Covid-19: How to make remote teams work for your business

Francis Mercer
4 mins

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One of the key themes emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic is how businesses are responding to the ‘new normal’. In our Covid-19 series, we cover some of the most important topics for businesses in these extenuating circumstances.

Making ‘remote’ work for your business

Just like any new initiative in your business, you’ll need to be set up for success. It’s worth acknowledging first of all that many organisations were starting to embrace a distributed way of working even before the current situation. A study by Airtasker suggests that employees who work remotely can be up to 1.4 times as productive as their office-based counterparts. However, that relies on implementing the right tools and frameworks for success.

At Intergiro, we have long been set up for remote work, in our fully distributed organisation. With no single ‘hub’ or HQ, we believe that our remote teams, spread all over Europe, give us the breadth of experience and cultural capital we need to adapt and thrive in even the most uncertain conditions, most importantly, reflect our pan-European customer base. We already covered some of our insights on how to run a distributed organisation in our blog on Org Design 2.0 so check that out for further tips on how companies are organising themselves to build, adapt and thrive.

Adapting to different circumstances

As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, companies’ hands were forced, with mandatory social distancing rules across Europe sending many workers home. Those who could work remotely were told in a short time they would be forced to. Making sure employees are all prepared for remote working has not been easy. While the approach has differed between countries and, of course, by sector and industry, there are a number of steps that those businesses which can work remotely are following, in order to make the transition from co-location in physical offices to remote teams work for them. In this blog, we’ll cover five ways you can make the transition to remote work smoother and more effective for your organisation.

1. Keep in contact

During any unusual time, it’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your remote teams. That means checking in more regularly than normal with all levels of your organisation. If something is uncertain for now, that’s OK - be honest about the known unknowns and recognise the unknown unknowns. Reiterate your company’s purpose and mission - repetition doesn’t spoil the prayer. Tell your company often why you’re showing up to work every day and why what you’re doing matters still. Organising virtual events at a stronger frequency than you would normally can also help - some people thrive on contact from work colleagues, which has suddenly been removed. Encourage your staff to take time to set up their own smaller sessions among close teams or even set up random groupings to promote networking between teams and colleagues.

2. Agree rules / policies

Be clear about the ground rules. It’s tempting to over-legislate on any new initiative, to manage perceived risks to the company, such as decreased productivity. However, setting up policies for remote working is not for your peace of mind. Instead, rules and policies should be designed to protect employees and your business equally and to make employees feel safe. Ultimately, if your workforce is worrying about what they can and cannot do in their new remote working arrangement, that will have a negative impact of their contribution to the success of your business. It’s in your interest and it’s part of your responsibility to be transparent when it comes to the rules of the game.

3. Use Digital tools for successful remote working

There are countless tools that companies can tap into to make remote working more effective - which we covered here. At Intergiro, we have found that a blend of tools for different purposes works well to bring our teams closer together and aid collaboration across different functions. Find what works for your teams and use the same principles outlined here about trust, transparency and role modelling to assess and implement any tool.

4. Promote trust

Remote work is by definition, asynchronous. That means you’re not going to know exactly what all your teams are doing all of the time. Instead, you should embrace the blind spots by empowering your teams. Your flexibility will allow them to set and work through their own goals.  

5. Be a role model

Finally, the most important step for any leader of remote teams is to be a role model. Acknowledge the burden the current situation places on staff - you may be living some of the same challenges as them, but it’s impossible (especially now) to understand exactly what is going on in their daily lives. With that in mind, in our next blog, Nick Root, CEO of Intergiro, will be sharing his top tips for effective leadership in remote teams.

Setting up for successful remote working

We’d love to hear your top tips for remote working. Whether you’ve embraced the remote teams and will carry forward the lessons you’ve learnt even once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, or you’re struggling with the challenges presented by leading your remote teams, we’d love to hear from you.