Insights for Executives

What Most Companies Get Wrong About Remote Work

Husam Machlovi

February 18, 2021

For many companies, the shift to remote work was a dramatic change. Because of the sudden shift, companies had to act quickly to adopt a remote work process.

Many companies tried to retain what works with in-person work to remote work, with poor results. The following are some of the most common things most companies get wrong about remote work.

Learning to recognize them puts you one step closer to overcoming them. The result is the ability to successfully set up your remote work. 

Defining working hours

One of the biggest issues that companies have is defining the day.

A traditional workday is 9 to 5 and 40 hours a week. This doesn't work for remote work. With remote work, you want to pay more attention to what gets done than how long it takes. 

Even if your team does need eight hours a day to complete their work, it doesn’t have to be 9 to 5. Remote work should provide flexibility. It should let your team work at whatever hours they are the most productive. Of course, there are exceptions for meetings, but these should be rare.

And because remote work should not be strictly 9 to 5, you shouldn’t need to track the hours worked with a laser focus. This means that you shouldn't have your employees on Zoom all day.

Some companies want them on Zoom to confirm they are working. Others want this connectivity, so employees are always accessible. Both are unnecessary. Written communication can get the job done in most cases.

Give employees time back

If you require employees to be on Zoom all day, this will make them pretend to work when they are not. That's a common theme with in-person work, but it should not be part of remote work. You don’t want remote employees to stretch out their work just to look busy.

Instead, you want them to work as efficiently as possible and get time back to themselves.

The ultimate goal is not about hours clocked. It's about whether people complete their tasks.

Asking people to be online all day

Remember that remote work works, thanks to flexibility. You want to let employees work during the hours they're most productive. This might be 7 to 3pm, or it may be 3 to 11pm. Yes, that means that not everyone will be online at the same time, and that's okay.

Think about the tasks each remote team member performs. Do they really need anyone else online to complete that task? Chances are they don't. The only potential issue is if someone needs a quick response from another coworker. Or if they require someone else to complete a task before they can complete their own. Overcome this with deadlines and pre-planned meetings.

Put the focus on results

Many companies make the mistake of focusing on hours worked as a metric for employee success.

This can lead to wasted time tracking hours. It also discourages creativity. After all, there's no incentive for employees to improve processes. If they work more efficiently, they would have to find something else to do for the rest of the day. 

When handling remote work, have clear goals in mind. Each employee should know what they have to finish and by when. From there, they can self-pace. As long as they produce results, that's all that matters.

Assuming employees have remote collaboration skills

Working remotely relies heavily on asynchronous, written communication. And the best remote companies put an emphasis on this in their hiring process.

But in a world where most of our work communication was in-person, employees without remote work experience could struggle to work asynchronously.

Give employees training and time

Expect a learning curve for employees, and be prepared to give them time to adapt. Encourage video meetings when needed to clarify a point. Or encourage sharing images or diagrams. But try not to default to meetings or synchronized work too often.

Synchronization can cut into productivity time and ruin creative flow. Save syncs for when they're critical. Keep them short. Opt for written conversations when possible. 

To promote asynchronous communication, give employees guidelines and templates. Give them feedback on their communication. Give them time to improve and it will pay off in dividends.

A remote workplace can be quiet, drama-free and fun too

As people are working on their own, there's a good chance your office will be quiet and more drama-free. This will have a positive impact on productivity.

But don't let that make the environment boring.

Encourage connection

Give coworkers ways to connect with each other.

From the right tools (ie: chat, video conference) to ideas for team-building exercises.

Set up semi-annual or annual meet-ups. Of course, this is tough during the pandemic. But there's a lot you can do through remote get-togethers, like watching concerts or game nights.

If you enjoyed this post, here are some ideas on how to set up your remote teams for success.

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