remote work

Recently, we have a great deal of companies in the world that, for obvious reasons, are trying to get used to the idea of remote work. And this is how they try to operate. If they have not had any experience with it before, they usually do it wrong.

Remote work – you are welcome

Recently, a friend of mine made this accurate comment:

(…) some companies collided with reality. XXI century force shift. And suddenly it turns out that “remote work” is something that is in the “possible to implement” category.

It could not be more accurately expressed. It turns out that remote work is something that, indeed, is possible to implement. You just had to look at it more closely.

But I would go a little further with all of this.

Recently I got my hands on an e-mail from one of the companies operating so far according to the mantra: “remote work – impossible”. It was sent to all employees.

I will not quote the whole e-mail, that is not the point. Let me paraphrase it, or better, describe the message. Well, an HR manager wrote that due to the coronavirus spreading in the country, company X increases the number of remote work days available to office workers from two or three a month to twelve. All interested parties are invited to submit applications on the employee portal. Then something completely incomprehensible about care and sickness benefits, something about some paper (sic!), declarations, Social Insurance forms. And at the end of the news, of course, the legal basis.

It couldn’t have been done worse.

Oh, and of course, they also informed that direct supervisor is fully responsible for the results of an employee working remotely.

My bad – it could have been done worse.

Time to face it

Introducing the remote work model to the organization – no matter if permanently or temporarily – is a very big change.

First of all, it is the people managing the organization that should be aware of this (which they often do not do!). And when they realize it, they should take appropriate steps to ensure that the introduction of this new model goes smoothly and without losing the quality of work.

Remote work differs significantly from working in the office, especially in organizations with a traditional approach to management.

What every managing person in the context of remote work must realize:

  • Remote work has become a standard model in modern companies some time ago. It is not worth treating it as an additional benefit, or lesser evil.
  • In this type of model, we forget about standardised working hours. The employee becomes a task manager, and when the task is done it depends on him (but before the expected completion date).
  • In this model, we are not interested in the place of work. It is important that he has the opportunity to perform his work and fulfill his tasks on time. And whether it is his home, a desk in a co-working space, a train, a cottage in the woods or a beach – we, as a managers, should not be bothered by that.
  • In remote work, we cannot require the employee to be at our disposal here and now, at the moment when we want it (another thing is that in traditional office work we should not require it either).
  • Introducing the remote working model to the organization is a big change, and employees should be informed about that by the main manager. HR staff can inform about further operational or organizational issues.
  • The introduction of remote work requires changes in the organizational culture.
  • As in the traditional, office model, also in the case of remote work, it is required to build an appropriate infrastructure that will facilitate work.
  • Before introducing such a change – you should talk to a person who knows something about this type of work organization in the company.
  • As in many other large and important projects – this one should also have a project manager, and preferably – a change manager. This project should have a person responsible for it.
  • And most importantly: poorly introduced remote work can bury the organization. A well-introduced organization will make the organization more flexible and its employees happier.

Remote work – how to introduce it to the company?

First things first. They need to understand what remote work is about and what is involved. The fish rots from the head down. If among the people running the company there is no full conviction and faith in the success of this model, nothing will come of it.

But let’s suppose that this belief already exists at the highest levels of the organization. What’s next? – We proceed to the preparations:

  • Such a change needs a person who manages the entire project, the entire change. Ideally a change manager, possibly a project manager. Such a person should be appointed and officially assigned to this role thereafter.
  • Equipment. Workers should not work on their own equipment (unless there is some reason to do so?). Remote work = portable equipment, no stationary. Telephone? As you see fit, not necessarily, although sometimes it would be appropriate – especially among people who have contact with customers.
  • Infrastructure. People need to have access to the work systems. So it would probably be appropriate to have and offer well-configured corporate VPNs, as well as remote access to all required systems.
  • Cloud. It doesn’t have to be a public cloud, it can be a corporate, private, VPN-accessible cloud. But it has to be somewhere to at least store information and documents.
  • Internal communication. Mail is a great invention, but a company that only communicates internally via email is a badly organized company.
  • Internal audio and video communication. In remote work, it is much more difficult than in the traditional model to build a bond with colleagues. Therefore, an important element is to see each other from time to time, to look ourselves in the eye and exchange a few words. You can use an internal communication tool, you can use something else. But you should have something.
  • External audio and video communication. Similarly, it is worth seeing or hearing from time to time with customers and business partners. Again, we can use something we already have for internal communication or something separate. It is important that there is something in the company.
  • Knowledge base, intranet, some other internal knowledge system for employees. So that you do not have to search your e-mails or ask other colleagues – one common place with access to all the most important information becomes more important than ever.
  • Different companies have their own individual additional needs that should be satisfied. But this is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Ok, let’s assume we have everything ready. So let’s start implementing the changes:

