Due to the current health crisis, that could develop into a major economic one in the meantime, many organizations are trying to avoid the second and minimize the first by sending their workers home and maintaining a remote work dynamic.
However, as many have realized, remote working can present very specific challenges that aren’t faced by an at-office working, and are normally unknown to most of the managers and companies due to the practice’s “modern” character, with which, even if accompanied by a lot of articles, sites and knowledge in general nowadays, can still be intimidating and unfamiliar for a considerable amount of businesses that are already applying it as their only available answer to the actual situations.
Nevertheless, remote working, as we have exposed before, can signify many benefits that may be convincing enough in order to maintain it as the chosen way of developing, once the market becomes to normality.
First, let’s do a recap: what is remote working? We have to remember that it parts from allowing employees to develop from their homes or selected places in order to obtain more flexibility in their personal lives; but people tend to forget this practice is, after all, still a business dynamic, with the only difference being it’s location and, just as it’s counterpart: at-office functioning, it must have certain regulations for it to be a success.
Here is where we apply a remote working policy, which must be specifically created for said purpose: let’s not fail in thinking normal regulations can be applied both ways with minimal changes; that would be one of the principal reasons why many organizations misfire in it’s application, not having an adequate plan.
As you can imagine, the basis of this type of policy relies on solving most difficulties remote working can present from the very beginning, to make employees connoisseurs of what to expect from it and therefore what will, in resonance, be counted upon them, and is greatly used to also establish through it the organization’s image and culture by using specific rules thought in concordance with its specific desires, ambitions, objectives, mission and values.
Because remote working is a less controlled system, the optimal use of this tactic is to methodize as many procedures as possible, from communication, to obtained results, interactions between co-workers and schedules application, among others.
In this last sentence is where its importance can be defined: no work ambit can develop if it doesn’t have its own guidelines, which, we can’t reinforce it enough, depends completely on the company’s specific situation, its past, its future aspirations, the amount of employees it builds up with, the particular departments in which these are divided, the distinct postures that it claims as a brand and business. Said policy also becomes part of the company’s organizational image, for it defines not also how it will function but the priorities it establishes according to its employees lives.
So, what to consider when developing said policy specific for your business?
First of all, you have to contemplate the population that is in need of this policy, their responsibilities, practices, etc., for there are details to consider differently if directed to the manager, the sales advisor, the developer or the CEO.
As we have stated beforehand, this policy must compose likewise a guide for the workforce to obtain a better understanding about their role in the business, their tasks, whom to communicate, the importance of their decisions.
Defining tasks to be fulfilled by a certain time, or the expected results of these tasks, is a primary action, otherwise, there is no way of visualizing if your employees are actually being productive with their time at home. This procedure refers to the use of KPI’s: key performance indicators.
When used in marketing digital strategies by focusing the number of likes, shares, comments or views as indicators of a post, digital campaign, stories’ success, the definition of KPI’s for business units or even individuals depending on their particular role is an easy way of keeping the organizations’ objectives synchronized in a direct bond with those of their sections and/or departments.
For this action there are many tools already available in the market but, once again, which one you use parts from the KPI you define. By instance, if you want to refer to productivity as the amount of time worked and how it is distributed to the different assignments, an excellent tool to apply could be Time Doctor. Some other organizations rely on the amount of clients obtained or sold products or services.
In 4Geeks we develop according to developed duties in a specific time, for its management and assignment we use the free web-based app Trello, which we really recommend.
All policy also has to recon that when transitioning from one dynamic to another, employees may need some time and practice before they can demonstrate their maximum performance, specially with new workforce. There are cases in which a proper training as it is isn’t required for the type of duty to be undertaken, however, workers should always be informed of the specific points of the policy that could affect them the most, and who to contact in case of not fully understanding any.
Element that takes us to one of the most important parts of the procedure:
Establish communication channels
Communication consists an enormous preoccupation when applying remote working, but thanks to nowadays technology this exchange is closer than ever to be as immediate as normal face-to-face conversation. Thereupon, we will be more than glad to share some of our preferred instruments in maintaining 4Geeks in perfect shape for the market’s caprices.
First of all, we have to acknowledge that visual contact, especially in such an anonymous era, remains of amazing redundancy when generating relationships, which are likewise of extreme importance inside a business. This said, channels that incorporate both, audio and visual resources, must be selected over any other, statement that takes us to the configuration of:
Meetings are often overseen when handling remote employees, specially when liberty is a principal argument for them to prefer the practice and feel like get-togethers are a mechanism of control and, well, they wouldn’t be that wrong. After all, is true that you have to keep a close eye on workers.
Assemblies are recommended to happen at least once a week, and with once a day as a maximum; yet, this last option must be really time consuming, for managers and employees, so at 4Geeks we apply it twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, perfect for initiating the week in unison and finishing it with the evaluations to determine if what was established on the first day was achieved. This leaves the rest of the days in
freedom -and not debauchery- of arranging yourself as an employee or work unit.
Examples of communication channels and their respective rules
Let's continue with meetings. Most video-conferencing apps will work just as fine as most can manage a reasonable amount of people in a call with efficient quality, some examples are Zoom and Skype. We use Google Meet, connected to our Gmail calendars so sessions are already available once you schedule it.
Rules according to these contacts rely on:
- Punctuality, highly unvalued
- Respect for each other’s opinions
- Respect for each person’s speaking time
- Equal consideration in relevance when ideas sharing
- Maintaining work-related topics in the conversations, otherwise, important time is wasted
Those commandments we share are the ones we consider essential, but consider our words a guide with absolute capacity to be exponentiated.
