How to tackle the challenges of remote working?
Raphael Bick, Michael Chang, Kevin Wei Wang and Tianwen Yu, all who work at McKinsey & Company offices around China and Hong Kong, have gathered the best ways to make remote working easier now that the times are – well, hard, to say the least. The article was published in March of 2020 on McKinsey’s website.
At this point, as China was the first one to get affected from COVID-19, and is the home for many of the world’s biggest companies, it is as a country pretty experienced in the world of working from home.
According to the writers, done right, remote working can actually be very effective. On the other hand, done wrong, it can easily drag the results down, damage work relationships and demotivate employees. This is why it’s important for leaders to act now and try to make the remote working environment as good as they can.
The best ways to get the most out of remote working are:
- Designing an effective structure.
If the employees work in teams and are accountable to each other, working remotely can easily make things confusing. It is easy to get confused about things like who you can talk to about a problem or what the deadlines for your assignments are. This is why making a clear, understandable structure is the essential key to keeping the work effective and going, even when it’s done at home.
The writers advice to create small cross-functional teams that have a clear mission and reporting line. In smaller groups it is easier to implement tasks and directions. Also, with fewer team members it is easier to get to know each other on a more personal level and build trust. Providing clarity on things through smaller teams makes people more productive and self-imposed.
- Leading from afar.
When remote working, it is way harder to manage people than when working together in the same office. Communication from afar is complex, and it is likely to have misunderstandings happen if the staff isn’t used to communicate through different electronic devices.
According to the writers, leaders need to set a clear direction and communicate it effectively to the whole organization and it’s people. It is crucial to create an outcome-driven culture that holds teams accountable for their work. Clarity and transparency are also key factors to making the collaboration within the management and employees better, so upping the levels of interaction is needed.
- Instilling a caring culture.
It is important to acknowledge and understand that with the changes to the new normal, employees may be facing some real difficulties and pressure at home, such as caring for their children or feeling isolated and alone. This is why creating a caring culture of empathy and understanding is such a crucial part to making remote working possible and actually productive.
By creating a sense of psychological safety for their colleagues, managers can ensure to help their teams solve problems effectively.
This also goes with customers and clients: providing caring customer service and helping them with possible feelings of instability is good when the circumstances are unstable and changing. Transparency and inclusion are the ultimate shows of empathy.
- Finding a new routine.
It is important for leaders to really spend time with their teams in the beginning of the remote working era to create a new routine and figure out the ways they want to handle things as a team in the upcoming times. The teams together with their leaders should cover the daily rhythm, individual constraints and specific norms they will commit to.
The challenges of the new working pattern can easily be overcome by creating a clear routine and schedule for the whole team to work by.
- Supercharging ways of communicating.
According to the writers, poor communication is one of the key reasons remote offices are not productive. It is important to rethink the ways of communicating within the staff, as if it’s not well thought, it can be the end of the productive work. Choosing the channel that works spesifically for your team is super important. Great ways to communicate are for example video conferences, different kinds of chat softwares and voice notes.
Also, it is crucial to document everything to avoid misconceptions.
- Harnessing the power of technology.
Now it’s the time to get on board with the different kinds of technological solutions provided. Obviously it is important to have a fast and secure internet connection, as well as setting up an ergonomic home office environment.
A single, digitally accessible source of information, that the staff know and can utilize keeps everybody aligned.
- Taking security seriously.
The uncertainty at work can add a layer of complexity to remote working and can easily damage the productivity of a company if not handled correctly. It is important to get your employees to know the safe practices and tools to use when working from home, so that they don’t feel insecure about their job and performance at it.
Leaders need to provide the right tools for their employees to easily adapt to remote working without fear of not being productive enough.
- Adopting a ’test and learn’ mentality
The final lesson is to be ready to recognize what works in your company and what doesn’t, and actually to be able to change the ways you do things if you notice they are not working. Fast moves and flexibility are a good thing when it comes to testing new ways of working.
According to the writers, leadership teams that actively learn, identify best practices and rapidly set up mechanisms to share ideas across the organization are the most successful in the long run.
So, if something doesn’t work for your company or team, test another way of doing things. It’s not that serious, none of us have been in this kind of a situation or under this kind of pressure before!
Lastly, the writers state that embracing remote working allows companies to define a new normal that drives productivity and employee satisfaction into the future. Hence, bringing together all the elements showcased in this article can enable a new way of working that will make your company fit for the future.
I can happily say that after reading this article I think our team is pretty good at remote working! At this point of our studies we definitely have the kind of trust for each other that allows us to feel secure about each other’s work and productivity. I guess we have the most to learn about communication without not seeing each other, which is obvious for companies like our’s. Because, in our normal day-to-day life we work so closely togehter, it is definitely the hardest part of this whole situation not to be able to see each other and communicate face-to-face. In any case, as the virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, I’m confident that we will learn the ways to remote working that work the best for us! If I’m being honest, I think this whole situation might be a great thing for our learning experience. In addition to what we already learn in Proakatemia, now we also have the possibility to learn to be the best remote workers ever!