In the post-COVID-19 world, remote work has become integral to the modern employee’s life. But for some organizations, it isn’t working as smoothly as you think.
Recent studies show that more than 50% of managers and business owners believe their employees are less productive working remotely. Which means the other 50% think it’s working fine.
So, what’s the difference between their remote work strategies? Why is remote work so challenging for some companies while others excel at it?
Apart from the right systems, processes, and tools, the key factor behind a successful remote work strategy is trust between employers and employees.
In this article, you'll learn some of the core success factors of a remote work model and show you why trusting your employees and empowering them is critical to a successful remote work strategy.
Foundational Elements of a Remote Work Strategy
Remote work offers numerous benefits and advantages to businesses and employees. For example, companies can use remote work strategies to cut costs, boost productivity, and hire the best talent, irrespective of their location.
On the other hand, it offers employees better work-life balance, higher motivation, and the ability to work with a diverse pool of talented colleagues.
But to create a thriving remote work culture, you must set the right foundations. So let’s discuss the most critical elements you need for a successful remote work strategy.
Trusting your employees to work honestly and empowering them by minimizing micromanagement are the most critical elements of a successful remote work strategy.
If you don’t trust an employee, why hire them in the first place (remote or in-house)? So, when you’ve got them on board, you must give them the freedom to operate without being overly controlling.
It’s common for conventional managers to assume remote employees waste time on Facebook, YouTube, and other unproductive activities during work hours. This is why they believe in strict employee supervision and prefer to keep their team in the office.
However, organizations that get remote work right adopt a completely different approach. First, they comprehensively brief their employees on their daily tasks or short/long-term goals. Then, they trust employees to use their time intelligently and meet their goals without compromising quality.
If employees take some time off during a working day, modern remote employers don’t have a problem as long as they get the work on time.
Without trusting your employees, you’ll find it incredibly challenging to implement a successful remote work strategy.
A successful remote work strategy requires a strong relationship between managers and team members based on professionalism, trust, and empathy.
This is only possible when the managers and employees understand each other’s working style and have a strong team bonding.
Managers must be respectful and considerate when assigning and delegating tasks and ensure their team fully understands the requirements. Instead of being bossy and overly controlling, they need to be friendly with their team members, trust their abilities, and help them achieve their goals on time.
Similarly, the employees must understand their responsibilities and ensure they fulfill their tasks on time. They should be able to discuss their challenges with their manager, seek guidance where needed, and work as a team to achieve shared goals.
This is important in a remote work setting where you can’t physically meet and work together.
In the absence of a shared physical workspace, miscommunication can become a significant roadblock in your path to a successful remote work strategy.
This is why it is critical to develop formal and informal communication channels and define processes to minimize gray areas and ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.
Managers must define communication protocols for assigning new tasks, getting work updates, organizing team meetings, direct communication with employees, and communicating within the team.
Employees should know exactly when and how to communicate with a team member for a project or general task. In addition, they should also know how long a team member can take to respond to their message to help them plan their communication.
You can only successfully run and manage a remote workforce with crystal-clear communication protocols.
The concept of remote work exists because of technological advancements in communication and collaboration.
So whether it's project management, time tracking, video conferencing, or any remote work-related task, you can’t do much without the right tools and technology.
Technology enables you to execute your remote work strategy by creating a virtual workspace accessible to all your team members. For example, a document management system allows you to securely share work and collaborate with your team in real time.
Similarly, a project management solutionviews/project-management-tools/ helps you assign work, create timelines, track progress, and ensure timely project delivery.
Loom’s video messaging features are another excellent example of how technology can revolutionize work. Instead of writing long and confusing emails or waiting to collaborate with team members in different time zones, you can use asynchronous video communication with Loom to create easily consumable video messages.
However, you should be careful to use only what is needed because too many tools can be counterproductive and confuse remote work instead of simplifying it.
A remote working model allows you to hire the best talent irrespective of location, background, ethnicity, legal status, and other limitations.
But to make it work, you must be flexible with your employees' schedules and work styles. This is why companies with successful remote work strategies allow employees to work in different time zones and only connect in real time when there’s no alternative.
