How to jumpstart the addition of permanent remote workers coming out of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve done it! Mission accomplished! Remote work is here! Not quite… Your company was probably thrown into this like many others. You have remote workers but that doesn’t mean remote work is in your company’s DNA.
Remote work is much more than just letting your employees work in their pajamas. (Pro tip: Don’t work in your pajamas.) To fully embrace remote work you must adapt and update many aspects of your business. Here are 4 updates that will kickstart your journey to remote work nirvana.
Focus on the Outcomes
This one takes a long time to get right, but the journey needs to start as soon as possible. Decoupling the concept of hours in the seat meaning productivity is crucial. Obviously this only works for jobs that aren’t tied to time like call centers or assembly line type work. For most of us getting in 4, 5, or even 6 hours of productive work a day is stretching it. Sure you can sit in meetings for 8 hours like a champ, but I’m not going to call that being productive. As leaders, we need to set clear and obtainable goals for our teams. Even better if these are based on previous productivity metrics. I’ll get into more of that below. Once you have established the team goals and timelines you are ready to set up the daily check-in. Those of us deep into Agile know this as the daily standup. This 15-minute morning meeting sets the tone for the day and lays out anything that might be in the way of productivity. Now we can shut up and let everyone get some real work done!
Trust but Verify
The most important thing you can do for your business is to hire and only keep employees you trust. This goes for remote and traditional businesses. I hear way too much grumbling that we can’t trust our employees to work all day at home. Really!?!?! Some people will want to scam the system no matter what you do. Eliminate those from your staff as soon as possible. For the rest, any lack of productivity probably stems from a lack of leadership. Sorry, I know you didn’t want to hear that. We have to set clear goals and expectations for each of our employees. Blanket goals will not work here. You must tailor each person’s goals to what they want out of the job and what you want them to contribute.
Now that you have people you can trust it is time to have a verification system. For software teams using something like Jira to track tickets goes a long way to ensuring people are moving jobs across the board. We also use Pluralsight’s Flow tool for our developers. It taps into our Git repo and generates reports on each developer. This allows leadership to see the flow of code from each developer. It is important to combine this data with in-person discussions as the data coming out of Flow is only one small part of the discussion. Sometimes hard problems result in a one-line solution.
With these verification systems in place, you now want to make sure that you have a 1–1 meeting set up with each of your direct reports. For developers, you can go over the Flow metrics mentioned above. There are a ton of good articles here on how to have a good 1–1 meeting. For this article, I’m just going to focus on the need to have them.
Lead by Example (Duh)
You’ve got this! Just a few key points I will make here.
- Don’t be tempted to work from the office because that is what people at the top do.
- Use your camera in meetings. Always. (unless you are eating. Nobody wants to see that!)
- Encourage transparency by letting your staff know when you have a dentist appointment you will be out for. You want them to know that it is ok to take care of business during the day. We are focusing on outcomes, remember?
- Toss in a virtual happy hour or other fun Zoom based activity from time to time.
Update Your Policies
It is time to toss out some of those outdated work policies. Take a look through the employee handbook and any other place you post company policies. Make sure the verbiage matches the new normal of remote work. It is also a good time to think about some of your reimbursement policies. Internet? Cell Phone? Office furniture? One of the best ways to kick this off is to offer each employee a home office setup “bonus.” They will probably need a decent chair and maybe even a desk. I like the idea of encouraging staff to have a workspace that really shows off their personality. A little extra cash goes a long way to encourage them to make their home office work.
Do you feel it now? That is the remote work virus working its way into your DNA. Just remember that it isn’t easy. Fail fast and iterate.