From time immemorial, the routine of getting up, getting dressed, and going out to work has been a way of life. Remote working was given relatively lower preference. It was even considered suboptimal due to the lack of infrastructure or the mechanisms required for shared working and remote collaboration.
As a result, organisations had barely ever focused on remote working and invested very few resources in the policies or models to enable it. There simply wasn’t a need for it.
Fast-forward to today, and we are on the verge of a new work order that can render obsolete the in-office teams, location-dependency, defined and fixed working hours, and high-touch governance as prerequisites to high performance.
A Complete Reset – Remote Working
Remote working is the new normal for organisations around the world. But is your organisation prepared for this paradigm shift? If not it’s time to get serious about remote work revolution and reshape your policies for the future.
With most employees working from home these days, having an effective remote working policy is critical. Moving your in-office teams to remote work might seem challenging but will eventually become imperative to stay efficient during the times of uncertainty.
Besides, it can also be a great opportunity for organisations to create a robust policy that can also be useful in the future, if and when required.
Working from home can be a dream come true for several employees who seek better work-life balance. However, it can be a nightmare for employers if they don’t set proper guidelines. The new paradigm shift has forced executives to come up with a remote work policy that facilitates business continuity without compromising on productivity or performance.
For instance, Tata Consultancy Services, a leading global IT services organisation, has successfully deployed TCS DynaPORT, a state-of-the-art terminal operating system. It has implemented this solution 100% virtually, leveraging on its Secure Borderless Workspaces Model. All this was possible due to a smooth transition from in-office teams to virtual workspaces powered by a transformative remote working policy.
How to Transform from In-Office to Remote Teams?
Your existing work policies might have to be tweaked so as to better suit the remote working style. With a little effort from the companies to mould the existing policies and a little effort from the employees to cooperate, you can make a seamless transition from in-office team to remote working.
Here are some important considerations to take into account while drafting a remote work policy:
The first thing the company needs to check while moulding existing policies is whether the employees’ attitudes, work ethics, and personalities match with the company’s expectations of remote working.
Managers and Team Leads should work on a case-by-case basis to assess what’s best for their team members and the projects at hand. They should think through the concerns, like whether they should adopt a hybrid model, go fully remote, or provide a choice to the employees to come to the office on a rotational basis.
2. The Expectation of Work Hours
No longer is a typical 9-to-6 office schedule going to work for virtual teams. You need to trust your remote teams and give them the flexibility to do their tasks in a routine that works the best for them. The employees also need to be accountable for their assigned jobs by adhering to the expectations.
It’s best to set clear expectations with employees on their availability and maintain proper communication to review or acknowledge their remote work arrangement.
3. Equipment and Cybersecurity
Employers should shift their focus to risks that can possibly arise when employees and teams operate over widely distributed infrastructure and devices. All the concerns should, thus, be addressed with appropriately encrypted equipment and data security in order to facilitate work from home.
To minimise data security risk, the organisations should restrict the access to sensitive information according to roles, institute data access expirations, and implement multi-step approval for information sharing. Only 30% of the data security is related to technology; the rest should be dedicated to building data-secure culture, behaviour, and awareness.
4. Tools and Capacity Building
Several organisations rushed to provide collaboration tools at the brink of the pandemic so that their employees could rapidly adapt to working from home. But did these tools succeed?
It’s imperative to understand and assess what worked and what didn’t so that you could include the best tools and practices in your remote working policy.
Studying highly effective teams, their behaviours, and the use of tools will help the managers scale the best capabilities across the organisation.
Apart from the tools, what kinds of skills or habits do organisations need to incorporate to enable virtual teams? It’s time to assess that, but virtually.
5. Coaching and Development
There is also an apparent need to delineate growth and learning opportunities so that the employees are well-prepared to handle any challenges. Rather than opting for formal feedback, review meetings, check-ins, and more, it’s time to shift to informal or spontaneous feedback or coaching moments.
Since remote working needs a more deliberate and thoughtful approach, the organisation must position itself better to offer the right development opportunities. The organisation’s remote working model should facilitate leaders to adopt such an approach when they coach their staff and each other.
6. Productivity and Performance Management
Being present does not mean that the employee is effective and productive. In the new remote environment, performance metrics need to shift from inputs to outputs or employees’ efforts. Quantitative and qualitative output measures are needed as essential measures of productivity.
This can include weekly review calls that define a clear-set task list with agreed deadlines and automated time tracking tools. Also, provide regular feedback with insights on how to improve performance and make necessary adjustments sooner than later.
7. Recruiting and On-boarding
The future workforce is as important as the existing employees. Employers should also keep a tab on the procedure formulated to recruit and onboard new employees in a remote setting. HR can incorporate virtual chats, welcome videos, and virtual networking to foster engagement and immediate buy-in. Leading IT companies such as Wipro, Accenture and Tech Mahindra NSE have already started onboarding fresh graduates virtually.
A positive work culture should be sustained by finding new ways to connect and build virtual social intimacy. Holding breakout sessions that encourage informal conversations, virtual competitions, online talent shows, etc. can serve as great ways to foster virtual relationships.
Leaders should model the change and work remotely, thereby motivating their employees to do the same. They can consider replacing their expansive executive suites with the on-screen meetings.
Ready to Go Remote?
Remote working policies are not just a short-term response to a crisis, but also a potential new beginning. These new models of managing business present an excellent opportunity to accelerate transformation rather than just recovering from periods of unprecedented uncertainty. It has the power to create greater value for organisations and employees alike, but only with a proper policy or model to show the right way to move forward.