Should we manage online meetings in the same way we once managed face to face meetings?

Have we got online meetings correct yet?  My guess is not!  Most of the time we have simply transferred our offline face to face meeting practice into a conferencing tool and ploughed ahead, without rethinking what works best when meeting remotely.  

1.  Create a clearer purpose statement for your meeting.

We advocate making a change to traditional meeting practice when online, introducing a new more virtual way of meeting.  At the heart of this change is the question of ‘meeting purpose clarity’.  When we are remote working we always do well to increase the clarity of what’s expected of each other.  This is always most effective when we simplify any meeting down to one single purpose.  Our research suggest that any meeting will have one or more of the ten following purposes, that fit into two categories:  

Things you want:

  • a decision?
  • to generate ideas?
  • to solve a problem?
  • to build relationship?
  • to learn from the past?

Things you are achieving:

  • getting an update?
  • communicating something?
  • making plans?
  • exploring options?
  • persuading others (including sales)?

Selecting one of these purposes and stating it clearly and singularly in the invite is the first step in creating a better online meeting.

2.  Define a short timescale to be enforced in order to reach your purpose.  

The second step is to define a duration for the meeting.  This needs to be as short as possible, sometimes even as short as 10 or 15 minutes!  Obviously this can be longer if a more complex purpose and when more participants are involved, but you should always aim for as tight a timescale as feasible.  Whatever duration you select, announce this clearly alongside the meeting purpose during your opening sequence.  It can also be helpful to have this displayed on screen to make sure any late arrivals understand even if they didn’t hear it at the beginning.  

To bring this to life, add a simple count down timer to your desktop and share it on screen throughout the meeting.   It’s amazing how this will focus the attention of the participants.  

3.  Use voting to make decisions.  

The third suggestion is to make decision making more definite by introducing voting to the meeting.  The easiest approach is to use the chat facility and have all team members state their preferences nice and clearly.  This however requires you to work out the answer options and articulate them very clearly before holding the vote.  A good way to step this up is to use an online tool that helps facilitate decisions.  If you search you will find many options, one we like a lot is Slido it’s free and straight forward to use (no we are not getting a kick back for mentioning them ;-).  The combined ideas of using a voting system alongside a timer for that decision, can really transform your meeting efficiency.  

Just because it can work, doesn’t mean an old school approach translates brilliantly into the world of virtual meetings.  This is a simple example of how we can change practice online for the better.  Think about other ways you should reinvent your meetings to fit the remote working environment and you will soon start to come up with many improved, more effective ways of working.  

Ships Captain

Bob

Hybrid Working – Creating the same experience for all.

As we move out of bulk remote working into a hybrid remote approach, there are a number of significant things to reconsider.  One of these issues is the potential of your hybrid groups to have very different work experiences.  Working at parity of team experience needs to take place on a number of different fronts, but here are three areas to start with. 

Ad-hoc impromptu meetings

When we are all together it the same space, it’s pretty easy to call an impromptu meeting.  We just wait until everyone is around and call people together for a huddle.  If this is a regular occurrence, then it’s super important to consider how you cover that meeting content with the rest of the team who are currently remote working.  

This doesn’t mean that you have to drop all impromptu get togethers (after all it would be a shame to remove some of the helpful spontaneity of working in the same place), but you do need to catch up with the others in a planned way.  

However it’s worth recognising that on some occasions you will need to make the meeting more formal and call a place and time so that everyone, wherever they are, can have chance to attend.  

Use of Cams

One best practice approach for hybrid teams is to continue use of remote conferencing even when some of the team are located in the same office.  Experience suggests that having half the group on a singe cam (for example in a meeting room) and all the remote workers on their own individual cams simply does not work well.  

It is much better to continue the practice of one person, one cam for everyone whether they are in the office or not.  This brings a far greater parity of experience, but also makes simple things like seeing and hearing much easier.  

Sharing of day to day information

Keeping everyone up to-date with activities and progress remains very similar to good remote working practice.  That is, you need a robust team reporting mechanism that is shared on a regular (probably weekly) basis.  We favour the longstanding ‘Quad Reporting’ technique, a 10 minute activity that everyone takes part in once a week; sharing the same agreed information to put everyone fully in the picture.  We recommend the following quad headings:

  • Achievements over last week 
  • Outlook for next week 
  • Issues and risks for escalation 
  • Team specifics

Taking care to make sure the whole team feels included and part of the group takes time and effort when working within a hybrid model.  This of course may change from one hybrid model to another (read here for more of the different hybrid models).  

