Whatever your opinion is about working from home, you can’t deny that it’s become a necessity. As of now, it remains the best option if you want to remain productive amidst the ongoing pandemic. There’s still no word on when a vaccine or cure will come out, after all, and a packed, open-office plan is a breeding ground for contagion.
Anyway, you’re probably pondering whether your company should operate remotely now, right? Such a move does present significant advantages, and it would certainly be timely.
However, there’s also a good reason why some remain wary of WFH set-ups. Sure, done well, it can bolster productivity, increase employee retention, and boost profits. On the flip side, failing to transition successfully can mean the death of a meaningful project, someone getting fired, and well, descent into anarchy. (Just kidding about that last one. Sort of.)
Of course, there are things you can do to prevent that, but before anything else, let’s try and understand the no. 1 reason why remote work fails.
The Biggest Reason Why Remote Work Fails
No, it’s not so much about technological difficulties or outdated work policies (although those don’t help either). We’re talking about something more subtle and thus harder to address, let alone resolve: good old-fashioned alienation.
Basically, uncomfortable interactions at work can and will sink your remote work efforts if they remain unchecked.
It’s far too easy to hide behind technology and distance when work relationships get awkward. “Oh, I can’t talk to them face-to-face. I live on the other side of the world!” “There’s a conflict between my design team and my programmers? Well, they can always resolve it on their own as adults.” “My remote contractor sounded pretty reluctant to discuss things earlier. Emails ought to sort that out.”
It may sound too simplistic and comparatively low-tech, but it’s true. Easy, open communication is the bedrock of successful remote operations, and alienation among your remote team is its antithesis. When people feel uncomfortable or uneasy at work, they’re not likely to provide focused and high-quality work. No amount of advanced technology, project management software, or cutting edge remote work policies can make up for that.
How Do I Avoid This?
Unlike technological difficulties or outdated policies, there’s no cut-and-dried solution for workplace alienation. Since every company’s culture is different and since everyone has varying comfort levels with remote working, this is something you’ll need to deal with on a case to case basis.
Fortunately, there are some general strategies that you can look to for guidance:
1. Acknowledge the past – and then leave it behind.
It sounds like cheesy relationship advice, but people need to know why things need to change. So, before you take your company online, acknowledge your key people’s past efforts and how they helped the business grow.
Then explain why the time is ripe for change, keeping it all in as tight a narrative as you can muster.
2. Push yourself to communicate further.
We’re not just talking about the usual everyday interactions on Zoom, Skype, or email. For instance, try to check in with individual members of your team at least once a week. And yes, even and especially if your company culture is big on virtual meetings. Knowing that someone is out there looking out for them will help make the experience feel less isolating.
Furthermore, bear in mind that face-to-face interactions are best for some situations. If a physical meeting isn’t possible, try to set up a short video call. Whether you owe someone an apology or are about to discuss a delicate matter, sincerity is paramount – and your facial expressions and tone will convey that more than your words will.
3. Make allowances for adjustments – especially in the beginning.
Anything worth achieving never comes easy. That applies to processes as well as to products or services.
So, be patient if things are rocky at first. Give your team space to figure out their optimal working schedules, communication patterns, and so on. But always be on hand to provide support – be it technical, supervisory, or even motivational – as needed.
4. Never stop paying attention.
This is the trickiest bit. It’s easy to get complacent when things are finally running smoothly and when everyone’s accustomed to the remote set-up.
Still, you should continuously take stock of how your communication affects others, what signs you might have missed, and what you need to look out for the next day. Rinse and repeat. There is no shortcut around this, but it does get easier the more you do it and your team will thank you for it.
Making wide, sweeping changes is never easy. Shifting your entire company’s workforce is no exception.
If you can pull that off, well, congratulations. Very few people can manage that and come out of it relatively unscathed. Otherwise, you will likely stumble, but that’s par for the course for us mere mortals.
And this is where having the right partners and support system comes in.
With Remote Staff, we provide continuous support from the moment you register throughout your working relationship with your remote contractors. We draw on a decade’s worth of expertise and experience in smoothing over any ruffled feathers, all to make sure that both parties remain satisfied and committed.
So, call us today and let us help you enjoy a smoother transition as you take your company operations online – and into the future.