Working in a distributed environment, otherwise called ‘Remote working’ has been on the rise for sometime now and is increasingly getting more popular and practical. Covid19 has forced remote working to a significantly higher percentage of the population and we have little choice but to adapt.

It is inevitable to form new schedules, home offices and even new habits so that working from home (WFH) is both manageable and also productive. Working from home can really throw some challenges, however, it also opens up some possibilities of creating positive changes and increased collaboration amongst teams. For those companies that have adopted remote working, already understand some of the benefits of it:

  • It’s a lot more cost effective where wages and services are often cheaper in other regions within or outside the country. For example it’s certainly cheaper to hire talents in Nashville or New Mexico compared to New York. A recent article suggested that Facebook is now directing its compensation based on the location allowing high skilled resources to work from their homes without having to move to San Francisco offices
  • Larger pool of talent to work with when your horizons are much farther.
  • Your Solutions automatically start enjoying a 24/7 availability when you are having team members spread out across time zones.
  • Gain cultural insights and the advantage of different perspectives.
  • Expand your business presence and make connections across the globe.

I’m sure you’re starting to see plenty of other benefits too. And there are also challenges that come with being part of a distributed environment. Disruptive ideas are great, but disruptive implementations are not!

In this article we wanted to share a few best practices of getting the best out of your employees during this period

Working in a distributed environment, otherwise called ‘Remote working’ has been on the rise for sometime now and is increasingly getting more popular and practical. Covid19 has forced remote working to a significantly higher percentage of the population and we have little choice but to adapt.

It is inevitable to form new schedules, home offices and even new habits so that working from home (WFH) is both manageable and also productive. Working from home can really throw some challenges, however, it also opens up some possibilities of creating positive changes and increased collaboration amongst teams. For those companies that have adopted remote working, already understand some of the benefits of it:

  • It’s a lot more cost effective where wages and services are often cheaper in other regions within or outside the country. For example it’s certainly cheaper to hire talents in Nashville or New Mexico compared to New York. A recent article suggested that Facebook is now directing its compensation based on the location allowing high skilled resources to work from their homes without having to move to San Francisco offices
  • Larger pool of talent to work with when your horizons are much farther.
  • Your Solutions automatically start enjoying a 24/7 availability when you are having team members spread out across time zones.
  • Gain cultural insights and the advantage of different perspectives.
  • Expand your business presence and make connections across the globe.

I’m sure you’re starting to see plenty of other benefits too. And there are also challenges that come with being part of a distributed environment. Disruptive ideas are great, but disruptive implementations are not!

In this article we wanted to share a few best practices of getting the best out of your employees during this period

  1. Selecting the right technology for your project.
  2. Ensure high team spirit and morale
  3. Pay more attention to onboarding process
  4. More accountability and less micromanagement
  5. Ensure high level of Collaboration and participation
  6. Deliberate celebrations and non-productive engagements
  7. Constant feedback to measure and improve

Selecting the right technology for your project

When considering the right technology tools for your project, there are a few important things to consider. Time zones, language barriers, internet availability, knowledge differences among various team members, Cultural holidays, and New environment burnouts could be some issues that pop up, but surveys have shown that in spite of some of these challenges working from home or working in a distributed environment can be highly productive.

Whether you are working for clients in your own time zone or for someone on the other side of the planet, few elements become key deciding factors and therefore automatically crucial. The size of your team for instance, and how distributed are your team members, play a role in the tools you choose. Always choose tools that most of your team members can adopt. Consider the fact that direct face-to-face discussions have diffused a lot of small issues on a daily basis before, but now that everyone is in their own environment, an effective alternative becomes important. Collaboration is key

Video conferencing and screen sharing solutions that work relatively better with even lower bandwidth connections make for a better choice.

Visualize the complete workflow to understand all the gaps in your process and choose automation tools that bridge those gaps. Handling those workflows becomes crucial for your project delivery. Cost-effectiveness should not be the only primary deciding factor as that could mean you end up with a bunch of different tools that may or may not integrate with each other and you are left with a complex manual workflow to keep up with your timelines.

Ensure high team spirit and morale

When working together in office, few things can be taken for granted as the environment provides those advantages as a byproduct. Collaboration among team members becomes easy when people work face-to-face. Being honest about what you are working on at that very moment is usually transparent when working at one place. The teams are usually undistracted when working as a team to achieve their everyday targets.