Bob Bannister

Chips Captain

Hybrid working, the new remote working! 

As we start to rise again from the ‘covid remote working experiment’ it seems more and more likely that the world of work has changed and will never be the same again.  Many web surveys and our client discussions testify to the fact that the majority do not want to return to the one-hundred percent office based model.  To replace this three main hybrid working models are emerging, although others may yet transpire.  

Hybrid working is actually more akin to BC (before covid) remote working.  Back then it was often based around a hybrid approach, so although more of us will be involved this time, there is already a lot of understanding about some of the potential issues and best practices we can all learn from.  An example of this is the issue arising from a lack of parity; history shows it was harder to get a promotion as a remote worker compared to being office based.  This and other subjects can be dealt with easily so long as we share and understand what can go wrong and how we can solve it.  

The differing approaches to hybrid working bring their own unique challenges and opportunities.  Here are the three main approaches being talked about and explored for potential adoption:

The rotational model

The rotational model divides up the team and the working week, creating a rota for being on or off-site.  This can be a permanent or rotational split i.e Group A onsite when Group B is off, or a constantly changing rota so that the on-site team is always changing (allowing a greater mix of interaction over time).  This is the most complex of the three models, and needs good planning on a par with running a shift rota.  

The permanent split model

This model was more common BC, typically with specific roles being remote and others office based.  An obvious example of this would be a situation where the sales team were remote workers but the marketing team office based.  Going forward this approach seems to have less advocates, probably because it’s the BC office workers that are now calling for increased flexibility.  

The scheduled in-days model

The current front runner seems to be the ‘scheduled in-days’ model.  This is where whole teams agree specific days of the week to operate on-site together.  The number of days might vary, but could for example be, Monday off-site, Tuesday on-site, Wednesday Off-site etc.  

Of course there could be a mix of these models too, so going forward, a ‘rotational scheduled in-days’ arrangement might be popular?   

As hinted at earlier, each model has specific issues for workers and managers, these need to be understood, considered and factored into new ways of working once the dust starts to settle.  

Watch out for our blogs over the coming weeks, as we start to articulate some of the specific for you.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain. 

What would happen if you had the super power of self control?

I’ve recently been giving my attention to self control, or maybe the occasional lack of it in my life!  I guess I’ve always seen myself as somewhat impulsive, being quick to act and do.  I’m pretty comfortable with that most of the time, in fact I think it’s been a useful characteristic for making things happen and generating constant progress in my life and business.  However, sometimes it’s a real pain!  It’s true isn’t it, our greatest strengths are often our biggest weaknesses?  

What if self control was our super power.  So finally balanced that we knew exactly when to exercise it, but also when to go with instinct and impulse.  That would be mighty useful!  

So here’s my thought, if we develop a better understanding of when to exercise self control, in other words; we give our self-control a clear focus, then that would be a very practical aid throughout any day, week, month or year.  

Motivating target v depletion idea… 

Two ideas that often surface when you dive into the academic view of self control are that of setting a motivating target, but also the finite depleting nature of the resource.  

These two things work against each other, knowing this however can be really helpful.

It’s clear that giving our self control a singular focus can prove to be very powerful. By defining a clear goal we find it easier to stick to it.  The counter problem however is that by exercising our self control on that focused area, it depletes our ability to have self control elsewhere.  It seems self control really is a limited resource we have to manage.  

This is why many people can exercise significant self control in one area of their lives, but very much struggle in another.  A simple example of this would be when someone is very much in control of an exercise routine, but struggles with a lack of self control when it comes to food.  Of course, it could be that the two areas are totally unrelated, so I might have good control of my diet, yet really struggle to control spending etc.  

Developing greater self control

Whilst we can struggle, it is very much possible to develop our levels of self control to reduce the troublesome areas of depletion.  We still have to watch though, that we aren’t simply moving a struggle to another area lacking self control.  Here are four strategies for improving your self control:

1. Focus on one goal at a time

Work at developing your self control one area at a time.  Choose that area and make it a strong focus for change.  Trying to progress multiple areas is really difficult, so give yourself a chance and make small gains in an area that is valuable to you.  

