Time to discuss remote working strategies: coordinate work intelligently, share information thoughtfully, use smart communication technologies and platforms

16 Tips to Implement Remote Working Strategies in Your Company - Part 2

Series of Remote Working Articles

The Coronavirus pandemic is forcing organizations to send many of their people home and collaborate remotely. Even in the long term, engaging remote or partially remote teams is expected to become significantly more common practice than in the past. On one hand, remote working presents a vast array of opportunities to individuals as well as businesses, allowing them to pursue new strategies. On the other, this practice has many inherent challenges.

In a series of articles, we are sharing a selection of practical tips and ideas to make remote collaboration highly rewarding for your organization. This current piece discusses some of the fundamentals. We look into remote working strategies, such as coordinating work intelligently, sharing information and feedback thoughtfully, and using smart communication practices, technologies and platforms.

Time to think strategically

Remote collaboration can open up a world of opportunities for businesses. However, this practice has its inherent challenges. Simply allowing or asking people to work from home, without thorough preparation and implementation, could quickly backfire, leading to a range of cultural and performance issues. To set up your teams – including both remote and office-based members – for success, you need to be highly organized and plan carefully. You probably need to provide training, build new skills, set up new systems and processes, and adapt your workplace culture to new ways of working. In the first article of our series, we outlined the array of benefits that effective remote collaboration could present to your business, along with common challenges. In this second part, we share four remote working strategies and sixteen tips to help your distributed teams thrive.
Anetta Pizag

Anetta Pizag

Anetta is an expert consultant for workplace change projects, editor-in-chief of Kragelj Design blog and member of the Advisory Board. She is the author of Create a Thriving Workspace and is working on her second book.

Anetta Pizag

Anetta Pizag

Anetta is an expert consultant for workplace change projects, editor-in-chief of Kragelj Design blog and member of the Advisory Board. She is the author of Create a Thriving Workspace and is working on her second book.

Alenka Kragelj Eržen

Alenka Kragelj Eržen

Alenka is CEO and Chief Architect at Kragelj. She is the author of numerous articles on workplace strategies and green architecture and is a regular presenter at Workplace Design Conference and other business events.

Alenka Kragelj Eržen

Alenka Kragelj Eržen

Alenka is CEO and Chief Architect at Kragelj. She is the author of numerous articles on workplace strategies and green architecture and is a regular presenter at Workplace Design Conference and other business events.

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Strategy 1:

Coordinate work intelligently

1. Create communication protocols
For your team to work like a well-oiled machine, everyone needs to understand how their tasks fit into the larger picture. They also need to know what others are doing and when they are available. To make this happen, create communication protocols describing when and how your people should provide updates, discuss certain issues and make decisions. Take into consideration members’ preferred methods of communication to get the best results.
Even in the long term, engaging remote or partially remote teams is expected to become significantly more common practice than in the past.
Flexible workstation area in the office of Kragelj Architects. This setting supports seamless communication and teamwork, allowing employees to easily reorganize themselves based on the project they’re working on and the colleagues they are collaborating with on the day.
For your team to work like a well-oiled machine, everyone needs to understand how their tasks fit into the larger picture.
2. Set clear targets and performance indicators
Set clear targets and performance indicators that will help you evaluate your people’s performance fairly. Be mindful of your unconscious biases. We all have the natural tendency to overestimate the skills and contribution of those we frequently see in person compared to those we only work with remotely. You can’t overcome such ingrained biases at will – you need smart management strategies to help you stay objective.
3. Allow people to set boundaries
While regular interaction is important, I suggest you encourage your remote members to set some boundaries. Just like anyone else, sometimes they need to block out all distractions and work in a bubble in order to get things done. So let them silence their phones, switch off notifications, and not answer emails and messages when their work requires deep focus.
4. Support healthy work routines
Your remote team could possibly use some help in maintaining a healthy work routine. Encourage them to take regular breaks during the day, which might not come natural to them without the hustle and interruptions of a busy office. Make it clear to them when they are expected to answer emails and calls, and when they can switch off at the end of the day. Encourage them to take regular breaks during the day. This might not come natural to them without the hustle and interruptions of a busy office.
‘Game Cave’ in the recently completed agile workplace of a global entertainment company. Welcoming, cozy break areas like this invite people to take a step away from work. While on a break, employees may play games – as encouraged by leadership – or simply relax. It’s recognized that both forms of recreation can enhance creative thinking.
Be mindful of your unconscious biases. You need smart management strategies to help you stay objective.
5. Agree on a communication etiquette
The success of a remote meeting largely depends on participants’ habits and behaviors. To ensure effective communication and collaboration, have a chat with your team about good work practices. For example, members shouldn’t multitask while listening to others, even when no-one can see them. This behavior doesn’t only jeopardize knowledge exchange and problem solving, but can also disengage the rest of the team. During a remote meeting, participants should ideally block out all distractions, silence the devices not in use, and focus intently on the conversation.

