Professionals today want the ability to work remotely, and doing so is better for business because happier employees are more productive.
But it is not always easy to organize a remote workforce. The skills needed to be productive at a distance are different from what you need for conventional face-to-face work, and many companies resist rolling out new systems because it takes effort to coordinate tech, IT, and finance, while also getting your team to change their work habits.
And that's just part of the equation...
Your team needs to have everything: a clear strategy, the right culture, and digital tools.
These three principles will make your team more productive, organized, and happy.
Create a Culture of Truth, Transparency, and Honesty.
Very many companies make a critical mistake in ignoring culture, or allowing the wrong culture to fester. You can be very profitable when you execute a great strategy while implementing the latest technologies. You can even make it BIG, with a huge IPO. In the past, we operated with the assumption that business had to be brutal, hierarchical, and that a winner-take-all attitude was the right way to go. However, things have changed now, and now we know this to be a toxic work culture. If you have a toxic work culture in the office, remote work will not work. Toxic work cultures are very disengaging, and the moment people are allowed to stay home, they will stay home, and then they will totally tune out.
Develop and Communicate a Clear Strategy, Goals, Roles, and Responsibilities.
MIT published a great guide on creating and communicating a clear strategy for agile organizations. Just handing out roles and titles in a company is not enough. People need to have clear responsibilities that they can trace back to their position, the goals of their team, and the overall strategy of the company. Without this, the organization will fall into hyperparalisis. You are busy, you are always working, and you are getting almost nothing actually done. Large companies can go on their cash reservers for some time. In many cases, a profitable division can keep paying everybody else's salaries indefinitely. For smaller companies, this is certain death.
Bill Aulet from MIT says, "In a startup, you are either making product, selling product, or leaving." As a company grows, you will need some more supporting activities as well, like legal, human resources, and accounting. Nevertheless, every activity in a company should still lead to better products and more sales. Ultimately, a company needs to solve problems for their customers through great products and experiences. Leadership needs to define the vision with clear goals, delegating authority and responsibilities in a clear way, so that people can guide their daily productivity as a part of a larger whole. If a significant part of your company's success relies on sales, then don't you think that a significant part of your team should spend most of their day out of the office?
Communicate on a daily basis, have a daily morning call to make sure the team is on the same page, and share work done and to be done. With a clarity in your strategy, each person will be able to get through the day with the confidence in their contributions.
Deploy Digital Tools.
Different companies will have different needs, but we really need to get with the program and upgrade organizations to the 21st century. Please stop relying only on basic word processing as if your computer was a typewriter and email only as a faster version of the Pony Express. Today, with ubiquitous broadband, wifi, and cellular networks, we can collaborate in realtime, with automatic analytics and reporting.
Here is a sample of tools that we use to stay productive.
- Slack is our messenger. Once you configure channels and alerts properly, it helps to eliminate chatter and confusion, with focus and clarity in the discussion. It also integrates nicely with many other tools.
- Trello for project management. For us, it has the right balance of structure and flexibility so that we can keep track of progress on the projects, while making chages as they are needed. We keep one Trello board linked to one Slack channel.
- Zoom is great for video communication. You can have a quick call if you need to talk to one of your teammates (right inside of a Slack channel with the integration, of course). You can use it to schedule calls on your calendar for sales, and you can set up live videos that are public and broadcast live on Facebook or Youtube.
- Hubspot is an all-in-one for sales, marketing, and customer service. It's based on a CRM and content management system, so all of your website, social media, and sales content and analytics happen in one place, directly running together with your customer database. We write ZERO reports for sales and marketing because everything we need is updated live in the dashboards. (Yes, it integrates well with Zoom and Slack as well.)
You can go out today, and set up the latest tools. It could be the ones we suggest, or something else that fits you. Make time to pick the right tools. Meanwhile, ask your team,
"Do you understand our strategy? Do you see how your job fits?"
"Do you feel you get the credit for your work? Is there something you think I should know?"
and most importantly:
"How can I help you?"