2.  Plan for situations that might break your resolve

Try to identify your moments of weakness, what triggers the set back?  Then set a plan in place as to how to deal with that situation when it arises.  Make this a practical as possible, change your routine or disable that situation if at all possible.  

3. Practice

See the development of your self control as something to practice.  Practice requires understanding, repetition and failure.  A failure is part of the step, so don’t cave in when it happens.  Recognise that it’s part of the process, pick yourself up and go again.  

4. Avoid Temptation 

The last strategy requires us to remove the temptation.  It’s far easier to exercise self control when we don’t have to!  So can you extract yourself from the possibility of failing.  If that’s a possibility we should try and pursue it.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captian

Remote worker, are you an integrator or a segmentor?

Effective remote management phase 2 series.

Long before the pandemic threw the whole world into remote working, it was generally considered that those who preferred to work remotely had a very specific characteristic that was not shared with people preferring a hub based office working style.  

These two differences were labelled integrators or segmentors.  Very simply the individuals that preferred remote working tended to be integrators over their segmentor colleagues.  It’s clear that these differences still remain, but the current day challenge comes when die hard segmentors find themselves thrust into the integrators world.  

Let’s look at the key characteristics and then consider what it may mean to each of us.  

Segmentors

Segmentors have a real desire to preserve the boundaries between their home and work lives.  Typically they would be very targeted at ‘working’ during work time, and say ‘spending time with family’ outside of those work hours.  They are always happiest when these two worlds don’t collide.  Generally they would prefer to stay a little longer in the workspace to get the task done, compared to flirting with the possibility of taking that work home to complete it after the kids had gone to bed.  Segmentors are often fans of flexitime arrangements because it allows them to schedule home and work separately.  The over arching strong desire here is to keep home life and work life separated.  

Integrators

Integrators work entirely differently, they are very comfortable with the idea of blurring home and work life.  They wouldn’t think twice about popping to the shops in working time, but equally it would not concern them to carry out a work task in personal time.  This often results in working after normal hours.  They are totally comfortable blurring spatial boundaries, and love organisations that bridge that boundary, such as offering a childcare facility at work.  The overarching idea here is that they have a much easier job transitioning between their different roles.  

Acknowledging individuals preferences is a very useful step in developing better practices around remote working.  This is especially the case where a manager and team member may have very different preferences.  e.g. An integrator managers could easily have expectations of a segmentor team member that are likely to result in tensions.  Being aware of this difference is the start of being able to manage it better in either direction.  

It’s also worth stating that that both preferences can learn from each other.  For example, an integrator might do well to add a little segmentation into their daily routines, for example, setting a time curfew after which they will stop working.  Equally a segmentor might benefit from being able to flex the working day to suit a family or personal need from time to time

Given that so many previously workplace bound people are now having to work from home, coupled with the likelihood that hybrid working is now here to stay; this is a topic that teams and managers would do well to explore, discuss, and share opinions on.  This without doubt would be a helpful thing to work through as we move into phase 2 ‘long term / permanent’ remote working.

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

The cost of not giving yourself a chance!

