The Secret to Remote Working


Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Remote working isn’t new, and many organizations have been reluctant to embrace this digital transformation as the tech that enables workers to stay connected and productive has improved. But now, businesses need to either adopt it, or risk being left behind.

Article 5 Minutes
The Secret to Remote Working

The recent pandemic has forced organizations to fast-track the inevitable journey to remote, cloud-based teams. Although some companies had initial concerns, the digital workforce has been largely successful, with 51% of workers being more productive than when they were in the office, according to our survey.

All in all, remote working is looking positive for the future. But to achieve long-term WFH success, and to make the remote team setup as robust and scalable as possible, it’s important to change some fundamental things. Namely, our workplace culture. The secret to remote working is more than just the technology we choose, but the way we use them to nurture talent.

Supporting employees in the right way is key, and that means changing the attitudes of managers. Here are the secrets to making remote team collaboration work as we move forward.

1. Accessibility

Accessibility is everything when it comes to successful remote working. If you want employees to collaborate effectively, it’s vital that you provide the same access to data, tools and resources that they would have in a physical office.

Moving away from legacy systems, cloud can provide access for teams no matter where they’re based around the world, and in any time zone. It also gives them the freedom to switch locations (for example, from their home office to their car), and the possibility of logging on via multiple devices.

Cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox don’t just provide a seamless way for uploading, storing and sharing files either. They can be integrated with a number of different tools, including collaboration platforms and project management platforms, forming an easy online hub for teams to complete tasks efficiently.

2. The right attitude to collaboration

One of the most important secrets to better remote working is having the right attitude to collaboration. Without a physical workplace to interact with colleagues, it’s essential to recreate that sense of community.

Of course, having the right tools in place is collaboration 101. Technology has made working as a distributed team much easier, with services like Google Cloud, Slack, Asana, Trello and Zoom helping organizations stay connected and on track with workflows.

But it takes more than just great technology to get your teams working together effectively. Not only do you have the challenge of motivating your immediate team and getting them to collaborate without face-to-meetings, but you also need to find ways to cooperate with other departments. And all of this starts with better communication, not just about work-related issues, but general everyday chat between colleagues.

It’s all about mimicking the organic interactions that would take place in a physical workplace. Small talk and ‘water cooler conversations’ are extremely beneficial to staff morale and confidence. So allowing and actively encouraging social events (such as Zoom calls, games or quizzes) can be helpful in improving collaborative working. 

Businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover, and a whopping 99.1% of people prefer a workplace where issues are discussed openly and truthfully.

3. Staff who are happy and healthy

The main ingredient for successful remote collaboration is the wellbeing of your teams. This means that managers need to make time to provide support to individuals and put practices in place to improve staff morale.

While most studies reveal a high level of productivity in the remote working setup, there are some people who may not be as well-suited to the home office environment as others. For instance, our research tells us that 21% of people feel lonely working remotely.

It’s a positive sign that the majority of professionals are adapting well during the pandemic, but team leaders need to pay special attention to those who aren’t adapting as well.

In addition to spotting signs of struggle, managers should also focus on reducing stress. Allowing downtime and building a friendly, supportive and relaxed working atmosphere is vital. Flexibility is important too, as many professionals are also parents and may need to juggle home and work life.

4. Transparency (from the people at the top)

In order to create a positive working environment where employees are confident, happy and able to collaborate effectively with colleagues, it’s important to have great communication at work. Ideally, this should come from the top.

Not only should teams be able to talk openly to each other, but they should be kept in the loop with decisions made by management. They should also be able to feel as though they can contribute when they have ideas or concerns, no matter their level of seniority. 

This is where the flatter hierarchy works best. Openness and transparency are important elements of this modern business structure, and organizations need to operate as a whole rather than in silos. Traditional top-down decision making should be replaced with group discussions, and managers should maintain transparency by keeping teams up to date on changes, news, and important details from other departments.

5. A desire to change for the better 

Remote working has been largely successful since the pandemic, and even before then, forward-thinking organizations were reporting fantastic results on productivity. However, the biggest challenge is not how productive employees are, but how people are coping without the human connection. Social interaction is a vital part of any healthy workplace. Therefore, businesses need to focus more on communication, team bonding and wellbeing, rather than output.

To ensure teams are happy, workplace culture needs to change. People-focused organizations create positive environments, where employees are nurtured and supported. As a result, better performance is organically fostered and staff turnover is at a minimum.

While digital hubs like Dropbox and other integrations are key in boosting remote collaboration, it’s simply not enough to have the right tools in place. Remote working requires the fine-tuning of culture and leadership, and in order to do this there needs to be an inherent desire to change.

Leaders must be willing to adapt and should understand the importance of flexibility for WFH workers. This means focusing less on the numbers and more on the people, and creating an enjoyable work environment where remote workers have the chance to develop and grow.

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