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How to help your team thrive in the age of remote work

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Author photo: Carrie Shaw

Carrie Shaw

Chief Marketing Officer

Ready or not, the remote work revolution is here.

Even before the panic caused by COVID-19, the number of staff members working remotely was on the rise. Around 70% of the workforce are ditching the morning commute and logging into the office from home at least one day per week.

Fortunately, many adaptable brands have been embracing this new work arrangement. Company benefits are quickly moving beyond ping-pong tables and happy hours, to include flexible schedules and home working opportunities. The result has been happier employees, more loyal to their employers thanks to increased flexibility.

But we haven’t all been able to move to a remote landscape as quickly as we’d like.

Unfortunately, our time to adapt has been cut short.

With a global epidemic shutting businesses down in every industry, business leaders are being forced to transition hundreds of employees practically overnight.

So, how do you make this migration, without compromising on productivity?

We’re here to help.

First, relax: Businesses can thrive remotely

The first thing you need to do is stay calm.

Even if you’re not prepared for remote work, it’s essential to know that businesses can thrive without an in-office team. The rise of cloud technology has seen to that.

You just need the right strategy in place.

GitLab is currently the world’s largest company working all-remote. The brand has team members located in more than 65 countries worldwide, and they all work hard to maintain a thriving culture from a distance. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a giant brand like GitLab to succeed either.

Any company - no matter how small - can tap into remote working. Chances are that your team is already using some of the same tools that remote working businesses use every day - like G-Suite for instance.

The key to this success is the right plan. Stanford studies have shown that employees who work from home 100% of the time are more productive, but they’re also more prone to loneliness and issues with low engagement.

This doesn’t mean that your staff needs to be back in their cubicles to perform at their best, but they do need business leaders to help them be as productive as possible.

Here’s how you can get started.

Step 1: Building the right toolkit

If you’ve ever tried to put a nail in your wall with a hardback instead of a hammer, then you’ll know how valuable the right tools can be. Think about the kind of things your employees are going to need to deliver their best work in these uncertain times.

Beyond a little empathy and regular cups of coffee, some common parts of the toolkit include:

  • Hardware: A lot of work can be done through the cloud these days, but there’s still a demand for specific pieces of hardware if your employees are going to thrive. Do your team members have the equipment they need for a reliable home office? We’re talking headphones for conference calls, a computer, a desk, and a comfy ergonomic chair where they can sit for long periods of time. Remember, working hunched over a dining table or on a sofa rarely leads to productive staff. 41% of workers already complain about neck pain because of their personal office design. Plus, let’s face it, it’s tough to ignore the TV or a barking pooch when you’re on the couch.
  • Software: The current work landscape is brimming with tools designed to make your remote team more effective. Anyone can use apps like Google Hangouts for instant messaging, or Google Drive for sharing documents. Your employees should have access to the same tools over the cloud that they had in their office. This includes CRM systems, task tracking tools, communication apps, and anything else you can think of. Reach out to your central team and ask them what kind of tools they like using most.
Copper CRM for Gsuite helps you manage your business from anywhere
  • Security: Just because your employee isn’t working from the office doesn’t mean that they can compromise on security. Policies for protection still need to be considered. Two-factor authentication and reliable VPN systems need to be available. Encryption and SAML-based SSO should be a component of all your software. What’s more, you’ll need the ability to remotely provision and support employees from a distance too. Even small companies want to make sure that their team members are properly set up with all the right equipment.

Ideally, you’ll have started to transition your team onto cloud-friendly technology already. Maybe you’re using things like Google Drive to store cloud docs, or you log into Hangouts for a weekly sync-ups. If you haven’t made the move to the cloud yet, ensure that the right training options are also included with your toolkit.

Videos, webinars, and even conference calls where you can talk your team through how to use certain applications are all crucial. You could even use screen sharing to highlight some tech step by step. Remember, some of your team members are going to need a bit more guidance. Not everyone in your team is going to be a tech wiz.

Step 2: Embrace communication

People often talk about the benefits and freedom that come with working remotely.

We all imagine working in our PJs, sipping tea from our favorite mugs, and enjoying endless breaks. The reality is a bit a bit more complicated.

One study found that two-thirds of employees that work remotely often are disengaged and disconnected from their team. Communication is essential to remote team productivity.

The secret to getting communication right in your remote workplace, is remembering that there’s more to conversations between employees than regular emails or phone calls. Leaders need to take advantage of opportunities to recreate informal collisions and meetings within a virtual landscape.

For instance, collaboration tools like Google Hangouts allow coworkers to touch base with each other quickly, without the formality issues of emails. You can use presence features to see if someone’s online and send a message in seconds. This helps employees feel as though they’re part of a continuous conversation, even when outside of the office.

