The COVID-19 outbreak is changing the way that America works. Even companies that had never had a work-from-home policy are now going fully remote. And companies with flexible work policies are having to expand those policies dramatically. Whether you have always allowed some remote work or you are new to this way of work, odds are that you are having to reinvent just about every aspect of your operations.
And with the virus taking a heavy toll on growing businesses, the stakes have never been higher to get remote work right.
That’s why Launchways gathered a panel of experts to help growing businesses transition to remote working effectively. Our panelists drew upon their experience to outline clear best-practices that any business can implement to help their company run more smoothly in the era of COVID-19 quarantines and fully remote work. If you missed the original webinar, you can still stream it on demand. The hour-long webinar covered important topics that included:
- How and why companies should put together remote work agreements
- General best practices and pitfalls of remote workforce management
- Why communication is more important now than ever and how to get it right
- How to support your managers in their new role managing a remote team
- How to interview and onboard new hires remotely
- How to maintain your company culture while remote
Our panelists shared best-practices and pitfalls in setting up and managing a remote workforce. They started by stressing the importance of updating company policies to help remote work run smoothly from the get-go. That includes both creating an explicit remote-work agreement with each remote employee and the key considerations in creating remote work practices, including:
- Expectations for work hours, communication, availability, and overtime
- Approved and required channels of communication and work
- Workflow and accountability systems
Throughout the webinar, the message from all five panelists was clear. In every aspect of remote management, employers need to:
- Set clear expectations in advance and establish accountability for those expectations
- Communicate clearly, explicitly, and more proactively than ever before
- Prioritize employee engagement and connection
Since so much relies on effective communication when teams are working remotely, the panelists addressed how to set up the proper communication channels and routines before exploring the specifics of managing a remote team.
Communicating for Effective Remote Work
Perhaps the biggest risk when transitioning to remote work is how easy it is to lose track of projects, employees, and team progress. Without the routines and casual connections of the workplace, it’s very easy for teams and productivity to stagnate and for damaging miscommunications to arise. When working remotely, it’s more difficult to get a read on how things are going in general.
Our panelists especially stressed the risks of allowing gaps in communication that employees will naturally fill. For example, if an employee is not getting feedback and input on their progress while working from home, they are very likely to interpret it one of two ways: either that the project is not very important and their work is simply adequate or conversely, that they are underperforming. Either scenario will result in reduced productivity and morale.
In addition to exploring the communication risks inherent to remote work, our panelists laid out easy best practices to minimize those risks and maximizing productivity and collaboration, including:
- Prioritizing synchronous communication such as phone calls and video meetings over asynchronous communication including emails and texts which carry a higher risk of miscommunication
- Implementing and utilizing an integrated chat system such as Slack or Microsoft Teams
- Using project management software to maintain and track workflows
- Establishing a consistent meeting cadence including team-wide and one-on-one meetings
- Always being proactive rather than reactive in your communications strategy
Other Top Topics for Remote Work
After addressing overall remote work strategy and effective communications, our panelists explored several common areas of concern when transitioning to remote work. The first of these was how to properly support front-line managers during the COVID-19 crisis. Employers face the difficult task of creating business and workforce strategies that will get their companies through the current crisis. It can be easy to forget that your managers face equally daunting and uncharted territory navigating their teams through the outbreak and the transition to remote work. They can easily become lost, which can be crippling to team morale and productivity. Leadership needs to work as closely as possible with managers to create a cohesive approach to remote work, provide necessary resources and feedback, and simply let them know that they aren’t going through this alone.
Next, the panel tackled the topic of interviewing and onboarding new hires in the era of remote work and quarantine. While some businesses have frozen hiring, others are continuing to grow and hire. But fully-remote hiring and onboarding isn’t something that most managers have vast experience with. For both processes, our panelists emphasized the importance of replicating the in-person experience as closely as possible. That means being truly present in video interviews and making “eye-contact” with the camera. More importantly, it means being as personal and hands-on during onboarding as possible. Get the paperwork and IT setup out of the way in advance as much as possible and focus on integrating new hires into the company culture and their teams by creating interpersonal connections within the digital realm. Set up one-on-one and group meetings with key stakeholders, including more casual hangouts and virtual lunches or happy hours to help new teammates integrate.
Finally, the panel explored how to keep your team connected and engaged while working remotely. Largely, this means fostering the social connections that make a workplace alive by creating spaces for people to interact digitally. Schedule digital coffee breaks, all-team lunches, happy hours, and team activities. Many employers are also encouraging interaction by calling on employees to share pictures of their home offices, pets, culinary creations, and more. The panel also explored the importance of deliberate and compassionate leadership during this difficult time and providing actionable strategies for leaders to craft their management approach during COVID-19.
Stream the Full Webinar Today
We have barely scratched the surface of all the insights our panel shared on the complete 60-minute webinar. Luckily, we recorded the webinar for you to stream on-demand. Stream the complete webinar now.