How to Implement Remote Working Effectively
A post we published last month highlighted the benefits of home working for the employer and employee, but at the time of writing it was not expected that so many companies would suddenly be driven down this route so quickly!
We're used to remote working at PowerPlanner, and so the government guidelines have fortunately not caused the same headaches for us as they have for so many others. We're still as productive as ever, with costs under control and consistently fast turnaround times for reports.
I have sympathy for those not used to large-scale remote working though, for change is difficult, even at the best of times. I'm also aware that, while our last post highlighted many of the key benefits of allowing staff to work from home, it didn't actually say much about how best to implement it in your company.
As such, allow me to present 5 tips that have helped us to implement a successful remote working strategy:
- Don't simply resort to emails - This can feel like the easy and most obvious thing to do, but it quickly gets messy and confusing. What seems like a simple question to a couple of colleagues can often degenerate into a long discussion with several others copied in and multiple mail trails. Nobody likes drowning in emails and the good news is that working from home doesn't mean this is inevitable.
- Use collaboration tools - There are some fantastic messaging and conferencing tools out there at the moment which offer a much more compelling alternative to emails. We use Slack for daily discussions and Whereby for video conferences or screen sharing. Both are simple to use and require no installation!
- Ensure visibility of work in progress - One thing that's particularly hard to retain when staff are no longer co-located is the overall view of the task or project in hand. When people are isolated you can lose track of what work's been completed, who's doing what task and what's left to pick up next. Trello is a marvellous collaborative task management tool based on agile software engineering methodologies, which solves this problem by dividing tasks into lists of cards that you can move around and assign to people. This gives everyone an up-to-date, holistic view of the work in progress at any time.
- Use secure file sharing systems - Again, email attachments can be tempting to use as a file sharing solution, but I'd strongly discourage this because more secure alternatives are available. Granted, most firms can't just set up a VPN infrastructure overnight, but there are file sharing solutions built into Office 365's OneDrive that you can activate or third party solutions like Dropbox instead.
- Don't be afraid to pick up the phone - Technology, as great as it is these days, still can't always deliver a message as effectively as a proper conversation. Tone of voice is powerful, and can often be the difference between a positive or a negative outcome when it comes to work's more sensitive topics, such as discussing feedback or constructive criticism. Given that some people aren't confident appearing on webcam, a phone call may be the best way to get results and maintain good spirits.
It's worth noting that all of the tools mentioned above are completely free to use. You'll just need to sign up and, in most cases, spend a little bit of time setting up things the way you want them, but that won't even take half an hour. I understand why some people are hesitant to adopt things like this as it can seem like a lot of new stuff to learn in a short space of time, but they're all no-obligation and you can always deactivate your account if it's not for you. There really is nothing to lose by giving these things a try.
These are just ideas, of course, and you certainly don't need to do all of the above to see improvements in your remote working teams. Why not explore a few of them and see how it goes?