I wonder how much you value certainty? For many people this is a very strong value, it seems possible that most people are certainty driven. It’s like a built in survival instinct, uncertainty equals danger, risk, fear and so people chase after certainty because it means that they are in control.
But is that really the case? Is the belief that certainty means they are in control really true? What if the true cost of certainty is not being able to give yourself a chance?
The relentless pursuit for certainty may well result in given up hopes, goals and dreams. I question whether that is a worthy swap?
Even so I feel it; I too feel the need for certainty in almost any aspect of my life. However time has taught me that certainty is often stolen away in a moment, and if not its cost has been too high. Sometimes both of these things occur, It’s been costly to attain and at the same time it’s been super fragile and temporary.
There are many examples in my life even though I’ve always tried to practice being comfortable with ambiguity. Paying hundreds of pounds extra a month to have a fixed rate mortgage; spending thousands of pounds to insure white goods; failing to try something new because I don’t know how it’s going to work out, and so the list goes on.
I can’t imagine laying on my hospital bed at the end of my life, being grateful for all those things I didn’t do because of certainty!
Here’s the most interesting thing, when I look back at my fondest achievements, every single one of them lacked certainty of outcome! They were all situations where I could not be sure of the journey or finish point, but with thought, focus and effort I went for them. I wonder if the cost of valuing certainty can destroy a whole life, and stop people from having a chance to achieve?
One of the things I would like to tell my Grandchildren is “have a go”. There are few certainties in life, so moving away just a little from that value, towards just a little uncertainty, could be the most exciting thing you do to give yourself a chance. I’ve long loved that Spencer Johnson quote “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” It’s a question that could open the door to all kinds of excitement. Jokingly I’ve always said that I would put my pension on the dogs when trying to illustrate my willingness to embrace ambiguity. Of course I wouldn’t do that, but neither do I want to rely on the uncertainties of governments and personal pension plans alone for my retirement. I am willing to explore the possible and frankly unknown, simply because they might unlock a totally different retirement when (and if) that day comes. History shows this earth and the things of this earth are sadly temporal, unreliable and ultimately doomed to fail, so I prefer to put my certain hope in things to come. But whilst I am here on earth, I like the challenge of increasing my value for uncertainty and the excitement of seeing where that takes me.

Bob Bannister
Ships Captain

Oxygen masks first – Twelve ideas for remote management self care.

As we move forward, it’s evident that we are entering a new phase of remote working.  Almost everyone we speak to is expecting the world of work to have permanently changed as a result of the (forced) experiment of the past year. 

In short, we are in this remote working thing for the long term, which means that everyone needs to stop and recalibrate what’s working for them and importantly what’s not!  

In our effective remote management phase 2 series, as are focusing on a number of new areas that managers need to stay abreast of.  One of these important areas we are calling “Oxygen Masks First”. 

It stands to reason that in order for a manager to be effective in supporting their teams wellbeing over prolonged remote periods, they must first look after themselves.  Many times over the past year I have heard managers talk about their desire for team members to be discerning over the segmentation of their work and home life.  Then in the next breadth talk as though that couldn’t possibly apply to them!  They just have to burn the candle at both ends, they have no choice but to start early, work last, blurring home and work constantly.  This of course is nonsense! At least we can say, this is absolutely a choice that those managers are making.  It does not have to be that way.  In fact it should not be that way!  Not only is this detrimental to the managers ability to look after the team, it is appalling role modelling.  

Remote managers need to take this seriously and put their oxygen mask on first, so that they can be of genuine help to their organisations.  Here’s a starting point.  In no particular order, twelve ideas for remote management self care:

 

  1. Establish a morning self-care routine.

Routines are very useful for remote working.  They set up patterns and habits that can serve us very well.  The morning routine is especially important in this regard.  It sets up the day and enables you to begin in a good place.  The ingredients of that routine can be very specific to you, one person may want quiet reflection and reading, another may want a noisey energetic Peleton spin class.  I might want one on Monday and the other of Tuesday etc.  Be intentional about the morning routine, take ownership of it and make choices that work for you.

  1. Reward yourself from time to time.

I’m a big fan of using rewards to motivate me.  They can be large or small but are usually commensurate to what’s going on.  The lowest level rewards I use are cups of coffee and 5 minutes breaks.  I’ll say to myself, I’m going to push through this piece of work until it’s done, and then I’ll have a coffee and a break.  At the larger end I’ve attached significant holidays or purchases to the completion of exhausting projects etc.  Being good to ourselves from time to time makes the hard stuff worth it.  We work hard, so we should plan at least some enjoyment from our labours.  

  1. Schedule days off.

Get your days-off booked early, and protect them jealously.  It’s all too easy to keep going without breaks and then struggling to utilise our holiday time.  Book the big breaks, but also book a number of odd days throughout the period so that you even out the relief and eliminate the potential to miss out on your breaks.  

  1. Automate what you can.

This is a slightly more difficult area, but one that is worth striving for.  How can you simply, automate or even outsource stuff that you have to do?  Always look for opportunities to achieve this, it will help in taking the strain of the day to day.  Anyone who has lived with a dishwasher will feel the reluctance to go back to the kitchen sink alternative.  Move us much in and out of work into the category of automated. 

  1. Get plenty of sleep.

Regularity is key here, get into some healthy patterns.  Work out how you chill before bedtime and make that your routine.  Definitely avoid work before sleep, and don’t get yourself into a rut of staying up late and starting early.  

