Many businesses are seriously having to decide whether to make the permanent switch to full-time remote operation. There are many advantages to running a fully remote business: You’d likely save money on leasing a traditional office space, you’d save employee commuting time, and you might end up increasing productivity as well.
But there’s no guarantee your company will be successful if you switch to operating remotely. You’ll have to be proactive, and adapt your operations to a remote environment if you’re apt to succeed.
Simple vs. Full Adaptation
Most firms who make the switch to working remotely for the first time go for a simple adaptation model. In other words, they take everything they used to do in a traditional office space and shift it into an online environment.
For example, if you used to hold an hour-long team meeting in the office, you’d now have the same hour-long meeting via a video conference call. Such an approach is suitable for short-term transitions, but it tends to be ineffective over the long term because it fails to help the company capitalize on the actual benefits of working remotely.
It’s better to adapt fully to the remote environment. Restructure your operations from the ground up, and play to the advantages of distance operations. It may well take more time to set up, and you can expect some growing pains, but over the long term, you’re more apt to see greater benefits.
Key Points of Adaptation
Think about the following points as you start to translate your business into a remote environment:
Software. First, you’ll need to make sure you have suitable software. Software programs are what will enable your team to communicate, collaborate, and store and share information with each other. If the software isn’t comprehensive, it isn’t reliable, or it isn’t intuitive, it’s not going to serve your organization well. That’s why it’s a good idea to put an entire intranet in place―an intranet that will provide you with a full suite of productivity and communication tools your team can use to do their jobs. In addition to purchasing and installing appropriate software, you’ll want to spend some time training and educating your employees on how to use the programs properly to suit your business.
Meetings. One of the most important changes you’ll need to make in a remote environment is your approach to meetings. In general, meetings are unproductive: They’re often held for their own sake, they involve too many people, and they take too long to finish because of distractions and lack of focus. The switch to remote operations offers a golden opportunity to overhaul how you handle meetings. Consider gathering in different environments for different purposes; for example, can this be a chat meeting, or does it have to be a video conference? Also, try to reduce the number of participants and restrict meetings to shorter frames of time. Lean on other modes of communication to keep employees updated, such as project management platforms and other central repositories of info.
Hours. Offices in traditional spaces were designed to centralize communication. Thus, keeping everyone to the same 9-to-5 schedule was enormously beneficial, if not critical. In a remote environment, however, you can take advantage of the option to offer employees greater flexibility. Consider adjusting the minimum number of hours an employee has to work each week, and grant everyone more control to set their own hours. If you’re focused on achieving certain goals or milestones, the exact number or pattern of hours a person spends shouldn’t matter. This will empower your staff to work during the hours they feel most productive, and will enable people to manage their other life commitments without sacrificing work.
Employee autonomy. On similar lines, you’ll need to figure out how much independence and autonomy you’re willing to give your employees. If you trust your team members to do a good job, more independence and autonomy is almost always going to be a good thing. It means workers will have more control over how they execute their work and manage their day. Give this a try, and see how well it plays out for your organization.
Supervision and management. In remote environments, supervisors and managers can no longer walk around the office and generate small talk to see how people are working. Instead, your role changes to become more passive but more data-intensive; managers can check in with employees in other ways, and analyze reports to determine whether productivity goals are being met.
Flexibility is your greatest asset if you rebuild your business from the ground up. Chances are, the transition isn’t going to be perfect, and you may try multiple strategies and products that don’t work before you identify a set-up that does.
As long as you’re experimenting, proactively measuring your results, and figuring out ways to adapt to new circumstances and information, though, you have a decent shot at being successful.