Remote work is no longer a theoretical concept. The COVID-19 pandemic made it a reality. Now remote work is likely going to continue to be a popular option for the foreseeable future, even with the availability of vaccines.
What was initially entered into as a necessity during a crisis has now shifted into something potentially permanent, with real business benefits and some challenges.
Being aware of those challenges and creating strategies to deal with them is the best thing to do to facilitate remote work successfully.
With that in mind, the following are some things to keep in mind to overcome common remote work barriers.
Issues in communication can occur on two ends of the spectrum. First, you might not have enough virtual team communication. This can lead to people feeling out of the loop, disconnected and it can impair productivity and engagement.
What can also happen is that you’re overcommunicating. Too much communication also hampers productivity.
You have to find that sweet spot for your team, where you’re communicating enough for them to stay connected and to collaborate with one another, but not so much so that they’re feeling frustrated with the amount of time they have to spend responding to emails and participating in virtual meetings.
The big takeaway here is that it is possible to overcommunicate, and it frequently happens. We tend to be more overtly aware of the barrier of under-communicating.
Be present when you’re communicating. Ensure that you are looking at each form of communication with your team as something valuable and rewarding. Don’t divide your attention because this is likely to contribute to too much communication.
Have Clear Guidelines.
In March 2020, the pandemic was new and for a lot of small businesses, so was the idea of everyone working remotely. That’s no longer the case.
If you don’t already have specific remote work guidelines, you need to create them, write them down and make sure your team is well-versed on them. This reduces confusion, manages expectations, and improves everyone’s satisfaction.
For example, have consistent tools and programs that everyone on the team is using. Have work hours and set windows of availability that you expect.
Keep everyone aware of what’s happening with projects, and put in place your expectations for how and when responses should be delivered.
If you use task management software, it’s an excellent supplement to your guidelines because you can keep track of who’s doing what, and your team will feel less confused and more in the loop.
Promote Work-Life Balance.
A big issue that employers have seen since the switch to remote work is that some employees don’t know when to turn off. That can lead to burnout and diminishing productivity, even though it might seem like it would be the opposite.
It’s your goal, as a good leader, to help facilitate work-life balance.
With that in mind, you should tell your employees what your expectations are.
Set office hours just like you would in an in-person environment, and make it clear that just because they’re working from home doesn’t mean you expect them to be available nonstop.
Consider Passive Knowledge Sharing.
We often don’t realize the role of casual conversations in the workplace and passive knowledge sharing. When you’re sharing during these informal conversations, it often does play a beneficial role in productivity and the overall success of employees. It’s not present in a remote work environment.
What you can do is promote the idea of casual conversations, even though they might happen in a different format.
For example, build a culture where you have the occasional virtual gathering or your employees chat back and forth on instant messaging platforms. Unstructured conversations are important for innovation and they also help everyone stay connected in a more meaningful way, even without a shared space.
Keeping Your Team Motivated.
Finally, another significant roadblock for remote work is how you can keep your team genuinely engaged and motivated. Even if their productivity seems to be on track, they might not be as creative or innovative as they could be when motivation starts to wane.
Recognition is a good motivator. Find opportunities to continue to publicly and privately recognize the good work of your team.
You also want your remote employees to know that you value them, and you want to see them succeed and progress in the company. Don’t forget about training and development opportunities just because your employees are at home.