The challenges of remote work for organizations

And ways to deal with them

Organizations have dedicated the last decades to building amenity-filled workspaces designed to maximize collaboration and productivity. Employees were tempted by perks like unlimited snacks and on-site gyms to essentially live in-office. 

But, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to rethink the appearance of a productive organization. Through embracing the use of leading-edge technologies, organizations have found remote work can be as effective (and less expensive) as face-to-face collaboration. 

While WFH was initially seen as a temporary solution, some organizations are beginning to publicly commit to the idea that WFH is the way of their organization’s future, offering employees the option to work remotely after offices reopen. 

The unprecedented nature of a remote organization means navigating how to structure a remote organization. It’s not easy and comes with challenges. To normalize this new way of working and help organizations successfully adapt to a remote operation, we summarized the best practices for addressing organizational challenges of remote work and what managers should change moving forward.

  1. Collaboration 

While there are a lot of aspects to the way we work that have changed in the past year, one skill has remained just as necessary for remote organizations: collaboration. But trying to replicate the way we collaborate face-to-face does not suffice in an online environment. No longer are our workdays filled with spontaneous water cooler conversations with colleagues or spur of the moment brainstorming sessions or debates. Scheduling back-to-back video meetings have not been found to have the same effect on productivity as face-to-face meetings either. There are no clear boundaries for organizations on how to keep remote collaboration fluid without making employees feel like they need to be online all the time. At this point, it’s pretty clear that remote work demands a different approach to collaboration. What does successful remote collaboration look like? 

Our tip: The solution to remote collaboration lies in developing an operation that supports the unique demands of the digital work environment. It is okay for managers to want to stay in constant contact with employees. But, they must choose how to communicate strategically. Instead of planning another time-consuming video call, managers should opt to collaborate asynchronously with their teams. This means that employees respond on their own time, produce more documentation, and create fewer meetings in the long-run. The possibilities of async collaboration are vast and ease organizations’ struggles with remote collaboration, such as differing work schedules or time zones. Asynchronous communication tools like Acapela allow teams to collaborate on tasks intermittently, over time.

  1. Company Culture

Millennial and Gen Z employees have shifted their career priorities. Choosing a workplace is no longer exclusively determined by money, location or perks, but about the reputation of the organization’s people and culture. We spend the majority of our lives at work, so we might as well work for an organization we feel loyal toward with people we identify with. Not to mention, in times of crisis a strong company culture can be the glue that holds the organization together. In an in-person work environment, company culture is cultivated naturally by spending time with colleagues. But in a remote organization, how does company culture develop? How are new employees supposed to find their place in an organization or get to know their colleagues on a personal level? And how should organizations respond to younger employees suddenly feeling bored with their WFH jobs? The importance of company culture has been highlighted by the shift to remote work as it influences morale and the quality of work. 

Our tip: Be deliberate about building and maintaining company culture. From planning time for new employees to socialize with the rest of the team during the onboarding process to scheduling team lunch or coffee breaks. Maybe even plan social events like trivia nights, or annual company retreats (COVID-19 safe, of course). This will help employees feel emotionally engaged with the company. Survey employees to gauge what type of social events would interest them to maintain a sense of community. Also, don’t forget to collect feedback regularly and frequently communicate the company’s goals and vision. 

  1. “Lack of Control” 

Evaluating the quality of output from time spent on a task is outdated: yet many managers still do this. In a remote environment where it is difficult to track time, managers tend to cope by micromanaging their employees due to a lack of control. This style of management has a negative impact on company culture because employees feel untrusted by their superiors. Obviously, simply telling managers to trust their employees is unlikely to be an adequate solution. What is the balance between management control and employee autonomy in a remote work environment? 

Our tip: Focus on outcomes, not input. Empower your employees and learn to trust that they will find the right solutions. It is normal for everyone to work at their own pace and now most likely on their own schedule. Clearly define the company goals. Jointly define team and individual goals. This can be done using tools such as an Objectives and Key Results (OKR) system. Frameworks like OKRs help organizations align company and team goals. This guarantees that all employees understand how their work contributes to the greater company vision. 

The challenges of remote work affect both organizations and individuals. Today, organizations must understand that skills they once depended on in face-to-face work environments do not translate digitally. In order to normalize our new way of working, we must use new tools and strategies. This is unchartered territory - for everyone. It’s time to shift our perspective of the pandemic from a trigger to an accelerator.

Curious to learn more about the challenging aspects of remote work and collaboration, and how companies around the world deal with them? 

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