It’s a punch in the gut for productivity when team members suddenly have to work in isolation. As leaders, it’s important to recognize this and include measures to counter this when working with a heavily distributed workforce. It’s important to,

  • Create a safe space for everyone to contribute
  • Encouraging openness among members
  • Allowing your teams to cope with a routine that best suits their personality and their current environment
  • Extra effort in team building
  • Include non-productive engagements to strengthen camaraderie and team spirit

Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer winner, writes in his book, ‘Smarter faster Better’, that Google ranked 1st in “The best places to work” list by Forbes survey for over 3 years consistently due to one of the key measures that they took to understand their employees’ physiological needs to improve their work culture. They commissioned a ‘People Analytics group’ within their HR department, whose main purpose was to research and understand their employees’ needs and align their work culture accordingly to boost productivity. To take measures to mainly improve employee happiness multifold even if it meant 10% increase in productivity. Efforts like these becomes even more important during these unprecedented times of isolation.

Pay more attention to onboarding process

Onboarding is an important process for a new joinee. In a traditional environment, new joinees get to talk and socialize and go to lunch with other colleagues. They are able to network and build camaraderie during this duration. However this could prove to be challenging during this pandemic. Lot of teams that are forced into isolation and WFH now, easily make this mistake and the new joinees don’t really understand where to begin or how to catch up efficiently. And working with team members from completely different time zones only adds more to the emotional stress, thereby affecting output. We recommend a dedicated mentor for every new joinee, like their reporting managers or supervisors becoming mentors for a period of time, to address this challenge.

More accountability and less micromanagement

Be more result-driven rather than time-driven. Create a culture of accountability and stay Agile. A culture of trust and accountability ensures that the sum of all components is larger than their individual values. It could be a bit challenging to create this environment completely online, but it’s worth the effort and has great advantages in the short and long run.

Surveys and studies have shown in numerous scenarios, teams that are driven by accountability make fewer mistakes and face fewer hurdles in achieving their goals. Consider creating transparency in reporting. This surely increases vulnerability, but your team and project is better off for it.

  • Ensure everyone is clear on their roles and expectations within the team
  • Let your teams know that it’s ok to make mistakes and that owning up to them is not frowned upon.
  • Reward practices and instances of accountability
  • Embrace a certain level of vulnerability in the workplace
  • Do not allow members to be just background enablers as it challenges clear accountability.

Ensure high level of Collaboration and participation

Studies have proved that higher productivity and effective teamwork is a result of effective teams that are able to play with each team member’ strengths irrespective of their IQs and past individual success.
Collaboration tools allow for on-demand sharing, communicating and coaching, regardless of age or location, and helps everyone take advantage of it. It’s a necessary leadership skill to ensure you let everyone voice their share of thoughts in every meeting they participate, whether in person or via video conferencing. In a lot of successful companies leaders ensure meetings don’t end before every person in the room has made their voice heard.

Deliberate celebrations and non-productive engagements

No doubt beers are a great social lubricant, but so are celebrating birthdays. Getting your teams to engage in online multiplayer games or being able to share their favorite music or indulge in quiz or collaborative art projects can improve morale and reduce burnouts.

Successfully completing a module of work can be an intentional cause for celebrations. Show the team that their work is still profoundly recognized even if they are not working in a physically connected environment. As our interactions become more and more digital, there comes more room for miscommunication and misunderstanding in new forms and shapes. We cannot expect the solution to always come from new technologies. Instead, the solution is in understanding the new rules of the game and adapting quickly; in building communication that reflects the demands of our new age of engagement.

Constant feedback to measure and improve

It’s important to set expectations and be realistic about it. Expectations must be measurable, so setting clear KPIs and deadlines becomes vital. Employees must know what they’re supposed to do. Managers need to make sure that tasks are precise and timely. A constant feedback and open reporting increase accountability in an established safe space. It helps to bring up hurdles and roadblocks that they are facing into everyone’s view and makes it easy for the team to report and rectify.

Kanini provides Digital Workspace Solutions that can enhance your employee productivity with modules around employee collaboration, productivity measurements, performance management, coaching and feedback, solutions to nudge employees to improve their performance based on neuroeconomics, etc

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