals your business is measured by and be open and reflective on the challenges that make it difficult to achieve them in this climate.

If your company’s goals have changed, which they likely have, give an overview of what’s different. What should employees keep working toward and what types of activities should be put on pause? Since success is not a one-way road, sometimes you may need to go down another path to achieve what can often be an even stronger result. Help your team get through by being flexible to change.

Maintain transparency

At the end of the day, leaders should always maintain strong top-down communications, but also be realistic. Everyone from the CEO to interns deserve transparency with relevant insight and information. Leadership should provide a sense of assurance, but avoid being overly confident, which can easily come across as being unbelievable or out of touch with the current market.

Remember, engagement is a two-way street. If you only broadcast and don’t allow for anything on the receiving end, employees don’t have anywhere to go with questions. Ultimately, no one wants, or likes, to be left in their dark. Just as employees feel it is important that their work is noticed, acknowledged and appreciated, leaders should frequently provide updates on their work at the top, and what they are doing to drive organizational success.

Related Article: We May Never Go Back to Work as We Know It (and That's OK)

Embracing a New Normal

At the start of the year, many enterprises would have never imagined their workforce being scattered around the country (and maybe even world). However, remote work has become the new normal for the foreseeable future. In turn, achieving business success during these times of change means maintaining transparency, strategic communication and positivity. This will, in turn, trickle down throughout all levels of the organization.

About the Author

Gunther Rothermel is president SAP Cloud Platform. Gunther was a key influencer in defining and delivering the integration and orchestration portfolio of SAP, including cloud services like SAP Cloud Platform Integration.

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