We see this every day with our customers who use Loom’s video messaging features to communicate across time zones without needing to connect live.
This allows remote employees the freedom and flexibility to work on their terms and perform to the best of their abilities without outside pressures.
Thriving Remote Teams Start From a Place of Trust
The foundational elements of a remote work strategy we’ve just discussed ultimately boil down to the level of trust and understanding between managers and employees.
Instead of asking, “how do I know my team’s working?” you must move towards a trust-based approach where you assign clearly defined goals to your team and then empower them to achieve those goals without unnecessary micromanagement.
This can be transformational for your team and work culture and benefit your company in numerous ways.
Let me quickly show you ways trusting your employees helps create a vibrant and productive remote work environment.
Makes Employees Believe In Their Abilities
According to research, people elevate or lower their performance depending on their leaders’ belief in their abilities. In a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin, the teachers of a class were told that some specific students in their class were “bloomers” based on their excellent results in an intelligence test.
In reality, those students hadn’t scored higher than their peers on the intelligence test. But since the teacher believed they were smarter, they treated them differently throughout the year.
As a result, those students outperformed their peers in both verbal and reasoning abilities. Plus, they achieved more than 50% intelligence gains during the course.
The teachers’ belief in those students improved their performance.
Now apply this to your remote employees.
When you constantly tell them that you trust them to do their jobs perfectly in a remote setting, your employees raise their performance levels because of your belief in them.
In contrast, if you keep telling them they’d waste time on social media and other useless stuff when working remotely, they’re more likely to do it when they get the chance.
That’s how the human mind works.
So, trusting your employees’ honesty and integrity makes them more likely to honor their commitments.
Increases Employee Motivation To Perform
Various studies have shown a direct relationship between employee satisfaction and remote work. For example, Buffer surveyed more than 2500 corporate professionals and found that 99% wanted the freedom to work remotely.
Giving your employees this freedom instantly skyrockets their motivation to work for you and stay with your company longer. As a result, they’re likely to perform their jobs with greater motivation and dedication.
A Harvard study backs this assumption.
It found that companies that trust their employees and give them the freedom to work with minimum interference see a 106% rise in employee motivation. That’s a drastic increase that’s bound to positively impact all aspects of an employee’s performance.
So, don’t be afraid to trust your employees to perform in a remote setting. Because when you give them the freedom to act and trust their abilities, they feel empowered and often exceed your expectations.
Makes Work Enjoyable
Who likes to be micromanaged by a boss who nitpicks everything, keeps following up unnecessarily and doesn’t allow you to make any decisions?
Of course, no one.
Trusting your employees to work remotely without unnecessary supervision increases their confidence and makes work enjoyable.
The Harvard study I mentioned earlier found that remote employees working for managers who trust them and allow them to make decisions independently to perform their jobs are 76% more engaged at work and 74% less stressed.
This isn’t surprising.
If you hire competent professionals with years of proven work experience, you should trust them to do their jobs well. As a manager, you should only share your requirements and offer help whenever they need it.
Without doing this, you’ll make work stressful for your employees and force them to think about switching jobs.
Increases Work Ownership
Assigning goals to your employees and trusting them to get the job done creates work ownership and improves performance. It allows employees to treat work as their own and gives them the freedom to solve problems creatively. As a result, they feel emotionally attached to their tasks and feel it reflects their skills and abilities.
In contrast, when you act as a client instead of a manager and keep dictating everything to your employee, they never see it as their work. They see no stakes in it since they don’t make any creative decisions. As a result, they half-heartedly do the job just to get it off their to-do list.
If you want to produce more leaders in your team and grow your talent pool faster, empower them by trusting their abilities. Assign work remotely and give them the freedom to make their decisions.
When they face difficult scenarios and make decisions independently, they’ll become more confident and grow as leaders who can guide your new hires.
The more you trust and empower them with remote tasks, the better they’ll perform. Ultimately, this would free up your time from day-to-day operational tasks and allow you to grow by tackling bigger challenges in your company.
A recent university study found that when employees are motivated, enjoy a trust-based relationship with their managers, and own their work, their productivity dramatically increases. They perform much better without supervision and are able to exceed their manager’s expectations with the quality and efficiency of their work.