  1. Reflect on the three best things that happened today.

Resilient people have a habit of focusing on the good stuff.  See our previous post on this topic.  

  1. Make time for family and friends.

We all benefit from a support network of some kind, but sadly we can squeeze out those closest to us when we over focus on work.  Understand who is in your circle of safety and then plan how you will nurture those relationships . This should be a smallish, manageable group of people, that are really important to you.  Protect this circle and always seek to nurture it – then it will bring the same back to you.  

  1. Do something creative.

You may not see yourself as a wildly creative person, but nearly all of us have something that we love to lose our thoughts in.  Some will be completely sure of where their creative interests lie; me for example, I love to pick up a bass guitar and make the house rumble!  Making creativity part of our week can do us the power of good.  

So if you are not sure of your potential, try something out, and then something else and something else after that too.  Keep going until you locate the thing that you love to create.  It doesn’t have to be typically ‘arty’ maybe for you, you love to create home, or create poems, or create meals, the potential list is endless.  

  1. Keep well hydrated.

Up to 60% of the human adult body is water.  The USGS tell us that the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water!  What does that mean?  Well, if you are dehydrated, you simply are not your best self.  Buy a water bottle and sip all day long.  The claimed benefits of this are endless.

  1. Crush simple tasks first.

There’s nothing quite like smashing through a task list to help with a sense of wellbeing and progress.  So forget that idea which suggests you should begin with the most difficult task!  Make sure you schedule specific time for those big ones, but first, smash the little ones.  Make some progress and bounce off that motivation for the rest of the day.  

  1. Pace yourself and set realistic goals.

Whatever anyone tells you, you cannot get a quart out of a pint pot!  Yes, you can brim the pint pot, but you have to get real about what can be achieved each day.  Over estimating what we can get through leads to frequent disappointment.  That alone is really rubbish for our morale and wellbeing!  Think through the sequence of events needed to achieve the todo list, and recalibrate for intentions with realistic expectations.  That way you will start to have successful days, rather than a continuous catalogue of disappointing ones.

  1. Relax, and let the tension out.

My final point is not some soft meaningless nonsense 😉  It is in fact extremely practical and tangible.  Much of the time, we carry a lot of unnecessary tension within us, it keeps us tort like a coiled spring.  Releasing this physically, within our posture and frame, is super easy so long as we remind ourselves to do it.  Let me prove the point, whoever you are, what ever you are doing right now, just relax your shoulders and let the tension out.  See, it’s that easy!  

Create triggers to remind you to do this and introduce them frequently.  For a start a few post-it notes could help you remember, but I like to attach my reminders to physical actions that I encounter during my day.  So I, for example, relax my tension every time I use the office hand dryer!  I have many more examples, but you need to create your own personal reminders to relax and let the tension out.  

Managers that put their oxygen mask on first will be better managers.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

So would you turn up at a meeting with a paper bag over your head?  

In this weeks blog I’m going to address the thorny issue of not using cams when remote working.  It seems to be a growing trend that in some organisations not using your cam is considered OK or even encouraged.  I’ve recently even heard the phrase ‘cam fatigue’ being used.  O how we like to invent new problems! 

Joking aside, there are a number of very real issues associate with not using your cam when a remote worker.  

Failing to have presence

No one would contemplate attending a meeting with a paper bag over their heads.  It would be very weird, but more than that it would be quite rude, maybe even disrespectful of others, and most importantly reduce your presence in that meeting.  

Pre Covid research indicated that remote workers often didn’t get promoted as often as the office team.  It seems there is a genuine challenge around, out of sight – out of mind influencing digital nomads careers.  The received wisdom has always been to maximise your presence as a remote worker.  To see your own self promotion rather like a marketing plan that constantly has to put the brand ‘on show’. 

Failure to use your cam when remote working is a massive missed opportunity to have real presence.  

Reducing interactions. 

Another big factor is the correlation between ‘cams on’ and contribution to a meeting.  We’ve been running virtual workshops every working day through the past 9 months, and it has been abundantly obvious that people off cam do not contribute anywhere near as much as those on cam.  This is so clear, I’ve started logging the statistics around this.  

To date I can tell you the astonishing fact is, people ‘off cam’ voluntarily contribute a massive 84% less than those on cam.  

