Implementing a remote-first approach can be a significant challenge for many organizations, especially those who are new to remote work or have traditionally operated in a traditional office environment. However, with the right approach, organizations can create a remote workforce that is productive, engaged, and successful. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the dos and don’ts of implementing a remote-first approach and look at some practical strategies for organizations to make the transition smoothly.
The Increasing Need for Remote Work
The growing popularity of remote work can be attributed to a number of factors, including the need for flexibility, advances in technology, and concerns regarding the cost of office space. surveys show that around 43% of employed Americans currently work remotely (at least some of the time), and the number is expected to continue rising.
At the same time, many organizations are finding that embracing remote work has resulted in a range of benefits, including improved employee satisfaction, reduced overhead costs, increased productivity, and a broader pool of talent. Many companies are now adopting hybrid models because it enables them to enjoy the benefits of remote working while also maintaining a physical presence in the office.
However, before implementing a remote-first approach, organizations need to ensure that they have the right plan and infrastructure in place. This means providing remote workers with the right tools, establishing clear communication protocols, and setting performance expectations. Let’s take a closer look at some of the dos and don’ts of implementing a remote-first approach.
Set Clear Expectations
The first step in implementing a successful remote-first approach is to set clear expectations for all employees from the beginning. Remote workers must understand what’s expected of them in terms of work hours, communication, deliverables, and any deadlines. It’s essential to document these expectations and provide them to your remote workforce in writing, so everyone is on the same page. You should also outline the tools and platforms you will use for communication and collaboration.
When setting expectations, it’s important to:
- Clearly define job responsibilities: outline what’s expected of each remote worker and the specific tasks they’ll be responsible for.
- Set performance expectations and goals: it’s essential to provide clear performance expectations and goals for remote workers to ensure they’re meeting or exceeding company standards.
- Establish a communication protocol: set clear requirements for how remote workers should communicate with team members and clients.
- Outline procedures and protocols for work accountability: establish policies, procedures, and protocols that align with your organizational objectives.
- Clearly state the company’s policies: this can include guidelines on cyber-security, acceptable use policies, and compliance requirements.
By setting clear expectations, remote workers will feel that they’re a vital part of the company, despite being physically distant. This can also help avoid confusion and misunderstandings, which can lead to delays or errors in work.
Prioritize Company Culture
Maintaining company culture can be a challenge when working remotely, which is why it’s important to prioritize it from the outset. Remote workers must feel connected to the organization and their colleagues, as it helps improve employee morale and job satisfaction.
To foster a sense of community:
- Set up team-building initiatives: For instance, you can have remote worker team building activities such as virtual coffee breaks or happy hours that encourage employees to interact with one another and get to know each other better.
- Foster company culture by celebrating company wins and milestones: Recognize your remote workers’ contributions to the organization and celebrate milestones together.
- Encourage collaboration and communication: Encourage regular communication to promote a sense of belonging and help remote workers feel more engaged in their work.
- Develop a sense of shared values and goals: A shared sense of purpose is critical to motivating remote workers and creating a shared understanding of organizational goals and objectives.
- Create opportunities for remote workers to connect: Establish regular video calls, such as weekly check-ins, to provide remote workers with the chance to ask questions, clarify tasks, and connect with teammates.
Creating a strong sense of team and belonging among remote workers can help reduce feelings of isolation and disconnection from the company’s culture.
Establish Effective Communication Channels
Effective communication is perhaps the most critical element when managing remote workers. Providing the right tools and platforms for communication and collaboration is vital for keeping remote workers engaged and connected. Remote workers who feel disconnected from their colleagues and the organization are more likely to experience burnout, disengagement or quit.
To promote effective communication:
- Establish communication protocols: Create a set of communication guidelines that outline when and how remote workers should reach out to colleagues or managers.
- Use the right tools for effective communication: Use communication channels such as video, audio chats, instant messaging, and project management tools. Consider offering multiple channels so remote workers can choose the one that best fits their communication style.
- Schedule regular team check-ins: Schedule weekly or daily check-ins to ensure everyone is onboard on projects or tasks.
- Facilitate asynchronous communication: Encourage remote workers to use asynchronous communication to share work-related information and to allow for flexible working hours. This promotes productivity and work-life balance.
- Schedule regular video calls: Especially for tasks that require coordination, regular video calls can help team members connect and ensure timely completion of work.
Effective communication is essential to building trust and relationships, ensuring everyone is aligned to the company’s goals, and fostering a sense of belonging among remote workers.
Create Structure and Routine
One of the challenges of remote work is blurring boundaries between work and personal life. To avoid burnout and ensure productivity, it’s essential to create a structured routine that provides regular schedules, breaks, and time off.
To create structure and routine:
- Establish a work schedule: Establish a specific schedule that outlines the remote workers’ availability, work hours, and rest times.
