…especially for first-time remote workers 

There is so much to think about when adapting your business to this new COVID-19 world. Ideally, remote working should be planned for and trained in, but urgent quarantine of our employees precludes this. Even with remote workers with their own computers, phones, and work processes, it is a challenge to “distance manage” team cohesion! How do you ensure quality work? How can teams continue to thrive or collaborate on new projects, and crucially, how can you ensure your company’s data is secure?

The starting point is to think of this challenge as a delegation, because you are actually devolving to remote workers all of the information, physical, social, and emotional servo-mechanisms that we take for granted in the workplace. This delegation challenge is in 4 stages:

1. Prepare to delegate remote working. 

Every remote worker must use a dedicated device. You’re asking to be hacked when you require employees to use the same computer for logging in to your intranet as they use for social media and gaming. Also, you need to provide professional versions of remote desktop protocol software, because the free versions are not secure enough. Consult with your IT people to keep your data secure through a reliable virtual private network or VPN. Contact our friends at Systems Support Corporation or ACTSmart IT for excellent advice on keeping your data safe!

2. Plan the remote working delegation discussion:  

Write a script to follow when you discuss remote working with each employee. It makes your message clear, comprehensive, and consistent. Always open discussions with your vision and values. A good idea is to have them on display as your video backdrop. Make daily communication events the spine of your diary. Talk through each of the following guidelines so as to establish your company norms when working remotely…

“Let’s begin by talking about you. How do you feel your home office is working for you?” Ensure people’s health and safety by guiding them to best practice in workspace ergonomics. This rests on a “do not disturb” discreet area where they can remain focused on work. Talk them through such things as lighting, seating, temperature, ventilation, and pace of work. Too much continuous screen time is harmful, as is sitting too long in one position.

It is always good leadership to show you care. This is a great time to review their Everything DiSC Workplace behavioral style. As you know, we are much more successful when we treat people as they want to be treated. Your Everything DiSC Management tool gives you a clear roadmap to know exactly how to treat each individual, and this is especially key when you are remote and unsure of how much instruction is enough or how often people what you to check in on them.

  • Reinforce the advice that nobody should work when they feel unwell. Encourage people to take breaks, and exercise away from their desktops. “Is there anything you need from me at his point?” Great leaders ask for help and ideas, and always involve employees at every level and every aspect of work.
  • “Let’s talk dress code and attendance protocols.” Signing in and out at the agreed work times is good practice so everybody knows who is available for interaction and who is on “me time.” Structure and rituals reduce loneliness and feelings of disconnect. These are the commonest complaints of remote workers. “How do you feel about doing at home what you do normally at the office?”
  • “Let”s do mostly face to face.” Coordinate schedules and agree on daily videoconferences. Make your own participation a priority. Without this, an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality can flourish when away from the mothership. Without visual interactions, we tend to think the worst. Email alone will never do! Mobile messaging is great for nitty-gritty tasks, but emojis can never replace faces. “What do you feel about facetime?”
  • “We all come to work to be part of a team, so let’s talk about the informal side of our jobs.” Initiate and personally support your virtual water cooler/coffee break/chatroom. “I’m going to grab a coffee now, and I’d like to hear how you’re doing when I get back.” To keep the feel of the office informal communication, consider scheduling a daily 10- or 15-minute video conference just for the purpose of sharing personal thoughts, stories, fears, anxieties, pictures of their kids or their cat, etc. Maybe have funny hats or camera angles. Make it fun, no work, just as it might happen in the office breakroom.
  • “Here’s a pop quiz for you. Do you know the 3 golden rules of data security?” It is vital to emphasize the necessity of 1) a dedicated work device, 2) only ever working in your company VPN and 3) frequent changing of strong passwords. “It’s important we all get into these habits especially with this remote working.”
  • “What more can I do to make remote working work for you?” Agree to work hours on an individual basis, but ensure that is fair to the whole team too. Flexibility and personal autonomy are the benefits most commonly cited by remote workers and therefore great motivating factors. “This non-commuting and no business travel is great, isn’t it? How are you using all the extra time you’re saving? Maybe a few more prospecting calls, or getting an added project finished, or that creative new idea that you have not has time for?”
  • “OK so how are we going to measure how remote working is progressing? “Review everybody’s SMART objectives and amend them for this new world of remote working.

Also script the close of your remote working discussion. Remember to summarize any action points that came up during the discussion with the 3 “Ws”: Who is doing What by When. Be positive. “This is a different way of working that we can all get behind, and I’m confident in our team’s ability to make the most of the opportunities it gives us. When should we link up next to review progress?”

3. Holding the remote working discussion. 

Practice makes perfect, so if you want to rehearse an online delegation discussion about remote working, we know of good coach you call. 

4. Conduct ongoing reviews of remote working.

Some people will need only one follow-up discussion to take on the new remote working methods, while others may need several virtual handshakes. In most cases, check-ins several times daily are the norm, especially for those that are first-time remote workers. 

 The COVID-19 pandemic will be a watershed for all businesses. With the right leadership, you can get through this time stronger and even more successful and develop some new processes that make you even more competitive than before. In fact, many businesses that have been struggling to use a remote workforce may see how beneficial the flexibility can be. A few months ago, most of my clients complained that they could not get the right talent. Remote working brings in a much larger labor pool. Remember! Be positive, ask for your employees’ input, and listen empathically to their concerns and frustrations. And above all, communicate calm confidence with a “one task at a time” approach.

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