How to repair and improve a remote work environment.
A post-pandemic world is on the horizon, however, working remotely may be here to stay. Many companies have opted to remain in a remote workplace or evolve the traditional office into a modern hybrid model. Before moving forward, leaders need to reevaluate processes in order to improve remote team alignment. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, only 7 percent of US employees had access to a “flexible workplace” according to a report by the Pew Center of Research. Companies were catapulted into swiftly accommodating remote employees in order to abide by stay-at-home orders.
A dip in productivity has always been a top concern for companies in regard to remote work. However, many employees have embraced the changes. In fact, 65 percent of employees wanted to stay fully remote after the pandemic, while 31 percent preferred a hybrid work arrangement according to a survey conducted by Flexjobs. In that same survey, 51 percent of respondents indicated that they have been more productive working from home during COVID-19.
But what about the other 49 percent? How can companies improve remote team alignment that will bolster employee engagement and overall productivity without being in an office? With a lack of office distractions and politics, is it truly possible for employees to become even more productive? To answer these questions, you must start with your current company processes and analyze how they support or hinder an effective remote workforce.
Make the following five changes to your company processes to overcome common management techniques and attitudes, and you will steer your organization toward a highly efficient, creative, and successful remote work environment.
1. No Unnecessary Meetings
To compensate for the lack of team proximity, many leaders rely on meetings as a method to keep employees engaged. But filling up employee calendars with multiple meetings a week can have the opposite effect. Zoom fatigue is real. Excessive and unstructured meetings can cultivate more chaos than calm, suffocating productivity. Meetings must have a clear objective. One of our mantras at Voltage Control is “No purpose. No meeting.” Teams need to work together to obtain a tangible goal. As soon as the purpose of a meeting is clear, you can create an agenda equipped with the necessary structure to achieve it.
Status updates or announcements may be better shared through asynchronous communication (such as Slack) or team huddles. Huddles offer teams a space to present challenges and seek input from their colleagues. But this is not a free-for-all discussion. Instead, these huddles should include special project updates or notable undertakings. This ensures that projects move forward and team members are supported throughout challenges. If it’s your first time building meeting systems for remote teams, you may feel overwhelmed. Consider turning toward outside resources like our Magical Meetings course for expert guidance and support.
2. Check In On Your Team
We need more empathy now more than ever, especially in the workplace. It’s easy to hide frustrations and personal struggles when shielded by a computer. Without regular watercooler run-ins, personal interactions can quickly dissolve within remote teams. These exchanges are still needed to grow and click as a collective unit.
Don’t just assume everyone is okay. Make it a point to reach out and check in on the team’s personal well-being. Offer space for everyone to share and bond. If possible, add elements to simulate an in-office experience. For example, the team can listen to a shared radio station such as JBQX while they work together, apart. Create various channels of communication that encourage your team to remain virtually social. This could be a “water cooler” channel on Slack that allows for team members to share non-work-related topics. From their favorite binge-worthy shows to photos of their four-legged assistants, sharing personal moments will help keep everyone connected.
3. Update Meeting Systems and Tools
The extreme shift in workplace structure due to the pandemic caused many organizations to quickly move in-office processes virtually. Many companies were ill-prepared to set up remote work environments that were both collaborative and effective. Now that fully remote or hybrid workplaces are becoming permanent for many organizations, leaders need to reevaluate their current processes.
Well-designed meeting systems need to be addressed and thoughtfully curated to align with a virtual setting.
A key component to meetings that need to be updated is the technology and tools incorporated into meeting systems. Video should be used during virtual meetings because it builds connection, boosts communication, and breeds comradery. However, not every team member is enthused by the idea of turning on their video for every meeting. Encourage the utilization of virtual backgrounds or Snap Camera to make the experience more fun and engaging for everyone. Another tool that continues to evolve is OBS for video recordings and live streams. Incorporating these new technologies to support remote workplaces will allow for a more collaborative and cohesive team.
4. Eliminate Siloed Work
Transparency is key to improve remote team alignment and creates a culture of trust. To curate a transparent work environment virtually, lean into sharing projects and assignments with other team members and even departments. Use a tool like Google Drive or similar collaborative cloud-based applications to keep work visible and also break down virtual silos that hinder communication. This isn’t a tactic to encourage micro-managing. Instead, it allows for everyone to be informed on one another’s projects and builds a united front. By discussing and addressing challenges, individuals are more likely to take initiative in finding a resolution together.
Transparency also lends itself towards a more organized workflow. It’s critical to ensure that all team members are on the same page when you’re not in the same office space. Communication is most effective when team members can work in sync with one another. Shared project management tools like Trello, Basecamp, and Process Sheet help to keep everyone on track and provides clarity on tasks.
5. Avoid echo chambers
It’s easy for leaders to get stuck in their echo chamber, especially in a remote workplace. To break out of their own biases and to cultivate a more inclusive work culture, leaders need to collect feedback from the team. Requesting feedback allows you to make necessary adjustments to your virtual workflow and meetings. After gathering feedback, you must develop a plan to address issues and realign the team with new strategies. When your team feels safe to share their sentiment, it will foster remote team alignment and fuel synergy.
Another way to break out of your echo chamber is to seek outside support. Ask for input from other leaders in your organization regarding your processes. To navigate through complicated processes, consider collaborating with design-thinking facilitators. They provide third-party perspectives that can identify gaps in your meeting systems and explore new communication methods.
Need help improving remote team alignment?
We can assist you! We have several services and resources to help you get the most out of your team. Let us lead you through our specialized Team Alignment Process or inquire about our other consulting services so we can best serve your needs. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.