- Set specific work hours: It’s important to set specific working hours so remote workers can start and end work at set times consistently.
- Schedule breaks regularly: Encourage remote workers to take routine breaks regularly.
- Create a dedicated workspace for remote employees: Establish a dedicated workspace in their home, that is exclusively for work purposes, and that is free of distractions.
- Encourage maintainable work routines: Encourage remote workers to create consistent work routines that enable them to be productive without burning out.
Establishing a structured routine for remote work promotes productivity, provides a sense of boundaries, and encourages remote workers to take regular and scheduled time-off for rest and personal care.
Encourage Training and Development
As with employees working in the office, training and development opportunities are critical for the success of remote workers. Providing remote workers with training and support helps them develop new skills, remain engaged and feel invested in the company. It also helps to align their skills with organizational goals and objectives.
To encourage training and development:
- Focus on employee development: Provide remote workers with development opportunities that align with their personal interests and career growth.
- Provide training and development opportunities: Offer online courses, webinars, and other resources that remote workers can access from their homes.
- Encourage peer-to-peer learning: Encourage remote workers to share their knowledge and expertise with other team members. Peer learning provides an opportunity for remote workers to share their experience and expands their knowledge.
- Create learning communities: Provide opportunities for remote workers to learn together, collaborate, and share ideas.
- Provide employees with access to online courses that align with their career growth. This will ensure that they remain appropriate for their roles and remain with the latest trending changes in their industry.
Training and development opportunities help remote workers grow professionally, improve their job performance, employee satisfaction, and reduce turnover rates.
Support Work-Life Balance
Encouraging work-life balance is essential for maintaining employee productivity and well-being. Remote work environments can present unique challenges, as there are no physical boundaries between work and personal time.
To support work-life balance:
- Develop guidelines that encourage work-life balance: Create guidelines that promote work-life balance, such as flexible schedules, rest breaks, and emphasizing that remote workers should only respond to work-related messages during specific hours.
- Encourage physical activity during work hours: Encourage remote workers to take regular walk around or stand and stretch during work hours, as it promotes improved mental clarity, concentration and physical wellness.
- Offer ergonomic support: Provide your remote employees with supportive ergonomic chairs or provide a stipend that enables them to invest in safe and supporting office furniture.
- Encourage and support remote workers to unplug after work hours: Encourage employees to shut down work-related activities after work hours to help them downtime for personal activities.
When remote workers feel supported by their employers in having a healthy work-life balance, they are more likely to be productive, satisfied, and engaged in their work.
Remote work environments require hard work and unique cybersecurity guidelines to maintain the security of the company’s sensitive data. Remote workers may access the organization’s data from their devices or networks that may be insecure, putting the company at risk of a security breach.
To prioritize cybersecurity:
- Develop a robust security policy: Enact a comprehensive security policy that outlines the cybersecurity best practices remote workers must follow while working from home.
- Use secure tools and platforms: Use secure communication and storage tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs) with end-to-end encryption, password managers, and cloud-based storage.
- Encourage safe browsing standards: Educate remote workers on safe browsing practices, avoiding phishing scams, and avoiding suspicious links and downloads.
- Train employees on spotting cybersecurity threats and avoiding them: Consistently educate your employees on the most up-to-date cybersecurity warnings and how to avoid them.
Prioritizing cybersecurity is critical to protecting company data and ensuring that remote workers adhere to cybersecurity guidelines.
One common mistake when implementing a remote-first approach is micromanaging employees. It would help if you trusted your staff, believing in their abilities, and focusing on results rather than overseeing the process. This approach fosters a sense of autonomy, and remote workers are more likely to feel trust the employer and remain productive.
To avoid micromanaging, follow these strategies:
- Determine key performance indicators: Establish the metrics you’ll use to measure remote worker performance and focus on the results they’ve achieved.
- Focus on results rather than process: Focus more on the goals of the project, rather than the individual steps that make up the process.
- Delegate responsibility and establish trust among the team: Set clear lines of responsibility and trust team members to carry out tasks on their own without direct supervision.
- Ensure availability of resources to support the team when needed: Ensure they have the necessary resources, such as equipment or technical support, to complete their tasks.
- Provide feedback and incentives: Provide feedback that clarifies the company’s expectations and individual feedback about employee performance. Recognize remote workers’ accomplishments to boost employee morale.
Avoiding micromanagement and adopting a result-driven approach can boost employee trust and productivity, promoting better job performance and well-being.
Don’t forget about team-building
Building strong bonds amongst team members is essential to achieve a solid team that operates efficiently towards organizational goals. Remote workers need a sense of belonging and connection to the team as much as in-office workers. This is particularly important to ensure they don’t feel left behind when in-office colleagues make collaborations and friendships.
