The pandemic appears to be easing and the dust is finally settling following the disruption left in its wake. One thing that seems to be on many businesses’ minds is how best to create a mix of remote and on-site working. The benefits of this hybrid work model are significant - promising boosted internal productivity, improved employee morale, better access to top talent and more.
Yet, there are challenges associated with hybrid working. Will remote working impact company culture? Will onboarding be more challenging? And will new recruits miss out on creating the same strong relationships as the long-time employees?
Here are some top tips to help professional services firms work remotely.
- Choose leaders who will inspire and engage
- Give employees clear objectives
- Offer separate but equal benefits for all employees
- Prioritise regular interactions between leaders and teams
- Try an asynchronous communication approach
- Hold focused meetings with a specific agenda
- Invest in project management software
7 tips for working remotely
1. Choose leaders who will inspire and engage
Whether you’re implementing a new ERP system or in this case, looking to change your business’s working model, the same principle applies. You must prioritise your change management strategy and a big part of that is choosing leaders who can guide, inspire and engage your teams.
Your leaders should be able to:
- Encourage the breaking of organisational siloes/siloed working behaviours
- Match the right employee (in terms of skillset, availability etc) to the right task/project along with the right tools to succeed
- Drive outcomes and outputs so their teams can deliver high-quality work
- Facilitate natural, informal interactions between themselves, their direct reports and among the wider team. This is the start of bridging siloes and building trust across departments
- Set an example - e.g. splitting their time between working remotely and in the office to show that one approach is no better than the other. This can also help employees see that the company has no preference over their working habits - work on-site full-time, work remotely full-time or do a mixture!
- Create safe spaces for employees to share honest feedback and requests
2. Give employees clear objectives and allow autonomy
One concern with remote working is the potential drop in employee productivity. Yes, we might be free from the distractions of the office (e.g. general chit-chat, noisy printers etc) but there are plenty of other distractions at home. Children. Pets. The allure of social media and watching TV all day. You get the picture.
The answer isn’t to micromanage and constantly check in with your employees. Instead, clearly define the objectives you want them to meet and the outcomes you expect. And allow autonomy! Remember - not everyone works in the same way. So, it’s not about how long it takes someone to finish a task; it’s about whether they can meet the quality expected within the time set (AKA objectives and outcomes!).
Great leadership is very important here.
3. Offer separate but equal benefits for all employees
Photo by CoWomen
A big drawback of the hybrid work model is it’s easy for some employees to feel as though others get treated better than them. For example, if your business offers catered lunches, snacks and refreshments, celebrations for special occasions, obviously your in-office workers will benefit. But your remote workers? Not so much.
Combat this by considering how your remote team can get an equivalent experience. How about a lunch budget? Regular gift cards for popular restaurants and cafes? The occasional gift basket? All of this can help your remote team feel as included as your on-site workers.
The same goes for your on-site workers - how can you help them access the same level of benefits as your remote team?
To start with, there are the obvious health concerns so make sure your office allows for social distancing and there are plenty of opportunities to clean and sanitise. Then, think along the lines of flexible start and finish times, a variety of different workspaces (a mixture of regular desks and chairs, booths, work ‘pods’ etc to allow people to hot desk) and so on.
4. Prioritise regular interactions between leaders and teams
Ensure individual employees get regular one-on-one time with their managers. For example, weekly catch-ups between individual employees and their manager can help each person can feel like their issues are being heard and their career is progressing, regardless of whether they’re down the hall or in a different country.
5. Try an asynchronous communication approach
Photo by Christina Morillo
Asynchronous communication means you can reach out to your team without expecting an instant response. This is particularly important when remote working. No employee wants to feel as though their manager doesn’t trust them.
So, give your team the information they need to successfully complete a task and let them run with it in their own time. Your employees can then provide updates as often as you need them to. This alleviates pressure and improves trust in the relationship as well as task productivity.
6. Hold focused meetings with a specific agenda
Do you find yourself sitting on more meetings than actually getting work done? Meetings can be one of the biggest drains on productivity. But they don’t have to be. If a meeting could be condensed in an email, always go for the email option.
However, there are some discussions that require a meeting. For example, company updates, brainstorming workshops, root cause analysis (RCA) sessions and mid-project updates. If you do need to have a meeting, make sure:
- They have specific agendas
- They are focused on just that topic
- You have someone ‘chair’ the meeting and prevent it from going off-track
- You have someone take notes or record the session so those who can’t attend can stay in the loop
7. Invest project management software
Like the vast majority of businesses, services organisations will likely be managing several projects at once. If your business systems and accompanying data are disparate, this can impact your productivity. How can you work efficiently if you’re running disjointed systems across sales, resourcing, project management, time, expenses and financials?
The right project management software can help offer the visibility, insight and level of cross-team collaboration required to drive project success.
Take Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations, for example. The solution combines features from Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, Microsoft Project and Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations so you can benefit from:
- Enhanced project management capabilities (e.g. ability to track planned-to-actual consumption of projects and built-in analytics so you can easily see project progress)
- Better deal management experiences (e.g. centralised customer data and AI-driven suggestions to personalise customer engagements)
- Optimised resource usage (e.g. anticipate resourcing needs more easily and improved visibility into resource availability)
- Streamlined time tracking and expense management (e.g. ability to submit time and expenses while on-the-go via the mobile app)
Read about Microsoft’s project management software in more depth via the button below.
Working remotely is one way to ensure business agility
2020 has shown us the importance of being able to adapt quickly. Adopting a hybrid work model or flexible working approach is one way to improve your business’s reaction time in the face of unpredictability.
In our checklist, we cover the five top ways the professional services industry can achieve business agility. Download it below.