Look around you.
You’re living in a time of unprecedented interconnectedness. Thanks to fast travel and faster internet, that interconnectedness exists at both a physical and digital level.
This brings with it a wealth of opportunities – but also some pretty serious challenges.
With COVID-19, you’ve already witnessed how something invisibly tiny can bring the world to its knees. Momentarily, at least!
But for many businesses, the damage is already significant.
Now you have a choice.
You can wait for things to get better…
Or you can start NOW to learn how to run things differently. You can learn how to make remote working next-level effective, so you can seamlessly carry on with business as usual.
Not only will this boost your business’s immunity and make it more resilient to future threats, but it will also give you a powerful competitive edge.
So let’s look at 4 ways SMEs can take remote working to the next level.
1. Use the right project management and collaboration tools
Remote work is possible due to one thing: technology. Without it, we wouldn’t have the ability to communicate and share files and hold meetings from afar.
The thing to realise, though, is just how many incredibly useful remote tools there are out there – and the difference it can make in choosing the right ones.
Imagine, for example, replacing a confusion of email threads with an easy-to-follow real-time conversation in Slack. Or trading a clunky shared spreadsheet for a series of highly organised Trello boards.
The important thing is to research and test to find which tool is best for your specific needs before you commit to fully integrating it into your business workflows.
From there, make sure everyone is able to access the apps they need and is well-trained and supported in how to use them.
Here are a few app suggestions to get you started:
- Slack is a highly popular chat tool for workplace communications.
- Zoom is great for video conferencing, with up to 100 participants at a time for free and affordable monthly plans for SMEs.
- Loom is a must-have for video briefings. Record videos of your screen and camera to do things like explain processes, give instructions or share reports with colleagues.
- Tools for project management, task management and collaboration are many – Trello, Clickup, Taskade and Asana are just a few worth checking out. Each has its own style and features, so go for what best suits your business.
The key takeaway here is that being able to function as a team without being in physical proximity takes the right tools. Finding and establishing those tools requires an investment of time and energy – but it’s well worth it in the end.
2. Set guidelines around communication
With so many different devices and modes of communication, there’s the potential for things to get messy.
What do you need to do? Ensure you set clear guidelines around staff communications – then document and enforce them.
When should you use chat? When should you make a video call or pick up the phone? How often should video meetings be held and who’s involved?
For example, you might make it a guideline that managers use video conferencing when giving feedback or addressing issues with team members. This avoids the situation where their tone is misconstrued – and allows them to read reactions and keep a closer bond with their staff.
3. Focus on outcomes
Even if your workers are doing the exact same tasks at home as they would in the office, doesn’t mean that the way they work should be the same.
Remote work offers the potential for flexibility. One of its greatest benefits is allowing staff to find their own work-life balance, with a flow-on effect from happiness to productivity.
Give people the opportunity to work in a healthy and flexible way, and their output will likely improve. What that requires from you is to focus less on how many hours people work and when, and more on the output they produce while they are working.
Resist the urge to micromanage. In a remote work situation, it’s not merely fruitless, it’s detrimental. If team members feel they need to constantly be available or proving that they’re working, it will simply create stress and stop them from doing their best work.
Allow them to set status updates as to their availability, with opportunities to set aside time for deep work.
Just because you can’t see them working, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. If they’re delivering what they should, allow them the flexibility to work as they like.
4. Maintain your company culture
Is it possible to carry on your company culture even though no-one is in the same room together? I’d argue yes.
This is another one of those must-be-documented things. Because staff can’t see parts of the business culture in person – values in action, how situations are dealt with, hiring practices, and so on – they need to be clearly articulated in writing.
You can also promote a healthy teamwork culture by building in opportunities for social interactions. If you use Slack, for example, set up a social channel. During video meetings, allocate time for non-work chatter. Celebrate birthdays and share success stories – online of course!
Be creative. There are plenty of ways to foster a positive company culture even without the water cooler to gather around.
With the right tools and guidelines, a focus on output and a strong sense of company culture, there’s no reason you can’t make remote teamwork incredibly efficient and effective.
Get it happening now – and you’ll be one up on the competition.