The challenge of remote work has an important feature: while most corporate decisions must centralize the client, remote work must consider (mainly) more internal factors. The solutions and experiences delivered should not be affected, however the way they are delivered will be adapted. The main challenges will generally be related to your process, infrastructure, communication, and most importantly: people.
In a world with a wide range of remote-friendly technologies and web tools (especially SaaS platforms), with an increasing number of companies (notably in the IT field) that do not even have their own hardware to provide services, why does remote work still find so much resistance? We believe that it is a matter of mentality: local work allows a series of conveniences and is easily understood and controlled, it is a simple mental model. Nothing like, when faced with an urgent question, you can get up and interrupt the colleague who sits in the same room.
But is it the most efficient model?
And how, then, to put available technology at the service of people, in order to generate productivity?
Remote work imposes some particular pressures on the employee and the leadership, and thus specific needs arise. In the same way, local work has latent functions (needs that work ends up fulfilling) that need to be transferred to the distributed environment.
Below, we will raise some gaps that must be filled by the new way of working, and suggest some tools for the task (there are many others). At the end of the article, we provide links to the tools mentioned.
Performance feedback, recognition: especially for more ambitious employees, this is often an essential point. Online tools, gamification (Enerjoy) and communications (Feedz, Workstation) can be good solutions.
Knowledge sharing (helping, being helped), exchange of information, doubts: in the offices day-to-day, it’s natural that people can answer their questions, alert their colleagues or indicate solutions directly, simply by personal contact. However, this type of knowledge management (although simple and immediate) ends up restricting access to information, has no documentation and encourages a system based on interruption (when questioned, the interlocutor is interrupted).
There are several more traditional tools that can help, such as email or online chat (Slack, Rocket.chat, Skype). A good choice are voice and video rooms (Meets, Discord), where employees (at least within the same team) can call meetings or simply keep the microphone open. Other options are forums, video recording (Loom is an excellent and practical way to record and share tutorials and presentations, for example), the documentation itself in the steps and cards (Pipefy, Trello, Wrike) or “marking” system in tasks (Asana and earlier). These last options (task management systems) are practically indispensable and will be addressed again below.
Temporal structure, routine: local work usually has more defined and fixed schedules, in addition to a clear routine. This ends up strengthening a notion of time that is very important for human beings: we know what time it is, when we should return from lunch, we see people leaving at the end of the working day. Remote work can take place anywhere: at different clients, at the cafe, at home, in coworking. Routine meetings, rituals (lunch time, start and end of business hours), online time control (app), shared calendars (Google Calendar) help to keep the pace.
Social function, regular sharing of experiences, contacts, affiliation (community): work can be the main place to meet friends and acquaintances, sometimes making the social factor the very essence of the work. Many remote work routines do not allow regular contact with a defined group of co-workers, which can really be a problem. It is quite healthy for employees to be encouraged to pursue hobbies and activities that are not related to employment, but the social function will inevitably also be exercised in the workplace. Professional social networks (LinkedIn, Workstation, Feedz), social interactions in the media (Instagram, Whatsapp), voice and video rooms (the aforementioned Discord) are alternatives.
Process’ mapping and visualization, collaborative flows, planning (boards and post-its at the physical headquarters): it is very easy to keep information visible by pasting a poster on the wall of the office, or sharing your ideas by drafting a process model on a physical board. In the remote world, some tools allow simultaneous visualization and editing of visual information, such as collaborative whiteboards (Miro or Mural) or GSuite (try Google Drawings, for example).
Broad and real-time view of the process, monitoring of performance metrics, supporting data for strategic decisions: a major challenge for remote management is, in addition to managing people, the vision of what is happening in the process, possible problems, in real time, and be able to share the visualization with the team or use it in strategic decisions. There are good tools that facilitate the task, tools with integrated reports (Zendesk, in the case of customer service), dashboards (Data Studio) and flow monitors (including our Deskflows tool here).
Organization of tasks and projects, prioritization: making it clear to the teams which tasks are to be performed and how they should be prioritized is a primary factor for productivity. Use tools with integrated monitoring (like Zendesk), task management tools or project management (Asana, Trello, Monday.com, Pipefy, Wrike).
Sharing center, documentation, file repository, portability: even in a local environment, information must remain accessible, secure and correctly shared between teams and collaborators. It is easy to find already consolidated solutions, the cloud repositories (Google Drive, GSuite, Dropbox, OneDrive, among others).
Thus, organizing ourselves around the internal challenges in directing our work to the remote model, we address some valuable tools that can help a lot in the process. It is also very important to emphasize that all technology and every tool will be effective if adopted by a leadership that knows how to engage and shows the importance of remote control in the increasingly dynamic world in which we live.