Transitioning To Remote Working — It’s Not All About The Technology
Unfortunately a lot people will have developed a negative association with remote working by the end of this corona business seeing as it was an emergency transition which had many people not only untrained in remote working but also working from chaotic kindergarten offices as opposed to beautifully set up home offices. Regardless, as Gen Z enters the workforce flexible working will no longer be seen as as a ‘perk’ but rather a ‘requirement’ and organizations that don’t adapt to this style of work long term will without a doubt feel the pain in both talent acquisition and retention.
Making this transition is neither simple in practice nor culture. For established organizations to go from the traditional model of an office based 9–5 working environment to a fully output based, virtual working environment (especially overnight) requires a fundamental mindset shift in the way people are managed and the way work is done. The practical implementation of a remote working reality usually takes months and is something that companies can often fail to successfully achieve.
It’s (not) all about the tools
Unfortunately for many companies it’s the IT department that implements remote working because of the perception that technology is the most important factor in the transition to a virtual working environment. Although security and accessibility are crucial, setting up VPN’s and access portals doesn’t mean you are now ready for virtual working. So while the infrastructure is in place the people are lost, they haven’t the slightest clue how to manage their day all while their managers are trying to figure out how to micromanage them from afar. Now don’t get me wrong, technology is critical in enabling the transition (after all we’re build such technology), but the keyword to remember here is ‘enabling’. Technology is the ‘enabler’ and not the ‘solution’. A car can only get you from A to B if there is a driver behind it continuously navigating the roads, and it’s preferable the driver actually knows how to drive..
That said, people working alongside technology can be a powerful force of change as opposed to them existing and operating in isolation. The possibilities of virtual working continue to expand as new innovations are introduced to the market on an almost weekly basis. Hundreds of great tools exist and I’ve compiled a comprehensive list at the end of this article, however the focus of this discussion is how we can make the tools work for us all while prioritizing the human element of this transition. Creating a virtual workspace technically isn’t an incredible challenge, creating a culture of trust, autonomy and collaboration is. Creating a communication policy isn’t an incredible challenge, creating an environment of psychological safety and transparency is. The list goes on…
It’s all about the implementation
This is a critical factor to get right, just using a tool won’t automatically make it’s usage beneficial if not implemented right. Both from a process perspective and a cultural perspective. People need to know how to A; effectively use the tool and B; how to interact with others through the tool. For example, as easy as it is to start using Zoom, there are many features people may not know about and still not all workers are digitally savvy. Knowing how to actually run and participate in virtual meetings is also something that requires guidance. It’s astounding how the most basic etiquette of video conferencing is overlooked simply due to ignorance and it’s management’s job to educate people on things like Video Call Best Practice. I’ve seen very poor implementations of such a simple tool like Slack where managers are literally forcing people to give hourly updates and are expected to respond to messages immediately (see asynchronous-communication). Suddenly these tools are resented and become drainers of productivity instead of enablers. (I love Buffer’s Slack Agreements) You simply can’t operate the same way you do in an office environment as you do virtually and the first step in this transition is that mindsets shift, both of managers and workers.
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So to reiterate — technology can facilitate things like communication, collaboration, accountability, and even psychological safety — all vital components of a high-performing distributed team, but successful achievement of those factors relies largely on the people enablement part of implementation. Lastly, don’t be a hero try to do it all yourself. You can read hundreds of blog posts including this one about “how to make remote working work”, but no blog prepares you for the challenges of the actual transition. Make use of the world’s best (and very affordable) remote work consultants here — Remote Work Consultants. They’ve done it for hundreds of companies and have seen countless times what works and what doesn’t. They can help you right from the beginning and see through the practical implementation, ensuring you are set up for success and sustain a healthy and productive remote culture.
Pro Tip: Leverage the data
Whilst we’re talking about the intersection of technology+people. A byproduct of creating virtual workspaces (particularly for management) is the ability to analyze performance data across the organization due to the enormous amounts of ‘work data’ now being captured digitally. Existing initiatives related to people analytics like ONA (organizational network analysis) become more accurate and new opportunity for further analysis emerge. In short, transitioning to a virtual working environment can have a phenomenal positive impact on overall business agility and organizational effectiveness when done right. Good luck and be sure to check out more helpful resources on all things remote working from PremoteMe and GitLab. …
Tools for making the transition:
Communication: Slack / Flock / Yammer / Microsoft Teams Project Management: Basecamp / Monday.com / Asana / Trello / (Jira technical teams) Project Performance & Team Alignment: Perflo (Project-Based Teams / Product Teams) Collaboration: Google Docs / (Invision design) / Miro / Jamboard / Mural Video Conferencing: Zoom / Owllabs / Google Meet Performance Management / Engagement: 15five, Impraise, 7Geese Productivity: Focus@will (personalized focused music) / Rescue Time (for managing your own time, NOT to be forced on employees.) Cloud Storage: Google Drive / Dropbox / Box / Onedrive Security: Encrypt.me / Perimeter81 / ExpressVPN
https://www.notion.so/ — An all in one product combining many of the above. https://www.meetter.app/ — Automated meeting scheduler https://www.intheloop.io/ / https://frontapp.com/ — Shared email inbox https://www.sli.do/ — Run engaging all hands / town halls https://elin.ai/ — AI driven engagement measurement for Slack https://bunch.ai/ — AI leadership coach for remote leaders. https://www.loomio.org/ — Make better team decisions, faster. https://evernote.com/ — Notes / Ideas management / knowledge sharing. Airtable — Customized spreadsheets / workflows / CRM. https://www.donut.com/ — Foster culture and social engagement in remote teams