At Intersol, we are anticipating that 2020 will be a year of growth and transition. One of the biggest changes to our culture will be the introduction of remote working for all employees. No matter how much time is spent preparing for this change, there will undoubtedly be a few bumps in the road. After many opportunities to reflect on some of the challenges and apprehensions of not doing this sooner, we offer a summary of our experience integrating this new model in hopes it will benefit other companies in their transition.
Firstly, let’s start by understanding why Intersol decided to transition to this model:
Not only is it conducive to more productive employees, it allows for more flexibility and can even improve quality of life. Remote work is no longer a niche work arrangement seen only in tech positions nor is it just a fad. Today, 24 per cent of candidates feel remote work is a factor when considering a job due to the importance of work-life balance. This is particularly important for attracting and retaining new talent. Telework is here to stay, it’s just a matter of how our organization can leverage the advantages for improved productivity, quality of life and a better company as a whole.
“Intersol’s company mandate is to support employees, which means supporting a remote workforce”.
Intersol has always had a tier of remote workers, but a very strong onsite presence as well. It’s often difficult to have corporate policies that are more specific to one group of people than another without creating two different management approaches. The challenge is that our policies address both in office and remote employees. With varying needs and circumstances individuals, whether remote or onsite are left with greater potential to be an excluded or forgotten individual. Our work has also shifted to actively supporting clients remotely. If we expect our employees to support clients remotely, it’s time we practice supporting them remotely too.
What does it mean to be a remote worker?
For most remote workers, it means a quieter, more comfortable work environment with fewer distractions and meetings to break up the day. This allows us to sit down and focus on a larger task, which is particularly important when we need to develop, build, create or lead change. Take out the time and stress involved in a daily commute and it’s no wonder why productivity rises while teleworking.
Common fears and risks when managing remote workers
Despite the exciting new fall lineup on our favourite streaming service, and contrary to some people’s beliefs, 65 per cent of employees are more productive while working remotely. In fact, if anything, it becomes a challenge for remote workers to end their day at a normal hour, or refrain from answering emails on their spare time. It’s more likely that employees will work more than spend time watching a new TV series. Caution should be around managing workload.
While there are countless statistics backing up the benefits of remote work, it is not simply a matter of telling everyone to stay home. For managers who have spent most of their working life being able to connect with workers in-person and who have developed a management style based on verbal cues or physical presence, it can be tricky to find a new way to manage people. It becomes scary for managers not to see their employees and what they are doing, since they relied on this for so long. Clear expectations and metrics can help alleviate this common threat.
Changing how we communicate
Not only do teleworkers need measurable deliverables to hold themselves accountable to, there is a culture change involved in creating a positive, productive remote working environment.
Communication is an important aspect in every office and with nobody around to network with by the watercooler or to bump into by the elevator, it’s important that a shift in culture ushers in intentional network-building and communication efforts. Remote workers are obligated to reach out to their team members to connect without a physical shared space to depend on. For managers in the hiring process, this means assessing whether someone will be willing and able to extrovert themselves into asking for help, regular check-ins, meetings, coffee, phone calls etc. even if they feel they are bugging people.
By the same token, investment needs to be made to ensure there are means for team members to connect, whether digital or in person, to help build relationships and foster a positive, productive culture. Intentional effort needs to be made to foster a sense of community within an organization that supports telework, and with the right strategy, a tight-knit team with rewarding professional relationships can still exist.
At Intersol, this investment comes in the form of initiatives like the monthly Happy Hour Mini Business School, where we offer a platform for trainers, consultants, employees and potential hires to deliver relevant workshops, share information, seek advice, learn new tools and refresh skills while providing the opportunity to socialize, collaborate and share experiences. We also organize team building opportunities like in-person annual retreats and invest in smart technologies like Facilitate Pro software that support the remote work and enable employees to do things efficiently and virtually while remote.
Key elements to success
- Hosting meetings remotely requires better organization, more check-ins, remote coffee and time for personal chats.
- Try scheduling monthly remote meetings with everyone. This could be a creative opportunity over lunch with no shop talk, an interactive game or an interesting question. Start experimenting with remote events and virtual, one-on-one coffee.
- Trust your employees: Good management for remote employees looks like good management for office folks. If you trust you have hired the right people who have clear expectations and are joining your company for the right reasons, it’s less about whether they are in the office or not and more about the framework you set up to help them be successful. In order to make remote work, we need to trust we hire the right people to do the right thing.
People who are proud of the work they do will want to prove themselves as much as a remote worker than as an onsite worker.