This is a huge difference.  It’s a damaging difference, that can only lead to some form of marginalisation for that individual.

Raising doubts and concerns in the minds of others. 

This problem, tends to grow as time goes on.  The more team members are invisible, the more managers and others are likely to fill the vacuum with negative thoughts!  Where are they? What are they doing? Have they gone shopping or something?  At the low end of the negative feeling scale, it’s likely some are at least going to be thinking, ‘they’re not engaged,’ ‘they’re doing their email’ or something.  

Here’s my thought, if you have any desire at all to be someone in the workplace that is present; influential; heard; respected; valued; welcomed; appreciated and or promoted, then always use your cam in remote working situations.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

How to Conduct a Video Interview

Video interviews have become a necessity for businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the realities of lockdown and social distancing. Companies are still having to hire staff and continue moving onwards, and with in-person interviews being an unnecessary risk, interviews are more easily carried out remote using video calling software.

But if you have never carried out interviews via video before, it can be difficult to get it right. Video interviewing techniques can be somewhat different from those in-person, as you have to make up for the fact that you can’t always read expressions, and that some aspects of the interview may be more challenging.

Here we take a look at how you can successfully conduct a remote video interview.

 

How to do a video interview iManage

 

How do video interviews work?

To a certain extent video interviews are similar to normal in-person interviews. The questions can be the same, they can be the same length, and you can expect to get as much out of the person being interviewed.

However, the real skill in conducting a video interview comes beforehand. Picking a location is critical – it should be somewhere that is quiet and well-lit. Being able to hear and see the interview as best as possible is a vital aspect of getting your interview right.

It is also important to treat this as seriously as any other interview. When you interview the candidate, you should be dressed appropriately, and not be treating it like it is anything other than a normal interview. This can help to put the interviewee at ease. Naturally, you should do anything that you expect from your candidate.

How to prepare for a video interview

It is important to prepare properly for your video interview. Of course, any interview requires preparation but there are aspects of video interviews that are unique in this regard. In fact, the first thing to mention is that you should ensure that your technology and setup is prepared in advance and also that you have tested it thoroughly.

There is nothing worse in an interview setting to have it interrupted due to technical issues. And this can be a more serious problem if you are working to a schedule with multiple interviews lined up one after another.

It is also a great idea to have a backup plan in place. If your video calling software misbehaves, you should be ready to switch to a different option, or even a phone-based interview.

Online interview tips

It is important to understand how to conduct your interview properly. Of course, every interview is different depending on the role and the information that you need to get out of the candidate, but there are some things that can be done for all interviews that can really help the process and make things easier.

  • Test run everything with a colleague – sometimes it can be difficult to see beyond your idea to how it is going to work practically. Once you have planned out your interview, do a trial run with a colleague to make sure that everything works properly and makes sense.
  • Prepare an icebreaker – sometimes it can be difficult to portray warmth and establish rapport in a video interview, so have an icebreaker ready just to get everyone loosened up. This could be as simple as giving the candidate information about your background.
  • Follow up with a thank you – sometimes it can feel a little strange for the video call to end once the interview is over. In an in-person setting candidates walk with the interviewer and continue chatting before leaving. It can be worth doing something simple like following up with a ‘thank you for attending’ email, letting them know that you’ll get back to them soon.

At iManage Performance, we understand that everyone is still getting used to the idea of doing more aspects of their work remotely. That’s why we provide comprehensive training sessions to help employees get more out of their remote work. If you would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us today.

The Most Important Lesson Ever About Managing Remote Workers

Remote working has been growing in popularity for many years. It’s easy to understand why; it’s extremely popular with staff (some surveys have suggested that as many as 51% of on-site workers would like the opportunity to work remotely) and it can have a wide range benefits and advantages for employers, including reducing costs and increasing productivity.

Interestingly, however, whilst it has caused many problems, the COVID-19 pandemic has managed to accelerate business adoption of remote working as a normal working arrangement. Of course, under the conditions of lockdown, employees were told that they should work from home if they could do so. Government statistics here suggest that around half of the UK population worked from home at some point during the lockdown.

More recent government advice has been advocating for employees to work from home where possible, and whilst policies change very rapidly, we can expect to see working remotely being part of the ‘new normal’ under this pandemic. However, there is evidence to suggest that this trend will continue even once normality can resume.

