Business guide to Coronavirus

How to thrive when you’re suddenly remote

Most Australian companies are coming to terms with going fully remote, often with a short-term plan, or no plan at all. But working remotely is an entirely different way of operating. 

It’s not where you work, it’s how you work, and it’s important to delineate between the two. Habits you formed while working from home – such as booking meetings for when you’re in the office, delaying important conversations for face to face, or using work from home as a time to be free of all the team distractions – will not set you up for success in a fully remote context.

Tips for going remote

Have a plan

Create transparent long-term and short-term plans with your teams, and embrace them. Don’t try to implement a whole new process – it really isn’t the time – but do consider if the processes you have are optimised for working remotely. 

Unfortunately, the window of time to wait for full and clear data without making decisions is closing, in fact, there’s a chance it’s closed. Plans don’t need to be set in stone. The best ones are flexible with options considering for a few possibilities. 

Your role is to champion the change and empower your team. Even if you’re not managing a team directly make sure you lead by example. A big change can feel overwhelming, it is your time to shine. Show your team that you’re committed to their health and safety, that you trust them. Show that when faced with big obstacles you are agile and can support them, even from a distance. 

Communicate

Communicate more than you ever have before. When working 100% remotely you need to think about the conversations you miss. Do you talk to stakeholders in the lift after a meeting, chat to people in the kitchen when you’re making tea, or do you sit with colleagues for lunch?  

This is the cornerstone of your success, as a leader, or an individual, you need to think about communication at both a high-level, but also right into the details. 

Create a communication framework that shows which channels should be used and how communications should be structured moving forward. Ensure you keep communication transparent, open, and consistent. 

Don’t rush emails – now is the time to reflect and edit. It can be a tense period, and it’s harder to minimise an email that is received poorly now that you’re not in the same office.In the office we pick up a lot of cues while we’re sitting next to someone or working with them closely. You pick up updates on projects, overall mood, and often have a forum to freely collaborate without barriers. 

While ensuring you’re keeping your communication channels open for work updates it is critical to recreate channels for the missed social interactions too. Also, be aware some roles mean your interaction levels will stay high, but other roles will have far less interactions. Don’t forget anyone or leave them behind. 

Things you can do to add some social and levity into your remote work practices:

  • coffee breaks: book in a time for tea and a chat
  • chat groups: create channels specifically for social topics
  • themed meetings: one meeting a week with an entirely optional dress up theme 
  • open lunch slots: set times where anyone can video into a lunch slot 

Technology

While technology is hugely important, it’s probably not as important as you think, studies show that your skills are more important than your tools, even in remote work. 

Try a chat tool like Slack, Skype, or Hangouts. And if you don’t have a project management tool you can try Asana, Trello, and Jira. Then look at how you share documents: use Google drive or OneDrive if you can. 

Throw out your KPIs

It’s unrealistic to expect to get the same outcomes, or even predictable outcomes, while your team is dealing with a pandemic, its effects on their lives, the economy and their role all while going remote. Move forward with compassion and trust. 

All of these factors will be a challenge. But remote work itself, outside of those external issues, can be a hugely successful strategy.

If you’re going remote without a long term strategic plan, use this to help you get over the initial obstacles. If you’re looking at remote work in the longer term, or you want to implement a more robust work from home policy in the future, take a step back and start from the beginning. After all, remote work isn’t where you work, it’s how you work. 

Read more about Hilary and HRebel.

Business Australia is on hand with a range of resources to help businesses navigate this difficult time, with practical advice and information to help you develop strategies to maintain and sustain. Visit our resource hub to find out more.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Business Australia.

Hilary Callaghan

Founder, HRebel

Hilary helps businesses get better recruitment and HR outcomes through HRebel. She is passionate about the powers of remote work. She is dedicated to bringing her knowledge, skills and passions together to build high performing teams to help marginalised communities thrive.

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