There’s no denying that remote working is gaining traction in the world of work, with established brands and start-up businesses embracing a new way of working remotely.
And this new phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, there are more signs that it’ll speed up and make an even bigger impact on employers and employees alike.
Gone are the days when a physical building was needed for a business to run successfully, but what a physical building does deliver that remote working often doesn’t, is a defined culture.
When you work in an office your behaviour is somewhat defined by the rules and boundaries set by the values and ethos of the business. Expectations are already in place, from what time you arrive in the morning and the time that you leave at the end of the day, to how you behave amongst your peers, with clients and when interacting with third parties.
Your role is clearly defined and you fall into line with those around you.
When you add remote working into the mix, some of these boundaries and expectations can get blurred. By removing the need for a physical office, new boundaries need to be put in place and a bigger emphasis needs to be placed on sustaining an office culture, that naturally becomes harder to implement.
People love people and we love to feel as if we belong. Human beings are pack animals and feel most secure when we have a defined role to play and fulfil. Once a physical presence has been removed, it becomes harder to experience consistent human connection.
But don’t forget that this is all totally new. For centuries we’ve believed that running a business has to be done within the confines of four walls. Those who are fully embracing remote working are seen as trailblazers, paving the way for others to follow their lead.
But there is no rule book. No manual to follow. It’s very much led by those at the top who are making bold, intuitive decisions to shake up what we’ve been conditioned to believe as how we ‘should’ work.
We live in a world of opportunity, where we can literally have it all. But at what price? Remote working is an incredible solution for many, many workers. It eliminates the need for a physical office, it eradicates the need to commute into work and offers a better sense of balance for those who often need to work around family commitments.
But it’s not always easy, which is why I’ve created my top three tips on how to create a great remote office culture. In life we need polarity, so while working remotely offers many positives, it also has its negatives too.
1) Create values and purpose
Team culture is implicit. In a shared working environment culture happens tacitly. In remote teams without a common environment culture and values should be discussed consciously.
Typical questions are:
- What should the team achieve?
- How does the team contribute to the company’s goals?
- How can everyone contribute?
- How will team success be measured and individual performance evaluated?
- What are our values?
- What is the purpose in the big picture?
- How would we like to work together?
These are also key principles by which the team can judge its own behaviour, even when it feels like it is on a deserted island.
2) Tools and communication
Choose the right tools for remote team communication and take asynchronous and synchronous communication into account.
Try to reduce email. Not only is it time consuming but it disturbs people at work the most. Leave the email and enter the brave new world of real-time communication.
This form of communication saves much more time. And even if tools are available, it doesn’t mean communication is taking place. Every member of your team must be willing to answer calls, texts, emails or direct messages on a regular basis. It should be transparent how every team member is available and when – especially in different time zones.
Ensure a clear, accurate and targeted communication. Always think before you send something and consider how information will be understood by another person.
Pure text can be interpreted in different ways and not only in intercultural teams.
3) Be aware of burnout
A common fear of new remote managers is that remote employees lack productivity because they are more distracted.
The reality is the opposite. Remote employees work more and are often unwilling to stop working. Overtime can easily become a habit. After some time, this behaviour can lead to burnout and issues with overall health.
It is up to the remote managers to coach your employees to set boundaries, prioritise workload and set daily goals. Employees should be encouraged to take breaks to help maintain good energy levels. Having them play games like solitaire, which are ideal for quick breaks, can be good for productivity.
Remote working really is helping to create change in a world that has been stuck in its ways for decades, but it’s very much a learning process and figuring out what works best for each individual business that adopts this new way of working.
If we continue to share our experiences, both good and bad, then things can only get better. And who knows what it could lead to in the future.
About the author
Remote work Advocate for many years, lover of dogs and the surf, Matthew Lloyd comes from a small mining community in South Wales, (where his inspiration and curiosity for creating communities online stemmed) as he witnesses them disappear from his local area as the mines closed. He truly believes in amazing customer service; ‘good’ is not good enough in today’s tech-savvy market. His role at Wurkr.io is varied. At a small start-up, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into anything and everything, from Marketing, Sales, Customer Success (which is primarily what I do), product demos and onboarding new clients to tech support on occasion. He loves it as Wurkr has customers all over the world now from India, New Zealand, Peru, Brazil and of course Europe. Matthew loves speaking to them and hearing their stories.