To avoid forgetting about team-building:
- Schedule fun group activities: Establish regular team-building activities that remote workers can participate in, such as virtual happy hours, trivia games, and other team activities.
- Encourage creative expressions such as storytelling, music or art: Provide opportunities for remote workers to engage in creative activities that promote team building, such as storytelling, music, or art.
- Celebrate milestone achievements: Celebrate remote workers’ milestones and accomplishments.
- Encourage interactive virtual team activities: Provide opportunities for remote workers to engage in activities that foster teamwork and collaboration, such as virtual group projects.
Creating a culture of team-building promotes a collaborative and positive work environment, reduces burnout, and fosters exceptional employee morale.
Don’t prioritize quantity over the quality of communication
When remote working, there’s a requirement to communicate more often than usual to support effective collaboration and manage tasks. However, although communication quantity is essential, quality is far more critical. Over-communicating can lead to burnout among your remote workforce, and every message communication should aim to provide value and insights into relevant issues.
To prioritize quality communication:
- Create clear communication guidelines: Develop clear guidelines for how and when remote workers should communicate with each other effectively.
- Prioritize high-quality communication: A focus on quality communication will ensure that every message shared provides insights and relevant information.
- Encourage brief and concise coordination: Encourage your remote workers to utilize productive communication methods like brief, concise messages that yield better results.
- Be clear and intentional about communication: Insist that communication should be clear and intentional to promote efficient task delivery.
Prioritizing quality communication allows remote workers to make the most of their time and encourages them to feel less stressed and more productive.
Don’t forget the importance of learning and development opportunities
Organizations that plan to drive meaningful results must provide employees with sufficient learning and development opportunities, and this commitment extends to remote workers. With remote workers, companies may have to make greater efforts to keep them engaged, motivated, and committed to the business objectives, as they work from a distance.
To avoid overlooking learning and development:
- Encourage remote workers to learn on their own: Provide unlimited access to online training resources or virtual courses.
- Offer social learning opportunities: Encourage remote workers to engage in social learning by participating in webinars, online discussions, and virtual team-building activities.
- Provide regular feedback and mentorship: Provide constructive feedback and mentorship to help remote workers grow professionally.
- Foster a culture of continuous learning: Encourage ongoing learning and development by setting goals and offering opportunities for training and development.
Providing remote workers with learning and development opportunities enables them to grow professionally and remain engaged in their work, which can contribute to the organization’s success.
Don’t overlook the importance of well-being
Remote work environments can create stressors that can be detrimental to employee well-being. Leaders need to acknowledge the unique stressors of remote work and provide support and resources to help remote workers manage stress levels and maintain their mental health.
To avoid overlooking employee well-being:
- Encourage self-care: Encourage remote workers to take care of their mental health and prioritize activities that help them relax, like exercise, mindful activities, or reading.
- Offer mental health support: Provide access to mental health resources, employee assistance programs, or other support services that can help support remote workers.
- Create a culture that prioritizes work-life balance: Encourage remote workers to prioritize their well-being by adopting a work-life balance culture, offering flexible work schedules or support personal and outside interests.
- Encourage communication and transparency: Encourage remote workers to communicate openly with colleagues and managers about stressors they are experiencing, which can help relieve some of the pressure.
Prioritizing employee well-being is essential to creating a positive, high-performing environment where employees feel supported, and their mental and physical health is a top priority for the organization.
Don’t forget to measure and track success
Measuring and tracking remote workers’ performance helps organizations understand how well their remote-first approach is working and make adjustments based on the data. Organizations must establish clear metrics that measure remote workers’ productivity, quality, and impact on the organization.
To avoid forgetting to measure and track success:
- Set clear expectations: Ensure remote workers understand the performance expectations and job responsibilities.
- Establish key performance indicators: Set clear metrics, such as completed tasks, time management, or customer satisfaction, to measure remote workers’ job performance.
- Provide regular feedback: Provide feedback to remote workers about their performance to help identify areas that require improvement.
- Analyze performance data: Regularly analyze this data to identify areas that require improvement or change and use the data to develop future strategies.
Tracking and measuring remote workers’ success can provide organizations with insights to identifying areas of strength and areas they need to build in their remote-first strategy for optimal performance.
Implementing a remote-first approach can provide organizations with several benefits that can positively impact employee performance, engagement, and the company’s bottom line. However, it takes preparation, strategy, and investment in the right resources and platforms to create a remote work environment conducive to success. The dos and don’ts of implementing a remote-first approach provide organizations with a roadmap to preparing and successfully implementing its remote work strategy. By prioritizing aspects like communication, culture-building, well-being, and growth opportunities, organizations can successfully transition to a remote-first work strategy while remaining profitable and achieving organizational objectives.