This is why it's critical to trust your remote team members and provide them with an environment where they can think independently, feel empowered, and perform to the best of their abilities.
But how do you create such an environment with your remote employees?
How to Improve Your Remote Work Strategy
Successfully implementing an effective remote work strategy requires a transparent work culture where employees and managers trust each other and honestly work towards shared goals.
Here are a few steps to create a trust-based remote work culture in your company.
Solicit Feedback From Employees
Employees are the most essential part of a remote work strategy because they’re the ones who must adjust to the changes and demands of working remotely. So, knowing your employees personally and understanding their perspectives is critical before creating your remote work strategy.
Ideally, all your employees should work in-office for some duration before going remote. But if that’s not possible because of their location or your company culture, it’s still important that you connect with them in their early days in your company and get to know them better.
This would allow you to identify their strengths and weaknesses, understand their personality, and know how to communicate with them in a remote work setting.
Ask them how they feel about remote work and what you can do to help them stay motivated, productive, and driven towards work.
Their feedback would help you see things from their perspective and enable you to create a more inclusive remote work strategy.
Host In-Person Company Events
Hosting in-person company events such as holiday retreats, team meets, or formal get-togethers are crucial for building cohesion with your remote employees.
It allows your team and managers to know each other better, spend quality time together, and create a stronger bond that ultimately benefits work.
Zapier is an excellent example of a remote company that uses company retreats to boost remote employee efficiency and productivity. Every year, Zapier employees get together at a scenic location to play games, have fun, and do a little bit of work as well.
But if you can’t organize in-person events for any reason, holding virtual meetups can compensate for this to an extent (but not entirely).
In a virtual meetup, you can run contests, throw fun challenges at employees, or ask them to connect from a scenic location nearby so that all of them are outdoors and feel refreshed.
Optimize Company Processes & Policies
Trusting and empowering your remote employees becomes easier when you have comprehensive remote work processes, policies, and procedures.
In the absence of physical interaction, employees can get confused about running day-to-day operations, communicating with team members, submitting work, seeking feedback, or any other work matter.
Plus, without transparent processes, you have no accountability mechanism to measure an employee’s performance and judge their work quality. So, you must invest in process development to create transparency and minimize uncertainty.
You can define the process of assigning and submitting work through your project management software.
Use time-tracking tools to ensure hourly remote workers are putting in the required time.
Make video messaging mandatory for all project briefs and presentations
Only conduct team communication through the company’s official Slack channel.
Define the steps for escalating issues to higher management.
Create warning triggers for policy violations.
Document and formalize as much of your work as possible to ensure that your remote employees know how to perform work without supervision. Only then is it possible to empower your employees without fearing productivity loss.
Make Employee Training a Priority
Employee on-job training is costly. But not training them is even costlier in the long run. So, to create a successful remote work strategy, you must train your team in two key areas.
1. Train employees to efficiently use the software and tools critical to your remote work strategy.
This is where Loom can be a real lifesaver. Instead of training every employee separately or connecting live in different time zones, create Loom video recordings walking through the essential functions of each tool. Record your screen demonstrating how employees can perform day-to-day tasks to get things done. Do this for every tool to create a tutorial library that anyone from your team can watch whenever they need help.
2. Train employees to communicate professionally in a remote work setting.
This is critical because everything in a remote work strategy depends on the quality of communication between employees. Without training, employees can easily come off as rude, unprofessional, or inconsiderate with their communication style. This directly impacts work efficiency and your business results. Again, creating detailed Loom video recordings covering the various aspects of remote work communication is an excellent way to train your employees at scale.
Revisit Employee Benefits & Perks
Remote employees have significantly different needs to perform their jobs efficiently than conventional in-house employees. For example, you might need to upgrade their computer systems, provide them with a better internet connection, or give them an allowance to access a nearby co-working space.
So, to execute a remote work strategy, you need to assess the needs of your remote employees and assign a certain budget to them. Because without the right perks and benefits, your employees won’t have the right infrastructure and motivation to work efficiently.