As countries across the globe continue to encourage (and enforce) social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, many companies and employers have had to adapt to managing a remote workforce.

This brings about a set of new challenges for leaders that are specific to remote working. According to Instant Offices, although three-quarters of companies worldwide have already switched to flexible working options, with 83% reporting a boost in productivity, constant remote working is something that many haven’t developed the infrastructure for.

The flexible working specialist also revealed the top 10 fields for remote working, as well as how businesses can overcome the typical challenges of managing a remote team - that is, communicating, keeping track of productivity and growing a company culture.

Given the extensive use of technology to support remote working teams, it comes as no surprise that information technology is the best industry for remote workers, with 29.2% of remote jobs posted from this field. This is followed by marketing (24.5%), given that numerous roles can be covered completely online, including content writers, social media managers, SEO strategists and digital marketers. Here's the complete list:

  • Information technology – 29.2%
  • Marketing – 24.5%
  • Business administration and management – 4.7%
  • Mobile app development – 4.5%
  • Shopping – 3.9%
  • Other – 3.5%
  • Education and training – 3.3%
  • Arts – 3.3%
  • Human services – 3.2%
  • Correction and security – 2.9%

How to communicate with, and keep track of the productivity of your remote teams

For many workers, increased connectivity in personal and work lives has made the transition into remote working a relatively easy one. Apart from increasing productivity, working remotely can also help reduce the stress of members of staff who want to self-isolate, which will also reduce the chance of in-office infection.

However, along with the benefits, come a set of challenges:

Communication
If you think that getting people to work towards the same goal while in office is tough, just imagine the uphill battle of getting people in different locations to work together for a common goal. That said, the Internet has provided many powerful tools to assist with communication and collaboration in today’s modern workplace.

HRO pro tip: Just as too many cooks spoil the soup, too many tools will spoil the message. Choose the tool that fits your company culture best and stick with it. Managers should use group chats to facilitate team discussions and disseminate important messages to the whole team. Individual chats can be used to resolve issues with members that are more personal. When it comes to group chats, beware of creating too many. Ideally, there should be one for the entire team, with project-based groups created as and when necessary.

Keeping track of activities, goals and productivity
While the transition into remote working may be an easy one, not everyone can work effectively in a remote location. In remote settings, employees must know how to manage themselves and often wear different hats. It is therefore important to ensure team members are aware of the company's long-term and short-term goals.

HRO pro tip: Just like weekly meetings, weekly conference calls can be helpful to align on priorities and tasks to be completed within the week. This helps employees keep their eye on the target and ensure they are on track with their KPIs. It can also serve as an outlet for an informal feedback loop, helping minimise the feeling staff have of being “in the dark” about how managers think they are performing and prevent them from being “blindsided” by a performance review. 

Growing a company culture

Generally, co-located teams have an easier time building a company culture than remote teams. That said, there are some things business owners can do to create a positive company culture with a remote team:

  • Choose tools that match your culture - Because all communication and collaboration will be done using online tools, it is essential to choose apps and software that match the culture you are trying to create. If you want to create a fun, laid-back environment, choose tools that match this atmosphere. You also want to make it as easy as possible for your remote team to stay up-to-date. Be it via video conferencing tools, chat apps, or the comments section of your project management tool, you need to offer various ways to keep in touch and on top of the work.
  • Team building - Team building does wonders to foster communication, especially among remote workers who do not see each other on a daily basis. While people are self-isolating it’s still possible to be social with platforms such as Skype or Zoom for group messaging and video chats for a light-hearted catch-up to see how everyone is.
  • Recognition - Public recognition for a job well done is one of the most effective and most natural ways to motivate a remote team. Shout outs in a team chat, during meetings or any other way, will not only boost morale and motivation but set a standard for other team members to strive for.

John Williams, Head of Marketing at The Instant Group, said: "The uncertainty of the next few weeks will certainly see an increase in remote working, and as we have seen from our offices in Asia-Pacific, business goes on and work can be effectively carried out. With planning, open lines of communication and the right tech, there’s no reason why companies can’t run successful remote teams for short periods or even integrate more into their future approach on a permanent basis."

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