  • The message with the information that a new work model is being introduced should reach employees from the general manager/CEO/COO. It should be short, concise and to the point. Just about this, in a simple and easy to understand language. With information presented in the spirit of following trends, introducing modernity to the company. In the e-mail, it is also worth designating a specific person who will coordinate the topic of introducing changes in the organization and note that the HR department will also soon provide more information.
  • In the following days, the HR department provides all additional organizational / operational information and informs that managers of these departments are responsible for organizing remote work in individual departments. And here again – simple and understandable language. Short and to the point, without laws, legal notices or any other kind of mumbo jumbo. We introduce a new, good thing in the organization. We are turning in a good, modern direction. We stick to it.
  • Managers make sure that all employees have what they need to continue their work and shift their current processes to remote work processes.
  • The entire process, from the beginning of preparations, through introducing changes, to monitoring the implementation of changes and optimization of activities, is coordinated by the person designated to lead the project (change manager).

And here again – there will probably be additional, specific points for specific organizations. But again – it’s determined on a case by case basis.

Remote work – for an employee

And finally, something the least obvious of all.

People managing companies in the traditional model often forget about what is the most important part in all of this: the employee. They can use unknown, eloquent, sublime – or on the contrary, loose-blues – words to articulate how extraordinary and modern they are. But if they forget the employee, they may just as well talk to a brick wall – outcome will likely be the same.

An employee with 10, 20, 30 years of experience in organizations where he was ordered to be in the office at 8 a.m., 15 km from home, washed, shaved, combed and ironed, will not know what to do with himself when suddenly someone will tell him to become modern now and work in a pajama. People who have had to come to the office at a certain time all their lives to nail the card and go to work there are simply not able to work remotely in the world. And they need to learn this remote work.

And the role of management board is to introduce such a work culture in the organization so that people working in the remote work model can work at least as well as in an office. The role of the change manager is to introduce a training path that will allow individual managers to learn such a model of work. And the role of managers at subsequent levels is to teach their subordinates what remote work is.

This is teamwork. Without it, the employee will feel lost, and from the perspective of the organization, he will be inefficient.

The most important elements that should be taken care of by employees working in a remote model:

  • To know how to use the company tools. This may seem obvious, but in many cases it is not. Something that, for various reasons, is relatively simple for someone when he is in the office, remotely does not have to be that simple.
  • That they have a designated specific place to work. The living space must be separated from the work space.
  • To learn to manage their own time. Nobody will strictly supervise them here – the work has to be done and that’s it.
  • To learn to rest. For people who work from the office five days a week, 9am-5pm, it may seem strange, but the truth is that for a person working remotely, it is very difficult to work 8 hours a day and no more. Due to the fact that nothing makes them quit and go home, they often hang out longer, which also exposes them to burnout faster.
  • To learn to communicate with other colleagues remotely, so that they do not lock themselves in their own four walls.
  • To take care of themselves and their diet. No one here will ask if anyone is going to lunch. Food is often forgotten, it is worth taking care of yourself, set a reminder.
  • Make them stay active. Not having to move often leads to insufficient activity. And the pot belly grows.
  • Make sure that boundaries are clearly set in relations with their relatives or roommates. Just because someone is home does not mean they are at home. This is work, the man with remote work is at work. So he shouldn’t clean windows, play board games or watch TV series together.
  • To take care of their own expenses. Working from home often means using the Internet, electricity and everyday utilities more. This may be a good time to look at your bills and, for example, negotiate any changes to the terms of service with your provider.
  • To make sure they don’t get confused. This is probably my favorite point, because it is also very difficult to enforce in practice. Remote work tempts you to sit all day in slippers, pajama, without any special morning preparation. With time, it becomes a habit for you and you become wild at the thought of leaving the house and showing yourself to the world. But it does not have to be that way. Remote work is normal work and it is worth getting ready for it as for normal work. Get ready, that is, wash and dress up. This allows you to maintain a healthy balance and feel better.

I also recommend that you read the materials about people who have learned the ropes and know how to work remotely and are willing to share their experiences. Certainly, ladies and gentlemen from companies such as Nozbe, Buffer or Basecamp have a lot of wise things to say about it.

Do you need more information?

Let me know, I’ll be glad to help.

After all, remote work is often related to the transformation of offline business to an online business or at least a hybrid model.

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