Video conferencing also helps to keep your employees connected on a deeper level during conversations and meetings. Employees can share screens to access extra context and enjoy the many benefits of face-to-face interactions.

Most of us actually like seeing our coworkers.

With video, it’s much easier for employees to immerse themselves in conversations with their colleagues, thanks to nuances like facial expression and body language. Plus, actually seeing your team members helps to foster a more intimate relationship.

Step 3: Set expectations with your team

Working from home isn’t just a change of scenery, it’s a total change of pace.

Implementing a new method of work for your team members means knowing how to keep everyone on the same page. Your staff should know exactly what’s expected of them when it comes to things like responding to messages and emails or being available at certain times of day for meetings.

Since remote employees thrive on a certain level of trust, it’s important not to go over the top with things like micromanaging. There’s a difference between making sure that your employees know what needs to be done, and when deadlines have been set, and constantly checking up on them.

Consider working together with your employees to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals that you can both agree to. Once you’re both on the same page, you can use your remote working software to implement things like “projects” and tasks with deadlines.

On Copper CRM, business leaders can create projects that include individual steps for their employees to follow and check off one at a time. This gives business leaders the ability to keep track of where their team members are in the productivity cycle, without harming the motivation or morale of their staff.

Setting expectations and actionable goals allow both team members and their leaders to track progress, follow through on deadlines, and know where they stand, without feeling overwhelmed.

Oh, and remember, a little bit of confirmation goes a long way. Remind your employees how much you appreciate their hard work with regular rewards - even if it’s just a thumbs-up emoji.

Step 4: Take advantage of your CRM software

We love our tools in today’s tech-savvy landscape.

Specialist software for modern businesses, like customer relationship management tools, are one of the things making it easier for companies to stay productive in a remote environment. With solutions like Copper CRM, you don’t need to be in the same place as the rest of your team to keep everyone on the same page.

Entire teams can work together on opportunities, moving potential prospects from “Qualified” leads through to pre-sales and post-sale support.

Your employees can stay just as productive with new lead opportunities, capturing, nurturing, and converting leads from within their existing Google environment. Managers can even implement extra steps for keeping their remote workers engaged, such as:

  • Leaderboards: Which encourages friendly competition between the top performers in your new remote team.
  • Goal tracking tools: That allow individuals and teams to examine how close they are to reaching their goals and even celebrate when milestones are met.
  • Task management: With opportunities to track and manage calls, meetings, emails, and follow-ups with automatic reminders that keep employees organized.

Users in CRM can even @Mention their coworkers when they need help making the most of a deal or want some extra guidance from a distance.

What’s more, because everything works natively with G-Suite, employees have the benefit of being able to use the tools that they’re already familiar with at home, like Google Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Gmail. When we’re all in a state of panic, it’s nice to know that we don’t need to learn how to use a brand-new selection of tools.

Step 5: Help employees maintain a routine

Routine - you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.

For a standard office worker suddenly thrown into the deep end with remote work, there are few things more distressing than a loss of routine. We go from having things to do from the moment that we walk into the office, to wondering when or if we should bother changing out of our PJs.

Business leaders can help their employees to avoid the culture shock of switching to remote work experience by giving them guidance on how to maintain a healthy routine. For instance, you might suggest:

  • Getting up at the same time each morning
  • Getting ready for work in your usual work attire. (You never know when you might need to appear as part of a video conference)
  • Making sure that you’re ready for a specific meeting or standup call at the same time each day.
  • Implementing breaks into your schedule. (Yes, you’re still allowed to take time out for lunch!)
  • Finishing work at the same time each day.

It might sound unnecessary but creating a ritual for work each day can make it easier for employees to get into the mindset of being at the office, even when they’re working at home.

Depending on the way that your team works, you might even allow your employees to request things like “schedule changes” when they’re at home so that they can arrange their time to suit them, without compromising on meeting deadlines. This kind of structure stops people who aren’t used to remote work from being caught out by things like procrastination.

Most importantly, it will also help your employees to avoid overworking themselves. While some employees in a remote team can struggle to determine when to start work, others struggle with knowing when to stop.

Now more than ever, it’s essential for business leaders to encourage self-care. Team members need to tune in with their energy levels, take breaks, and separate their home and work life. Sure, getting that project handed in on time is important - but having a nice home-cooked lunch is crucial too.

Balance is key.

Ready or not: Remote work is here

Whether you’ve been preparing for remote work for a while, or you’re entirely caught off-guard by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s time to take the plunge. But you’re not alone!

The good news is that if we can all band together, there’s a chance that many businesses will come out of this whole experience stronger, more informed, and more capable of working remotely. It’s up to leaders to lead the charge into a somewhat scary and unpredictable new world.

With proper planning, the tips above will help you to keep your team on track in the remote era, and you can also tap into Copper to ensure that your customer experience is just as good as the experience your employees get.

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