With cities in lockdown and the need to self-isolate for containing the spread of the coronavirus global pandemic, companies have adopted the work-from-home policy. Although this movement is intended to maintain output and efficiency and seems successful on the face of it, ensuring workforce productivity while working remotely is a concern. As remote working becomes mainstream in the long term, companies need to start tackling the associated challenges structurally and prepare for this paradigm
A successful transition to managing a virtual team requires planning, co-ordination and efficient management. Managers need to prioritize and establish clear goals, communicate clearly and leverage the team’s strengths. This involves more than just having the set of collaboration and remote access tools – pressing issues with remote working need to be identified and rectified in order to build and empower a strong, agile team that can efficiently collaborate while working from home.
- Rise of virtual teams
As companies prepare for remote working, here are a few statistics that reveal its rapid impact on company operations and performance.
- Shift to work from home:
88% of companies implemented remote working since the outbreak.
- Response teams:
80% of companies use their crisis response teams to coordinate with their employees.
- Video conferencing:
Zoom has soared to 200 million daily participants from 10 million in December 2019.
- Biggest obstacles of remote working:
54% indicated that poor technology and infrastructure were the obstacles of connectivity and workforce productivity.
- Continuity and productivity:
71% of managers are concerned about business continuity.
- Adopting new tools:
81% feel the need to adopt new tools and techniques to be equipped to handle network issues.Remote working post COVID- 19: 74% of companies plan to shift to remote working permanently.
- Preparedness of the company:
only 30% of companies feel they are well prepared for the rise in remote working.Preparedness of the employee: 38% of employees received no training to work remotely.
This shift to remote operations increases our reliance on digital systems — quick fixes are not scalable, exposing cracks in operating models and technology solutions. As remote working is becoming the new normal, there is a need to focus on providing the right set of tools for the employees.
- Top work challenges
Companies must challenge the boundaries of traditional strategies that may not be viable during a pandemic. Here are a few tips to help sustain a culture that will set your business up to thrive, both in the short and the long term.
- Consider the systemic nature of the pandemic
During the prevailing pandemic conditions, we can see that businesses have suspended operations or reduced their throughput in the affected regions. Standard strategies like increasing the size of the team, relocating the team or transferring work to an alternate site are not viable as all the sites and personnel are just as impacted by the event.
Companies need to change working norms and design distinct strategies. For instance, plan around areas of high manual intervention, affiliate contracts to supply chain vendors, appropriate licenses and validate terms of contract to reduce any uncertainty. They should further balance the needs of business with revised expectation setting, increased communication and make remote working simple and practical.
- Establish an effective structure
Working remotely leads to uncertainty that can result in a lack of clarity. The toughest part of managing a remote workforce is making team members feel connected to each other and to the culture of the company. The key lies in effective communication and establishing a structure for decision making.
Since remote workers respond differently to the cultural shift and challenges of the home-working environment, it is essential to foster an outcome-driven culture that empowers and holds teams accountable for getting things done, while encouraging open, honest, and productive communication. It is easier to implement tasks through smaller cross-functional teams as they can be presented with a clear mission and reporting line.
- Reorganize business strategies
Businesses are facing underperformance and will continue to experience significant operational disruptions and shifts in consumer demands throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. They seek to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on themselves, looking to instill cash-flow where they can by cutting costs, redirecting resources and leveraging the support mechanisms put in place by the government.
Companies need to evolve from standard policies and procedures to best meet the needs of their customers and employees. They should assess financial and operational risks and monitor direct cost escalations and their impact on overall product margins.
- Build resilience for the new normal
As companies are navigating the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, they will want to review and renew business continuity plans. It is necessary to study the current business continuity plans and identify the deficiencies and root causes to avoid any negative impact. New strategies will have to be executed based on the revised plans. Planning for future contingencies builds resilience and better response to future crises. Establishing lessons learnt relating to an increased proportion of the workforce working from home might also create opportunities and increase future resilience.
- Remote working: The new normal
Embracing remote working allows companies to define a new normal that maintains business continuity and employee productivity in the times of crisis. With the right structure, culture, processes, and technology—working remotely can boost productivity and employee satisfaction.