Recently, many companies and entrepreneurs have made the switch to working remotely while offices were shut down. But working remotely isn’t as simple as moving your laptop to your home office. In today’s blog post, we’ll explore how working remotely with virtual teams can enhance your productivity – or diminish it. It all depends on how you approach remote work and build your remote teams.
The Truth About Working Remotely
Working from home full-time can sound like a relaxing and productive dream – no long daily commute, a fully-stocked kitchen in the next room, the ability to wear sweatpants to your meetings. And it’s true! These are some of the best benefits of working from home.
But the move from a traditional office to a home office can have many downsides as well if you’re not thoughtful about making the transition.
A Different Set of Distractions
Traditional offices have their fair share of distractions. Your team members chatting to you in between meetings, your boss poking around the corner of your cubicle with a question just as you focus on a critical task, and more – they’re a fact of life.
But home has its own distractions as well. If your children are home with you because of school closures, that’s a big distraction you don’t face at the office. Chores like putting in a load of laundry or unloading the dishwasher can seem productive, but distract you from key work tasks. And social media is even more accessible – and distracting.
No Face-to-Face Contact
Much office knowledge is passed through casual or informal conversations – as you pass a colleague in the hallway or take the elevator down to the cafeteria at lunch. Without the office setting, your team will miss all these quick check-ins and chances to ask questions.
Less Work/Life Balance
When your only commute is from your kitchen to your living room, your workday can expand to take up even more time. You don’t have the natural boundaries of in-office and out-of-office time to provide a separation – you need to do it yourself. Or you may find yourself answering emails from the couch where you’ve spent the day working into the wee hours of the night. That’s a recipe for quick burnout.
Missing the Right Tools
The office environment is set up specifically with work productivity in mind. But your home probably isn’t. If you already had a remote job or worked from home some of the time, you might have a decent home office set up already. But if your home lacks a dedicated room or fast internet, you might struggle at first to take conference calls in a quiet space or download large files.
If you’re struggling to look professional in your online meetings, check out our tips for looking great in Zoom meetings.
Building a Successful Environment for Your Virtual Teams
Working from home does have a few real downsides. Yet if you are mindful about building your virtual team and setting them (and you) up for success in the remote work environment, you will see some major benefits.
With no commute and the freedom to work in the way they’re most comfortable, asking your employees to work from home can actually increase their productivity. Distractions still exist but with a consistent schedule and thoughtful set up, they are usually decreased. And their comfort is increased, making total focus possible. If it’s possible in your business, remote work may allow them to work more flexible hours when they’re most productive.
Employees who are trusted to work in the way that works best for them feel more autonomy, which increases their job satisfaction. Especially during stressful life-changing events, letting employees work in the way that suits them best is a benefit that makes them happier. And happy employees are productive and loyal ones.
More Flexible Workforce
If the power goes out in your office building when all your employees are there, no work can get done for the whole company. That’s hugely disruptive. But if your employees are used to working from home, scattered around the city or the country or the world, most of them can continue working even if some of them are temporarily down or offline. This makes your business more resilient in times of crisis.
Three Tips for Teams Working Remotely
Now that you know the pitfalls to avoid and the benefits of having remote workers, there are a few ways you can make your virtual teams productive and engaged. It’s a little different than when you have people working you’re in the traditional office environment. But the payoff is worth the effort.
1. Get Out of the House
During the height of the coronavirus epidemic, this wasn’t safe or possible. But once businesses begin to open up, getting out of the house to work can be an option to increase productivity.
Working in coffee shops with pleasant background noise and bustle works for some employees, and can be helpful for certain tasks like writing. (It’s not the best for conference calls.) Coworking spaces can replace the community feeling and camaraderie of the office and provide the necessary tools and space for employees who don’t have a home office. Both help avoid many of the distractions in working from the house full-time.
2. Invest in the Right Tools
If you’re looking to shift more permanently to a remote working model for your employees, there are a lot of cost benefits. After all, office space is expensive. But don’t take all of that saved money to the bank – use it to provide a comfortable and productive experience for your employees in their homes.
This can vary based on your business, but you might opt to provide headphones to make conference calls clearer, desk chairs to provide ergonomic support, or software that makes doing their jobs remotely easier. You want to invest in setting your remote employees up for maximum success when it’s possible.
3. Show Trust and Gratitude
It’s much easier to misread tone in an email than in person. When your team moves away from the face-to-face interactions that used to make up their workday, their sense of engagement can suffer. That’s why it’s so important to take extra time to show gratitude to your remote employees.
You also want to show trust in your employees – don’t fall into the too-common trap of micromanaging employees just because you can’t see what they’re working on all day. Your hardest workers in the office will still be your hardest workers remotely, and those with performance issues in person will likely have the same issues at home. Treating all employees like they’re “shirking from home” instead of working will foster frustration among your high performers and lead to burnout.
Want more tips for building strong remote teams? Check out the video from our YouTube channel with John as he explains how to build a successful virtual organization.
Another helpful video is this one on email management.
Making Remote Working Work for Your Teams
With the right systems in place and the right mindset, your employees can be just as successful working from home as they are in the office. Set them up for success and you can reap the benefits of virtual teams.