The debate on remote working has been going on for many years. Some love it, some loath it, and many others just don’t understand it.
A recent survey by the CIPD showed that 58% of people believed that working away from the office would help them become more motivated, and 53% felt they would be more productive. (CIPD Flexible Working in 2017).
As someone who has worked in and managed remote teams for over 15 years I am in the ‘love it’ camp. There are huge benefits for both the individual and business – but on the flip side there are a few key issues that need to be recognised if remote working is to ‘Work’…..
The first is that remote working not suitable for everyone – so recruiting the right staff is key. Or indeed training your staff so they have the skills. Self motivation, time management and planning skills are just a few of the key essentials.
But they also need confidence in the job specific skills. Unlike in an office environment, you can’t just ask the person at the desk next to you if there is something you are unsure about. Open communication channels, a buddying system or online support tools will all help with this.
The second thing to think about is that remote workers can feel a bit ‘remote’ or isolated, so creating a strong, coherent team spirit is essential. As a leader you need to be accessible and ‘visible’ – in a very supportive way. Set up both formal and informal channels of communication so that you encourage a sense of belonging. Encourage staff to chat to each other – after all, they would do this in an office environment. Regular team meetings will also help – whilst many of these will be remote it is also essential to have regular face to face team events that staff see real benefit in.
And finally Trust. You can’t micro-manage remote teams. But if you get the above right you won’t need to. Accept that there are times when they will take the dog for a walk (but actually shouldn’t we be encouraging all our staff to take a break away from their desks. There is a huge amount of research to show that this will make them more productive when they return). And yes, they may put the washing in (but is this any different from your office staff going to the canteen or smoking shed?!).
There are definitely things you need to put in place to make remote teams effective – but if you get it right you will have a strong, loyal, productive team.
Over the years I have worked in and managed many remote teams. Without doubt, they have been some of the best teams I have worked in – both from a business and personal perspective.