Everything is different
We know a lot of things changed in the wake of the COVID pandemic. When it comes to the workplace, one of the more significant transformations was the rise of remote work. While the reality of working away from the office began for most as a result of pandemic restrictions, it’s also true that the digital economy was already giving more and more people the opportunity to work from home, from a café, or even from far-flung locations. Indeed, a significant number of people now call themselves digital nomads, choosing to take roles that allow greater flexibility when it comes to where they work. Whether it means your team members are working remotely two or three days a week, or are coding websites from Bali, the remote work model seems to allow for a better work-life balance, which emerged as a key demand for many after the worst of the pandemic lockdowns.
At the same time, switching to a remote working model can be a real challenge for employers. While it might seem simple to take everything online, it’s also true that certain intangibles—such as team connectivity and problem solving—can be challenging to recreate in a digital environment. And given the new environment of constant connectivity, there are more opportunities to lean towards micromanaging, whether it’s checking to see if people are online, or sending messages to workers throughout the day.
At Palette Skills, we believe that the best and most productive teams are built from an atmosphere of trust and confidence. So really, the question is how can you make sure that your workers feel empowered to make great decisions? We want to share four great strategies for building a great remote work culture.
Give workers the information they need
Creating transparency in a company can feel unnatural, especially if you’ve been used to a traditional office environment with a culture of rigid hierarchy. But the truth is that transparency, especially when it comes to information, is a critical tool for building trust, creativity, and ultimately, productivity. It’s not easy. Many managers may feel they need to hold on to specific information, while others may disempower employees from making decisions that are seen as above their pay scale.
What characterizes the most creative and dynamic workplaces—whether in the office or online—is a commitment to information transparency that seeks to break down what are called information silos. While there are obviously some kinds of files that need to be private, such as sensitive information like HR records, there’s certainly a lot more companies can do to be transparent about information.
Make sure your organization is sharing information such as meeting notes and other important data centrally, either via email or on a storage drive. This means everyone has the opportunity to find the information if they need it. You should also include a clear point of contact in case of any questions. When employees are able to access more information, they can make informed decisions based on the full picture, rather than just the snapshot they’ve been offered. Sharing this information also increases the level of trust in the team and the feeling that everyone is valuable.
Reduce the hierarchy
Workplace culture is changing. It used to be the case that most companies and organizations operated with—and valued—a traditionally hierarchical structure. At the top of everything were bosses, and then came managers, team leaders, and finally, employees. While it remains the case that roles of responsibility and supervision are important, it’s also true that more and more organizations are re-thinking hierarchy in the workplace, and taking steps to dismantle it when it stands in the way of productivity and growth.
Part of having a thriving team means giving members the confidence to make reasonable decisions by themselves, without needing to run everything past a manager. This is especially true for remote workers, because different time zones and working patterns mean that without some level of autonomy, workflow will slow down as workers line up for manager approvals.
Instead, you could try a paired approvals method if you’re not comfortable with letting workers make certain decisions alone. This would mean they have to ask for input from another team member before proceeding, but that other team member doesn’t necessarily need to be a manager. Not only will this speed things up, it should also increase a sense of team spirit and accountability, as there’s no longer just one person who gets the final say.
Promote asynchronous working
A great strategy for building trust between your organization and remote workers is to get on board with and support asynchronous working. This means allowing your team members to complete work on a schedule that works for them, with no expectation for immediate replies. When it comes to decision making, this means you’ll need to ensure that all information is available across the team—for example, creating shared links to documents that are shared on a cloud server—so that one employee can easily continue their work without being blocked simply because they don’t have the information they need to complete a task.
In order to make this work, you’ll need a level of communication and understanding of expectations from your employees. Just because there’s no expectation for an immediate reply to an email doesn’t mean they can leave messages unanswered for a week. Come together as a team and decide on some basic guidelines to help keep you all accountable.
Failure is a part of being human, but often at work we try to hide mistakes or we don’t take risks for fear of getting something wrong. If your team feels that they can’t make mistakes, they’ll likely question their own abilities and will still need a manager to confirm any—or even all—actions. More to the point, try to remember that perfection is unachievable, and that without giving space to failure, your organizational culture may be standing in the way of innovation and creativity.
The reality is that remote work can be difficult to manage flawlessly or seamlessly. There may actually be more space in the remote work model for miscommunication, mistakes, and failure. The other side of this is that with the right commitment to communication and growth, there is probably more space in remote work for creativity and engagement. Try to create an open culture where everyone admits to their mistakes, and shares how they fixed them. Let employees communicate these insights to colleagues as a learning experience for others. The onus is on senior members of the team to share their own mistakes, challenges, and failures. Building a great culture of openness begins at the top, and thanks to digital networks of communication, it can flow to all members of your team, no matter where they are.
Remote working can be a big adjustment for companies, but in today’s environment, it can also be a step forward when it comes to enhancing innovation, creativity, and diversity. When supported with correct training, it can help employees increase productivity, build confidence, and make business operations more efficient. The sooner your organization can begin to build a great team of onsite and remote workers, the sooner you’ll be able to help your workers feel more comfortable pushing their boundaries and taking ownership of new tasks.
If you’re interested in remote work—and maybe becoming a digital nomad yourself—why not consider a career in business to business (B2B) tech sales? And the best way to start your new career is to register for SalesCamp from Palette Skills!