Now, gatherings may be too much when all you need is a quick reply because of a simple doubt. Let’s jump to instant messaging.
Chat vs. email
We have to understand that not all messaging works the same, and from here, we widen in their purpose:
Chats are normally used as an open-all-day platform which employees are expected to be connected to the entirety of their working itinerary, used for emergency messages, questions that need to be answered as soon as possible; in general, used for intern activity-maintaining, purpose for which we interact through Slack.
Emails on the other hand are predominantly used for formal reciprocity and with external-to-the-company individuals. They tend to represent a more extended time of response and capacity of transporting bigger documents.
For both, an ideal use reduces misunderstandings, such as:
- keeping work-only accounts and chats.
Even if Whatsapp is excellent for communication and allows audios to be sent and video-calls, we have to be honest: if your workers have to be in touch with their boss through the same program in which they are written by friends, relatives… chances are their attention is going everywhere but where you want it.
Same goes with emails, it is best to have only work-related correspondence in their inbox causing notifications.
Let’s be real: we are pretty sure you know more than a few stories of how the opposite of this has caused very embarrassing moments, if not, even people fired.
- keeping work-only content
Similar to the point we just exemplified, carrying conversations based only in the business development at least in the selected platforms can save your company not only precious time, but also from inconvenient situations.
- It’s true, many organizations have designed chats opened for extra-official jokes, releases, images, that allow the generation of an amicable environment that at the same time helps enhance greater teamwork.
Yet, the mere setting up of this canal for said specific purpose constitutes already part of the policy, by delimitating any other as one of a more serious matter.
Working schedule delimitations
Most of the time, when developing with remote workers, their individual timetables are limited according to their timezones, which is why it is recommended hiring nearshoring. Once this is done, when meetings are to be determined it is suggested for them to be scheduled when the most working set ups overlap.
Also, it is a great idea for employers to encourage their workforce to turn-off channels while they are out of functioning hours. Even if there must always be ways of contacting your laborers due to potential emergencies, programs such as the work chat that are principally used for constant dynamics can be turned-off for constant notifications not to bother them in their free time.
Persistent reminding of work issues can generate stress and unhappiness in the employees, making them extenuated once they resume labors, less productive and likely to quit.
What about managers?
Many of the aspects we just delimitated need, as well, to be contemplated on how to be faced by managers that interact with employees, which mostly refers to:
Knowing the development bases
In order for a manager to coordinate and designate metrics, communication channels, working schedules, that adapt to the business’s purposes, it must be the best informed about the reasons behind the consolidation of the tactics, and yes, this refers once more to the company’s culture and ambitions.
An organization’s culture
The way these administrators diffuse le policy believes and the intensity with which they do so depends in the culture of the organization they belong to, just as the type of channels they select, let’s say.
For instance, imagine the case of two different mailing businesses, one (A) who’s priority is rapidity, while the other (B) is accessibility for every one.
So, meanwhile the first will apply a more numerous amount of workers in coordinating each travel and how much time it takes, the second will look for employees to evaluate more geographic zones; the first will determine success as the least time spent, the second will establish it as grater area included.
Both could have digital platforms to help them measure said results, both organized with engineer developers, maybe even located in the same places or working remotely; but company A will look for an extremely dynamic work ambit, with capital invested in the best tools for internal chats and meetings, for immediate communication is the clue to rapid answers, fast results and quick solutions, and company B will have more interest in the security of their deliveries, with capital invested in organizing constant contact with the clients while their packages are being transported for them to maintain their trust meanwhile the deed is done.
Parting from this example, managers from each company will have to generate very specific working situations in order to keep their workers motivated towards their specific goals, even if the policy remains the same when referring to excellence, efficiency, respect and teamwork.
Which takes us to:
Let’s talk about the company as a whole.
Through the remote working policy the organization introduces the work force to the behavior it must represent in their professional life inside said corporation, aspect that is normally forgotten even by businesses that don’t manage a remote dynamic, they all have to answer:
What are your standards and interests?
As we mentioned before, the values and visions of the commerce have direct relation on what it should expect from their employees, the values that have to integrate their culture, this being done once the workforce is also informed about these dispositions. The regulations you apply to each laborer parts from these, just as the schedule they dispose of, the way it is enforced for them to interact to others, the metrics they use.
When establishing any working policy, remember to support it on the business’s organization chart, capital and your workforce particular abilities.
This last point can signify a crossroad when remote working is approached as a last resource decision, however, our best advice then is:
Embrace it, don’t fight it
Like it or not, remote working has become the only viable practice for many organizations that had never tried it before, so we say, instead of developing resistance to the process, why not make the most of it?
After all, this tactic is here to stay, with more strength in some ambits than others, but definitely present, and us in 4Geeks are glad to help you undertake this challenge in the optimal way possible, for example, by eliminating some myths:
Just as we have already stated, flexibility doesn’t mean no rules.
Many laborers mistaken remote working for a limitless wont, but now you know this couldn’t be further from reality, and many tools that could help you align yours; so don’t be afraid to keep your workforce in track, specially because now you can develop a wide regulation to which couple.
Finally just, remember the policy will represent its most utility while being known and understood by all the employees, another norm to apply inside its own body.
Founded in 2012 by Allan Porras, 4Geeks is a global software engineering and revenue growth consulting firm for Fortune 500, Global 2000 and fast-growing SMBs. Provides top solutions to multiple industries including Retail, Healthcare, Banking & Financial Services, B2B SaaS, Manufacturing and Education. HQ in the USA, and delivery centers across Latin America.