What this means is that businesses will need to get used to the idea that remote working has been normalised and will be far more common in the future – not just as a way to combat COVID-19, but as a practical part of life. It is important, then, for organisations to get a better understanding of how to manage remote workers and how to get as much out of them as possible.

Possibly the most important lesson ever about remote working

During the Working from Home Show, we gave a keynote presentation about possibly the most important lesson ever about remote working and we want to share that with you. We draw on real-world experiences that contain absolutely vital lessons about managing remote workers.

Common challenges

Before we can understand how businesses can effectively manage remote workers, it is essential to first recognise some of the challenges that remote working can create for businesses. Yes, despite its popularity and benefits, some issues can make remote working more difficult to manage from a business perspective.

Too many video calls?

Firstly, it’s worth acknowledging that we are still learning about the effects of large-scale remote working. A good example of this is the fact that it seems that many people working remotely appear to be spending too much time videoconferencing. Employees are spending significant portions of their days in video call software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. It has been seen as a replacement for meetings and general talk in offices, but spending excess time on video calls can interfere with productivity.

It is also likely that videoconferencing is side-lining some employees and this potentially slowing down work, as louder, more talkative staff tend to dominate video calls, sometimes drowning out other voices.

Ambiguous electronic communication

Another challenge comes in the form of electronic communication. Where face-to-face communication was once the norm, we are spending our days communicating electronically where there is more opportunity for misunderstandings.

A lack of social cues can often make meaning ambiguous, especially in asynchronous forms of communication such as emails. This can lead to a huge reduction in social learning – learning from witnessing or overhearing colleagues in the office.

Loneliness and technical issues

Perhaps some of the other challenges regarding remote working are more obvious; 46% of remote workers admit to experiencing loneliness and it is also common for people who work from home to find themselves easily distracted. There can also be more technical issues regarding remote working, especially concerning whether workers are easily able to get access to the information they need to do their job.

What are the benefits of remote working?

If this is seeming to put remote working in a bad light, it might only be because we need to understand the negatives in order to find solutions. It is also vital to stress the reason why it is genuinely essential to find these solutions because remote working is not only here to stay, it can actually be hugely beneficial to companies across many industries.

More relaxed employees

Firstly, remote working can give employees a huge boost from a personal perspective. Being able to work at home often means that they will be around family members or may be free to get things done more easily – that can actually lead to a reduction in stress levels in their personal life. And of course, feeling relaxed at homes makes it more likely to feel relaxed at work too. 58% of staff say that they are happier working from home.

And that comes full circle when we consider that happier and less stressed employees are likely to have higher morale and be more engaged at work.

Ditching the commute

As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that being able to work from home stops the need for commuting. When you consider that the average commute is nearly two hours per day. Across the year, then, working from home actually saves employees around 20 full 24-hour days across the year. This time can be used for personal development, being productive at home, or even getting the better night sleep you deserve.

There is also the suggestion that staff are in this for the long haul – 73% of workers say that they would like to be able to work from home permanently.

How can managers support remote workers?

Given that remote has challenges as well as benefits, it is up to managers of remote staff to find ways to minimise the former and maximise the latter.

Managers need to focus on communication as their main priority as it through communication that so many issues are dealt with. This starts first with regular updates and one-to-ones between manager and the member of team. These should be structured sessions giving both parties the chance to talk and discuss their opinions and ideas.

Of course, remote social interaction between members of staff should also be encouraged, and companies should make use of a range of options in terms of communication including messenger apps and video calls.

It is also important for managers to remember that their overall goal is to help workers succeed. This can mean helping them to get the tools and software that they require to do their job more efficiently and effectively.

Staff face many different types of pressure and uncertainty through their remote working day, so managers must be placed to help them with these. The idea here is that managers need to make things as easy as possible for staff to do their work – this gives them more time and confidence to deal with these pressures.

6 top tips for managers

It becomes important to consider how best to influence staff working remotely. Here we take a look at some top tips for managers who are having to manage remote workers – remember that this may be something completely new for a manager.