Strategy 2:

Share information and feedback thoughtfully

6. Share all news and updates
Share all news and updates with your remote team, no matter how small. If it’s worth talking about with a colleague over a coffee then it’s also worth sharing with those far away. Keeping all members fully up-to-date on what’s happening in the business will make them feel more involved and valued, and give them a greater sense of progress.
7. Schedule informal online learning sessions
In the workplace, people tend to learn more about their jobs through impromptu chats and overheard conversations than through formal training. While it might sound paradoxical, you might want to schedule time for ‘spontaneous’, informal online learning sessions to ensure that your team members are not missing out on the opportunity to learn from each other.
If it’s worth talking about with a colleague over a coffee then it’s also worth sharing with those far away.
8. Provide frequent recognition and feedback
Even though they might be highly independent, confident and self-motivated, your remote members need recognition and feedback as much as anyone else, if not more. So share your thoughts about their work generously, and help them see how their efforts translate to tangible results. You don’t want them to overwork, feeling that they constantly need to prove themselves.

Strategy 3:

Use smart technologies and strategies for online collaboration

9. Ask everyone to switch on their video

During conference calls, every participant should switch on their video. You’ll have a more connected conversation when you can actually see each other. In addition, this will prompt members to pay full attention, rather than juggling different tasks during the meeting – such as answering emails or working on unrelated projects.

10. Use good quality equipment
Use good quality video-conferencing equipment. Place screens, cameras and microphones carefully, in a way that every single member – whether physically present or joining remotely – can clearly see and hear each other. For large meetings you’ll probably need to use multiple pieces of equipment. However, you’ll find that with the right technology and set-up your team will be able to communicate much more effectively.
11. Give everyone equal opportunity
When some team members are joining a meeting remotely while others are in the same office, consider adopting this interesting strategy commonly used at Trello’s and then at Atlassian’s offices. The idea is that office-based members actually disperse. All participants sit in a separate (ideally soundproof) space, joining the meeting via their own laptops or devices. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to be involved in the conversation and to contribute; no-one is sidelined.
Multifunctional seating booth, supporting both individual focused work as well as team activities, in the Ljubljana headquarters of UniCredit Bank. In this project, a whole floor was specifically designed to support flexible, project-based work by accommodating mobile employees and self-organized teams.
12. Use a digital canvas
Consider investing in a digital canvas – a device you can write or draw on directly, using touch technology, and which also allows you to also add notes and images from your own devices. Remote members are also able to see the content of the canvas via the internet and to seamlessly contribute with their ideas.
13. Set up a 24/7 video link between offices
When two or more teams in different offices collaborate together, it might be worthwhile to set up a 24/7 video connection between these offices. Using large screens, you can create the illusion that the other teams are at an arm’s length. This can invite informal conversations between members who might be working in different countries, and strengthen the connection between teams.
Make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be involved in the conversation and to contribute.

Strategy 4:

Choose the right communication platforms

14. Address conflicts skillfully
Recommend to your team that they talk through their differences via video calls, rather than over the phone. Discussing problems in writing can also help at times, because it gives them the opportunity to organize their thoughts and give a level-headed response. But at the end of the day, it’s best to settle on common ground while looking into the other person’s eyes – even through a camera.
Meeting room in the new office showroom of BSH Living Office in Ljubljana. This workplace features a large variety of different team settings designed to promote effective communication and collaboration. The flexible workplace also supports remote and partially remote teams where members don’t have allocated desks and only visit the office occasionally.
15. Embrace different communication styles
To ensure that ideas flow freely in a virtual meeting, create a rich experience where every member has a choice around how they present their thoughts to the team. Use collaboration software and apps that allow people to express themselves, for example, by talking, writing, drawing, or sharing documents, photos and videos. Be mindful that different communication methods and activities can bring different insights to the surface. Furthermore, you also respond to other people’s ideas differently based on how they are communicated.
Informal work settings in the agile workplace of a global entertainment company. The different rooms and areas support a range of individual and team activities as well as a variety of working, learning and communication styles.
Create a rich experience where every member has a choice around how they present their thoughts to the team.
16. Invite authentic self-expression
For relaxed, informal conversations, choose online platforms and software that invite authentic self-expression. These tools should also make it easy to communicate emotionally charged messages and to give and receive instant feedback. Check in with your team how they feel about different applications. For example, tools and platforms with serious styles and clunky functionality may make people feel cautious and guarded. In contrast, user-friendly apps with playful, informal vibes can help people relax and open up.

To take away

Some of these remote working ideas and best practices can be easily and quickly implemented, essentially cost free. Others require more money and time. Nonetheless, you should see quick returns on your investments and the benefits should be immediately visible.

With the right remote working strategies and best practices, your business can reach new heights. Just think about what your teams could achieve through improved collaboration and increased agility! Treat your remote members as integral parts of your team, collaborate with intelligence and discipline, and you won’t look back.

In the following part of our remote working series we will explore the following strategies:

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Fresh, biophilic and minimalist office design in a loft-like industrial space

UniCredit

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