6 steps to creating a successful remote work structure
What does it take to build a high-performing remote work team from scratch? Here are some tips for long-term success.
The past two and a half years have demonstrated the benefits of working remotely, even in difficult circumstances. Organizations that had never experimented with remote working before the pandemic have since announced that they are definitely embracing the work model — some, perhaps, more reluctantly than others.
But with a growing number of employees now requiring the flexibility of remote or hybrid working, the decision becomes a little easier for companies looking to recruit and retain top talent. 3M, Twitter, and HubSpot, for example, are among the big companies turning to remote work.
But deciding to offer remote work opportunities is only one step in the process. Unlike the one-time shift to remote work that categorized the spring of 2020, today’s deliberate commitment to remote work gives hiring companies a chance to build teams that will thrive in this environment. Here are six steps to get there.
Step 1: Create a team structure
The first step in the process of building a team is to design a clear structure. How will the work go? Who will employees report to? How? Employees need to know the reporting hierarchy, how processes will change, and how everyone will work together to achieve company and team goals.
Some of these elements may not change – or change much – from the processes in place, but it is nonetheless important to communicate (or reiterate) the structure under the new remote working model. There will be elements that will need to be adjusted later; the team structure should be continually reviewed, supplemented and modified, especially in the early stages of the transition to ensure that nothing is overlooked.
This step will be similar to what happens when setting up a business. There will be growing pains that will need to be watched, but time will need to be invested in thinking about how every aspect of the business works.
Step 2: Assess the technology
Once the structure is designed, it’s time to think about the technology. How will all this work be accomplished with a distributed workforce?
In a remote work environment, the hardware/software will likely be different from employee to employee, unless the company provides the equipment and limits the use of unapproved apps and tools on company laptops. For cybersecurity reasons as well as effective collaboration, employers should try to minimize disparities. Buying commercial licenses for some programs can be a good solution.
Similarly, companies can avoid silos and duplicate data by selecting allowed collaboration applications across the organization. Having an open discussion with employees about what they like best and what works best for their team is a great way to get buy-in.
“The key to creating scalable remote teams is for business leaders to be more intentional about breaking down silos between resources and their end users — to help streamline operations,” said Dutta Satadip, Chief Customer Officer. at Chicago-based ActiveCampaign. thus, remote teams will have access to the right resources that encourage them to engage with customers and achieve seamless integrations across all platforms.”
To establish this foundation in the digital workplace, leaders need to take a closer look at what they can automate and how they can reuse existing technology. Automating as many tasks as possible will create efficiencies that weren’t possible before.
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Step 3: Identify staffing needs
Another important factor – if not the most important – to consider – is the staff. Being able to work remotely effectively requires a particular set of skills, and not everyone is cut out for it.
In a hybrid work model, employers can give their workers choice, but in a totally remote environment, assessing workforce skills and reassigning responsibilities are key. Roles will change and new positions will emerge as a result of the transition. Leaders need to identify these changes and what is needed to close the gaps.
Recruitment for new positions should not be taken lightly either. This is one of the most difficult and costly initiatives for companies due to the rate at which new employees end up leaving before the return on investment is achieved. A Leadership IQ study found that 46% of newly hired employees fail within 18 months.
In a remote setting, the challenge is magnified because employers lose much of the nonverbal interaction that occurs during a face-to-face interview, so conducting video interviews instead of phone interviews can help give a better idea of how the potential recruit will fit into the team.
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Step 4: Set remote work expectations
Equipped with a workflow structure, the right technology, and the ideal team, now is the time to set expectations. Although remote work is centered around the idea of flexibility, what is allowed and what is not varies widely from company to company. Establishing remote working policies is therefore essential to the success of this model.
Ideally, employers will let employees know how many hours they expect them to work and be available online, when and how often to log in, whether to track their time, point of contact, which communication channels to use, etc. All decisions should be communicated to the team and documented in the company’s remote work policies.
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Step 5: Engage the team
One of the most commonly reported challenges of remote work is the isolation or disconnection that some workers experience. Disconnected staff can often feel demotivated, and the quality and quantity of work can suffer.
To minimize this risk, employers should consider hiring their teams regularly. Scheduled department/team meetings, manager check-ins, and company-wide meetings are great ways to connect with the team remotely, add some socializing to the day work and improve morale. A highly engaged workforce can be 21% more profitable, so it’s a worthwhile investment.
Content is another way to engage remote teams.
“In today’s digital HQ, and especially with small remote teams, business content is critical to your team’s success,” said Jesper Theill Eriksen, CEO of Copenhagen, Denmark-based Templafy. “Think about it: in a remote work culture, the content we create, from emails to calendars to onboarding documents, is not just static information; it’s a tool for collaboration essential, your company’s direct bridge to customers, and it drives all business tasks forward.
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Step 6: Review the plan
Although workers have been working remotely for decades, the concept of a fully remote workforce is still relatively new. As with anything new, there will be adjustments to be made, so it’s important for leaders to constantly review what works and what doesn’t.
This also includes not neglecting team and individual performance reviews. Giving feedback to employees is more important than ever, and maybe even more so because they don’t have the day-to-day interactions in the office. Provide regular feedback with advice on how staff can make improvements.
Also, review the technology to ensure that all hardware and software meet expectations. Technology should allow employees to complete their work faster. Listen to them if something isn’t working. Frustration with outdated technology can lead to reduced productivity.
Finally, verify that the policies are working as they should. Does the remote work structure help employees complete their work? Small changes may be warranted. For example, weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. might not work as well as if they were scheduled for a different time or on a different day. Staying tuned to the field will be the key to the sustainability of the model.