    1. Focus on synchronous communication – we have already mentioned that email is a form of asynchronous communication – this is because it is not an ongoing conversation – however, there are forms of technology that do allow for synchronous communication such as messenger software and video calls. These provide something similar to the kind of natural human communication that occurs in the office.
    2. Engage with the team – managers need to engage regularly with their team and not assume that they can be left to their own devices – as we have discussed, remote working can get lonely. It is up to manager to arrange times to chat with their team members.
    3. Don’t forget about career paths – the old saying goes: out of sight, out of mind. This is relevant to remote working as it seems to be the case that remote staff are overlooked for the work that they do – the irony being that 51% of staff feel that they are actually more productive working remotely. This can make them less likely to be promoted. If staff feel like there is nowhere for them to progress in the company, they can lose motivate. It is up to managers, then, to ensure that staff feel that they have a career path in the business.
    4. Make meetings essential – sometimes managers have to go out of their way to ensure that a member of staff attends meetings. While we have discussed the perils of excessive videoconferencing, it is nonetheless extremely important that staff attend meetings, not only to keep up with the team socially but also to aid work.
    5. Trust your team – it is vital that you should the team that you work. Of course, this is easily said but, in practice, it can become trickier. Because managers aren’t able to see employees working, there can a tendency to think negatively about what they are doing without supervision. The air of suspicion plays on the minds of staff too – it can lead to them actually overpromising on what is possible and in what time frame. This leads to further problems as managers feel let down. Ultimately, managers need to have faith that their team is working correctly and not look to micromanage or push for unreasonable deadlines.
    6. Use emojis and gifs – it might seem unprofessional, but actually using more emojis and gifs in internal conversations can help to make the meaning clearer. It is unfortunately the case that electronic communication can be ambiguous and specific meaning can get lost. Emojis, GIFs and other ways of applying meaning to written words can be extremely useful.

 

Helping staff achieve business goals

While remote working, it is important for staff to remain goal-orientated. Everyone needs to be working together to push for the success of the company as a whole. Managers must help their team understand the objectives that they are working towards and help them do it.

Increasing recognition is one of the most important ways that this can be more easily achieved. Staff like to see that their hard work is being noticed and recognised – but this is something that often gets forgotten with remote staff. Yet it is more crucial than ever before, so look at putting systems in place not only recognising hard work but also encouraging creativity and innovation.

Motivation is another important issue and companies should be doing everything they can to keep their team motivated. When motivation drops, we see a decline in the engagement of employees and a fall in productivity.

Debunking remote working myths

There are a number of myths that are unfortunately prevalent regarding remote working. It’s worth taking a look at some so that you have the opportunity to examine your own ideas about remote working, as well as understanding ideas that are commonly had about remote work.

    • Myth: remote workers deliver less work – companies expect a significant drop in performance from remote staff when actually most workers feel that they either do as much work remotely, or are actually more productive. A bigger concern that you may need to address is the fact that workers are aware that they need to impress when working remotely, so may spend too much time doing things, or rush through tasks to get more done.

 

    • Myth: staff are less available – many businesses are concerned with staff away from the office they will be more difficult to get hold of. Once again, the reality appears to be the opposite: staff are far more likely to be available constantly. This can ultimately have negative consequences as it could lead to burnout.

 

    • Myth: staff won’t work a full day – this calls back to the perception that if managers can’t physically see a member of staff, they are more likely to assume something negative about them. There is a fear in organisations that having staff work without the supervision of managers will lead to them working shorter days and having longer lunch breaks. And again, the opposite is borne out by the facts: 27% of staff say that they work longer days when working remotely, while many work into the evenings and weekends to get tasks completed.

 

Final Thoughts

Remote working has both challenges and benefits. To get the most out of your remote staff it is important to have leaders who understand how to manage the team effectively – and this can be very different from leading a team in the office. At iManage Performance, we specialise in helping business leaders and managers understand how to more effectively lead their remote staff for benefits in staff morale, engagement, performance and productivity.

Get in contact with us today if you would like to learn more about what we can do for you and your team.

We're Trusted By

I'm Bob Bannister, owner, and trainer at iManage Performance, the specialists in training for remote workers and managers with over 20 years of experience in this sector.

As the UK has rapidly shifted towards working from home, this challenges the norms in which we work and manage We can help to fast track your remote management or team skills. Speak to us about our training options today.

call today +44 (0)1444 474247

email bob.bannister@imanageperformance.com