Whether your company is still working remote now due to necessity, or you’re considering extending remote work options into the future as a perk, you’ll need to have a plan in place for ensuring your team continues to thrive.
When businesses moved rapidly to remote work due to COVID-19 in early 2020, operations were in emergency mode, and it was not business as usual. But as you and your staff settle in, it’s important to think about how to adapt your management style.
Here are some considerations and adjustments you can make to set your remote team up for success.
A Day in the Remote Work Life
If you’re unaccustomed to your team working away from the office, it might feel as if you have no idea what your employees are doing all day. This can be unsettling for any manager.
Think about how you handled employee productivity when you were in the office together, and what, if any, of your original tactics could still be effective. Feel free to stick to a similar pattern, at least until you find one that works better.
What felt like too much facetime in the office might feel like not enough when the team is separated, and vice versa. Some teams gather everyone for a quick 15-20 minute daily “standup” to set the tone for the day, while others have a deeper dive in an hour-long weekly meeting. Try both, solicit feedback from your team, and see which works best for you.
Regardless of team meetings, you should plan to have regular one-on-ones with each employee, either weekly or biweekly, to touch on goals, progress, roadblocks, and any concerns. This individual time will allow you and your employee to address any issues arising from remote work in private.
Depending on your work culture, how you expect remote employees to structure their workday can vary significantly. Consider these questions:
• Does your staff need to clock in and out daily using an app?
• Do you need to establish shared calendar access?
• Do employees need to be available at all times during business hours?
• Is flex time acceptable, and if so, to what extent?
• If estimators or project managers will be traveling to job sites, how should that time be accounted for?
• Do you need to receive a daily or weekly status report of completed work?
Making clear decisions on policies like these and communicating them consistently will go a long way toward erasing any ambiguity and uncertainty your employees feel as they work from home. When they know what’s expected, it’s easy to deliver.
Your communication style overall doesn’t need to change when your team is remote, but you might want to rethink it at least a bit. If you’re typically hands off, your team might appreciate hearing from you more regularly so they don’t feel isolated and disconnected from the company as a whole. Overcommunication, especially in the initial stages of remote work, is usually best.
Be mindful of your tone, since facial expressions and body language are missing or can be misconstrued even over video. Be ready to support those members of your team who aren’t adapting well to remote work by letting them vent their frustrations occasionally, and try to be understanding.
It can also be helpful to build camaraderie by encouraging some non-work-related discussions during a short part of meetings. Ask about your employees’ spouses and children, weekend plans, or just make small talk.
Must-Have Tools to Ease the Transition
For a temporary remote situation, you don’t have to have the latest video conferencing and chat platforms. Plain old phone calls and email can work just fine in a pinch. But there are some tools you can barely operate without, and if you’re looking to establish work from home as a core tenet of your culture, you should consider investing in technology.
As you evaluate software, think about its accessibility for remote work: will your team be able to collaborate on work as needed? Old-fashioned desktop programs can make remote work across teams tough to nearly impossible, so be sure you’re looking at cloud-based tools that allow your team to do their best work no matter where their desk is.
Some of the best cloud-based tools include:
• Zoom for videoconferencing
• Slack for instant messaging
• Planhub and Construction Journal for ITB platforms
• STACK for takeoffs, estimating, and document management
• Procore and eSUB for project management
• Raken for production and time tracking
• Billd for streamlining cash flow
• Foundation Software and UDA for accounting and payroll
Helping your employees through the transition when you enact a new remote work policy can be tricky, and working from home isn’t for everyone. Some will thrive in a remote environment, while others will prefer to still come into the office. As your remote program matures, remember to treat onsite and remote employees equally. Avoid treating the office as a main hub and isolating others.
Finally, understand that having employees work from home does not in itself create a remote work culture. If you want to appeal to a younger generation of potential estimators who is used to certain perks, you’ll have to work with your leadership team to make the leap to a truly remote-friendly policy.
Need something to jumpstart the conversation? Use these ideas to get you started.