The world can change on a dime, and all businesses can do is try to adapt as quickly and as effectively as possible.
Sometimes, that means making the jump from operating in an official workplace setting to working remotely.
Whether it's because your organization is moving offices or because a global pandemic has brought the world to a standstill (looking at you 2020), not everything is going to go to plan all the time.
The best you can do is plan ahead and make the transition as seamless as possible for both your employees and your customers.
5 Threats to Your Business When Your Teams Are Forced to Work Remotely
There's always a risk of your business hurting when its normal routine and structure is disrupted by the sudden need for your employees to work remotely.
Here are five threats to be conscious of when transitioning to an exclusively online workspace:
1. Lags in Productivity
This is one of the most common stigmas of being allowed to work from home and, unfortunately, there is some merit to the concern.
Without proper communication, supervision, or leadership, it's all too easy for team members to simply start slacking off. Away from authoritative eyes, it's tempting to step away from the work computer and turn on some Netflix.
Productivity can dip, especially depending on the reason behind a remote transition in the first place. Stressors, like emergency news updates, partners or children at home, and general anxiety can all impact an employee's work drive.
2. Communication Issues
Not every person is on the same level when it comes to access to technology. Even if you send employees home with a work computer, they still may encounter other obstacles, such as:
- Slow or no internet
- A disruptive environment
- Limited availability
These types of issues can impact how consistently and effectively a team member can communicate with the rest of your organization.
3. A Lack of Collaboration
Following that same note, when team members can't communicate clearly, collaboration suffers.
Depending on what your organization does and the employee's role, this can lead to serious consequences.
What happens when one department can't properly collaborate with another while working on the same project? Either the entire production slows down or mistakes are made, leading to an insufficient product or a lot of reworking.
4. Decrease in Employee Wellness
Communication and collaboration all contribute toward your employees' general wellness.
For team members who are used to being in regular, one-on-one contact with one another, this sudden form of "isolation" can be a shock to their system in the long run. Their mental health can be affected, which will further impact their productivity and engagement.
5. Security Risks
Unfortunately, there are people out there who are looking to steal whatever data they can or spread malware and viruses to harm other folks. And remote employees make great targets.
If a team member decides to get out of the house for a change of scenery and heads to another location where they use public wifi, they can fall prey to one of these digital predators.
Before you know it, all of your company's data and information is in the hands of a criminal. And, more oft than not, the team member is unaware it's even happened.
How Leaders Can Maintain Workplace Productivity
Even though there may be some concerns behind the idea of switching to remote work, it's not going to absolutely crush your business. Like anything else in life, there are pros and cons to it all.
In order to make sure you gain more of the pros than the cons, here are a some strategies to follow in order to properly guide your team.
Build Trust Through Communication.
By setting clear standards for communication, you'll decrease the chances of employees becoming too disconnected from the organization and falling into poor productivity habits.
Over-communicate with your reports via one-on-one meetings over webcam, team chats, consistent feedback, and encouragement.
You'll be able to build trust in the idea that you're still there for them in the same way that you expect them to be there for the company.
Solid communication will also open up channels for employees to address what obstacles they're facing and have solutions found.
Leverage Online Collaboration Tools.
There are plenty of communication tools that can keep your company connected. They can also help maintain some semblance of "water cooler" conversation, keeping employees engaged with one another and feeling like they're still a part of the company.
Set Realistic Expectations.
One way to kill any momentum that you may want to carry over into a remote workspace is to set unachievable goals for your teams.
You have to consider what can be reasonably accomplished at home and factor in any unique distractions or disturbances that may impede your team members.
Create a list of priorities and share them with your reports. This way, everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals.
Going remote may be new for certain employees, so anticipate some hiccups or an adjustment period and keep the bar at a reasonable height.
Hold Team Members Accountable.
That being said, you need to make sure that you're regularly following up with employee performance. There are certain temptations (again, Netflix) that can cause team members to slack off.
Let them know that they will be held accountable for their workload and explain how teams are expected to monitor their progress on projects. Be clear in communicating objectives and goals so that there's no confusion on what's expected from them.
It's a complex dance of being communicative and micromanaging, but it's one that will help keep your business on the right track.
Prioritize Output, Not Hours Worked.
You'll likely never learn more about an individual employee's work style than when they're working remotely.
For all intents and purposes, they're self-managing throughout the day, which can lead to some surprising results.
Keep in mind that logging or clocking in to work is not the same as getting actual work done, so try not to lean too hard on how much time they're spending on the computer. Instead, prioritize their output.
Different people have different productivity styles. Some can crush their to-do list at four in the morning, whereas others prefer having their regular lunch break at 12 'o clock on the dot.
Whether they get their work done in eight hours or demolish it in five, and regardless of what time of day, as long as they deliver high quality work in line with deadlines, it shouldn't matter how they go about it.
Just make sure that, again, goals and expectations are communicated. This way, there's no loss in productivity, regardless of work style.
Beware of Burnout.
Believe it or not, the risk of burning your employees out while working remotely can be even higher than if they were in-office.
This is due to the fact that there's no hard line between work and home life when you're working in your own space. It's very easy to be "always on."
Encourage your teams to disconnect after normal work hours have ended and spend time performing leisurely activities on their own or with their loved ones so that they can maintain a healthy work-life balance.
As a leader, transitioning your team to work remotely can feel like letting go of some reins and picking up others. Remote work comes with a special set of obstacles, but it can also give your employees a new space to excel in.
The best you can do is enable your teams to work at the best of your ability and set them (and your business) up for success during their time out the office.