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3 key things leaders should do to support their remote teams

How to help your employees thrive while working remotely

Oct. 15, 2020 | By: Brian Van Wyhe

woman seated at desk infront of a mac computer on a video conference call

As we navigate the remote business space, it’s essential for leaders to develop a strategy that includes optimizing collaboration tools, cultivating relationships and looking ahead. I recently spoke with ZDNet about the new rules for workers in today’s remote business environment and shared some of the insights from our State of Digital Transformation research and recommendations on how remote workers can thrive in the “new normal.”

While there are many ways that we as leaders can support our employees and drive productivity in a fully remote, or mostly remote, work landscape, I have seen the following actions as being most influential to how successful organizations navigate today.

1. Define what platform remote employees should be using (and when).

A productive office culture needs to know how they’re collaborating and communicating. Our State of Digital Transformation report explored which tools are seeing the biggest increase in usage as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Instant messaging tools (+94%)
  • Video conferencing tools (+74%)
  • File sharing tools (56%)

Leaders need to define clear expectations as to what tools remote teammates should be using—and when—both for internal communication and collaboration with colleagues, as well as externally with clients or customers. Consider the audience and relationship between the two (or more) involved parties. Interactions that work well for maintaining relationships may not be best suited for building new relationships.

The goal is for an exceptional user experience for all—so a one-size-fits-all mentality won’t be appropriate for all interactions between all audiences. However, having too many tools in use can cause confusion and decision fatigue. Having a system of record for your organization will help alleviate that stress and improve your employee experience.

2. Don’t be afraid to change course.

The remote work space is not going anywhere anytime soon. According to our recent State of Digital Transformation report, eight out of 10 organizations expect 50% or more of their workforce to be remote for the remainder of 2020.

What worked for your team in March 2020 may not still be viable in October 2020. (I can’t be the only one who has seen a sharp decline in virtual happy hours over the last few months.) Evaluate how you’re communicating with your remote employees, as well as your customers who are also likely a hybrid of remote working and office-based working. What’s working? What’s not? Encourage open communication and honesty from your team.

Remote work has been a part of how work gets done for a long time. And our research shows that more than a third of organizations expect to increase usage of remote learning/training and virtual workspace technologies as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Organizations need to adjust IT spending to support a larger remote workforce and should also revisit HR policies to reflect a larger remote culture.

3. Stay true to your company culture and values.

For your employees, new ideas are often spurred by “casual collisions” in the office. Creativity can suffer as a result of working remotely. In fact, 28% of organizations, in our research, identified fostering innovation/creativity as a top workforce challenge during the pandemic.

When working remotely, communication must be intentional. In some cases, that may feel like overcommunication—touching base more often and consistently to bring together what may be for many a fractured workplace. Engage key internal stakeholders—HR, IT, communications, inclusion and diversity—to lay out a virtual communications strategy that maintains employee morale, creativity and productivity through effective and purposeful communications and events. For example, our company launched a podcast series called Conversations That Matter, where we’re exploring and examining our inclusion and diversity journey and discussing how we can continue to thoughtfully progress forward.

For your customers, remember that they’re trying to figure this all out, too. And while virtual client meetings rarely allow for pre-meeting banter or lead to post-meeting drinks or dinner that in-person client meetings do, maintaining client relationships is possible. Encourage your remote employees to stay current on what’s happening in their customers’ world. One way to do this is to monitor their customers’ social media presence for topics and trends and to use what they learn there to engage in conversations. Contextualize a customer’s current environment based on what you know about their company and the challenges facing their industry now. As I shared with ZDnet, find new ways to share your insights and start conversations through podcasts, webinars and blog articles. With intention and discipline, your remote team can remain relevant—and hopefully, necessary—to their customers as they navigate their journey forward.

It‘s possible to thrive (not just survive) in a largely remote work environment. With the right tools, strategy and processes, you can support your remote employees and customers through this dynamic time and, perhaps, take some lessons learned on how to optimize collaboration and build strong relationships when greater number of teams return to the office as well.

Brian Van Wyhe is the executive director of Dynamic Workplace Services at TEKsystems, which was positioned in the 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed Workplace Services, North America for a second year.

Conversations that matter

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