Although remote working has been on the rise for the past few years, the spread of COVID-19 has prompted many businesses to quickly plan for the very real possibility that entire workforces could be required to work from remote locations. In fact, the disruption caused by COVID-19 underscores an undeniable reality: businesses need a new operating system for collaborating across time and space. Remote working has quickly become a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
Remote Working: Not If, but When
The rapidly unfolding effects of COVID-19 are unfolding by the minute. Just to cite a few data points:
- Companies such as Facebook and Google are canceling global events such as Facebook F8 and Google I/O that were previously essential announcing product roll-outs and new corporate strategies. These are big-time cancellations that affect thousands of people.
- Teleconferencing startup Zoom Video Communications has seen its stock price increase by 38 percent over the past month as investors bet on remote working solutions amid the spread of COVD-19.
- Andreessen Horowitz just invested in a hot startup called Run The World. Here’s what the company does: “smoosh together every functionality that a conference organizer might need in a time of a pandemic. Think video conferencing, ticketing, interactivity and networking.”
As The Wall Street Journal stated bluntly in a March 3 article, “COVID-19 May Have You Working at Home.”
Five Tips for Working Remotely
Making the transition to distributed working is easier said than done. Although remote working is increasing in popularity, company cultures are built around in-person collaboration. At the same time, adopting a distributed work environment creates an opportunity for a company to change how they work for the better. Distributed working offers a more efficient means to collaborate – and in a more sustainable way owing to a decreased reliance on air travel.
The key is to have the right mindset for working in a distributed environment. Based on our experiences collaborating with colleagues, partners, and clients around the globe, here are five tips for doing it successfully:
- It’s not just about the tools. Teams should adopt the right platforms and technologies to support rapid communication and one-to-many meetings (e.g., Mural, Slack, Box, Zoom). But the tools in and of themselves are only a means to an end. Which leads to a second critical point . . .
- Build a culture of trust. Remote working just won’t succeed in an organization built on command and control. Managers need to take a deep breath and be prepared to allow more free rein with their teams than perhaps they’ve ever experienced. As my colleague Meg Calabrese blogged recently, cultures built on trust are more successful, productive places.
- Consider the long-term benefits. Working remotely is not something you do only when you are in crisis mode. You will likely discover that working remotely brings about business benefits you might not have considered before, such as expanding your pool of talent. In a distributed environment, you are no longer restricted to recruiting people where you have a physical office.
- It’s all about facilitation. Remote teams need a structure and process for bringing people together – which starts and ends with the right facilitator. Effective facilitation includes a clearly defined agenda, established roles, time-boxed activities that deliver outcomes, awareness to ensure every voice is heard and engaged, and emotional intelligence to be flexible. The right facilitator can make or break remote collaboration.
- Test and learn. Distributed working is not one size fits all. Be patient. Teams will make mistakes and also achieve successes. Be ready to learn from both the victories and challenges as employees transition to an environment where they see each other face-to-face far less and collaborate remotely.
To help companies think through how to navigate the obstacles we’re facing with COVID-19, we’re offering a free decision dash workshop. This is a 45-minute interactive workshop to help cross functional teams make decisions in a collaborative, efficient manner. Reach out to me if you are interested in exploring how to make remote working in your environment successful.