Complete transition to remote working in our organization is a big decision. Before we make it, we need to answer one question: Are our employees ready for it and do they have the predispositions and competencies that will enable them to work remotely? Not everyone realizes that although remote working is now a top trend, it is not a solution for everyone. Many people will feel better and work more efficiently from the office and there is nothing strange about it. That is why before such a change we should take a closer look at our employees and estimate the probability of remote work implementation in our organization. Assessing predisposition to remote work is extremely important because it will allow you to react to potential problems in advance.
Assessment of predisposition to remote work
People who are good at working from home are most often characterized by features that support their work outside the office. Employers are also increasingly aware of this. According to data from the Talent Place report Remote Work 2019. A privilege or upcoming standard? the employers, listing the predispositions a remote employee must have, most often mention independence, goal orientation, accuracy and punctuality. If we want to choose the most important competencies, the first ones will include knowledge of the tools for remote work and the ability to work in a team. Interestingly, in organizations where working from home is common and most people work this way – it is the ability to work in a team that is considered to be the most important, and the knowledge of the tools is reduced to the background. From this, we can conclude that when hiring remote employees, companies should pay particular attention to the soft skills of candidates. After all, the lack of knowledge of the tools that an employee will use can be solved by appropriate training, while such things as teamwork skills or independence are features that are hard to change.
But what if we don’t have the comfort of building a remote team from scratch and face the challenge of transforming a stationary team into a remote one? Of course – the solution will not be to completely rebuild the team and hire new people who will be perfect in terms of the above-mentioned predispositions. We need to get to know our employees as well as possible and thus find out who will quickly adapt to the new reality and who will need more support. We can do this by asking employees and their managers questions analogous to those we would ask during the recruitment process.
What predispositions to remote work are worth paying attention to?
Since remote employees work most of the day without the direct supervision of their manager, they must undoubtedly have high responsibility. In this mode, you work hard with someone you don’t trust and are afraid to give them a responsible task. Therefore, it is worth asking yourself questions such as Does the employee feel responsible for the work he or she does? Will we be able to trust them when they work outside the office? How will they manage a problematic situation when they cannot get help from their superior? Answering these questions will help us determine the risks involved in sending such an employee to the home office. If it turns out that we do not trust the person in question, then consider the source of those beliefs. Didn’t the employee have a purpose? Did he or she happen to be telling the truth? Or maybe this feeling is due to the manager’s aversion to the person? If we can identify the problem, we will know what to pay special attention to after switching to remote working and in which situations we should remain vigilant.
Communication at work is important, but communication at remote work is even more important. Remote employees must be aware that communication will not happen by chance, e.g. in the company’s kitchen, and that it is extremely important to be responsive and take care of the quality of the information provided. Of course, there are people who naturally formulate clearer messages. But not everyone is good at it and such people sometimes need help. Therefore, let’s think about it at the beginning: Is our employee able to communicate clearly by e-mail, phone, or at meetings? Does he or she respond quickly to messages? Will he be able to obtain the necessary information remotely? If we have worked with a person even for a short period of time, we should be able to answer these questions. This will allow us to determine if the person has the right resources to communicate effectively while working outside the office. However, if, after analysis, we find that our employee has not been a master of clear communication so far – this is the right time to react and provide him or her with training in this subject.
From the person we hired for a remote position, we would certainly require a high degree of independence and self-organization skills. It should be no different for employees who already work with us and we want them to work remotely. Therefore, let’s think: is our employee able to work on projects and be accountable for tasks? Are they able to plan their own work and manage their time? If we feel that the answers to these questions are not fully affirmative, it is a sign that the employee must be provided with much more support at the beginning of remote work. This is valuable information, especially for managers, who should make sure that the employee develops his or her independence by entrusting them with tailored tasks. By organizing work in an appropriate way, the employee will develop good habits and believe in themself.
Ability to work as a team
In a remote organization, because most of the time we work alone, it is much easier to lose the sense of teamwork. Because you don’t see your team every day, it’s sometimes much harder to work in a team and some people can be drawn to working on their own account. That’s why we need a person in the company who can work in a team and we need to regularly strengthen such behaviour. How will an employee find himself in a remote team be important to us? Will he be able to establish relationships with colleagues even though he does not see them every day? Will he feel responsible for working together and not just for his own goals? By answering these questions, we will be able to prevent potential problems that may arise from employees’ inability to work remotely as a team. To reduce risk, we should remember to establish specific rules for teamwork from the beginning and to strengthen positive team behaviour. The role of managers will be important here, who should particularly emphasize the importance of teamwork and the pursuit of a common goal.
Discipline and motivation
There’s no denying that it’s easier to mobilize to work in an office where we see people working around us than at home, which we used to associate mainly with resting after work. That is why we have to make sure that our employees are able to motivate themselves to work? And will they be able to maintain high efficiency without the control and motivation resulting from their presence in the office? We have to realize that our employees are likely to be divided into at least two different teams. Some people surely appreciate working alone and the lack of distractions related to the reality of Open Space. Such people should benefit from remote work and their effectiveness is rather not threatened. On the other hand, adapting to the new reality can be hard, because they draw energy to work from contact with other people, and at work from home there will certainly be fewer of them. Such people can quickly lose their motivation and it will be more difficult for them to mobilize for intensive work. Therefore, let’s plan in advance activities that will minimize the lack of daily interactions in the office. Employees experiencing loneliness resulting from isolation will more often need remote meetings with the team and manager to maintain their motivation. Let’s also let and encourage them to carry out their own initiatives to integrate the team.
Reaction to feedback
Feedback is important in every job, while in remote work it plays a key role, mainly because we do not have current control over employees. Therefore, we have to trust that once the feedback is provided, it will be accepted and implemented at a fast pace. So let’s think about how the employee reacts to the feedback? Can he accept feedback in writing? Is he able to quickly and independently implement the feedback into his work? People who are open to feedback and implement it quickly are much more effective remote employees and grow faster. However, if there is a problem in your team with receiving feedback, you should check if it is due to the personality and resistance of the employee. It may simply turn out that the feedback is not being properly communicated! In such a situation, it is worthwhile to provide managers with training on how to work with feedback in a remote team and how to control whether suggestions have been implemented.
Evaluation of employee effectiveness on remote work – summary
Remote working certainly requires different competencies and predispositions than office work. However, this does not mean that people who have worked in the office so far will not be able to switch to total or partial work from home. However, we have to meet a few conditions so that neither employees nor the company will suffer from such a change and focus primarily on educating employees and managers about remote working. Knowledge of potential problems and how to deal with them will support teams in this change from the very beginning. Evaluation of an employee’s effectiveness on remote work will allow you to determine in time whether there are any irregularities in your company.
We also have an article on remote team-building.