According to a recent analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, long before COVID ever became an issue, there was already an upward trend in the number of people working remotely in the U.S. Specifically, over the last five years, remote work has grown by 44%!

While the pandemic forced the hand of most companies to finally acknowledge, accept, and incorporate this trend, recent research from Gartner has found that 74% of companies surveyed expect some of their employees to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends. So with the traditional methods of collaboration, feedback, and performance monitoring now near-relics of the past, how can companies still empower their employees to remain productive?

1) Equip your team with efficient tech and productivity tools

Provide your team with communication and planning apps, such as Microsoft Teams, Planner, and MyAnalytics. And then for Teams, establish a standard for “rules of engagement” regarding the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication. For example, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, but chat when something is urgent.” Educate your team on the primary benefits of Planner—information hub, flexible categorization, communication and insights— and how it can help them create plans, assemble and assign tasks, share files, communicate with other users on the team and receive progress updates. Help them utilize MyAnalytics as a tool to see how and where they’re spending their work time: from how much time they’re spending on email to who they collaborate with the most, along with other schedule killers like how many meetings they’re attending a week. 

2) Establish daily check-ins

The tech and productivity tools provided to remote employees can be vital for maintaining regular check-ins. Creating daily check-ins via video-chat, phone-call or instant messages creates a sense of connection and normalcy among all the employees. Also, it is a crucial way to set priorities right in place at the beginning of the day itself. With managers no longer getting daily face time with their team, these check-ins can boost morale in one-on-ones or small groups. Aside from creating a sense of community with remote employees it also allows managers to get ahead of challenges in near-real time and ensure that project timelines remain in check.

3) Cultivate company culture

Companies now are famous for their culture, which can make or break an employee’s experience in that organization. So, it is essential to maintain a positive vibe for all employees even when working remotely. Extending your in-house culture into the virtual world can be tough, but finding ways to make remote employees feel valued will instill them with a sense of belonging. A few ways to extend your company’s culture to their new workspace include:

  • Give virtual shout-outs for good performance
  • Schedule regular company-wide conference calls
  • Utilize a company-wide chat/messaging platform to constantly connect
  • Organize virtual happy hours
  • Celebrate employee milestones such as work anniversaries and birthdays

3) Create a central virtual workspace and encourage remote collaboration

With employees now scattered across cities, a centralized virtual workspace, like SharePoint becomes an even more essential platform, so teams can collaborate, access, manage, and share data from any location. Lastly, it’s imperative in this new landscape to shift brainstorming of all kinds to digital. Remote employees are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to sharing and bouncing ideas off their team members like they used to while passing one another in the hallway or stopping by someone’s desk. Through Teams though, employees can access the virtual whiteboard functionality to help them more effectively run meetings, visualize ideas, and work creatively with notes, shapes, templates, and more.

While the pandemic will eventually come to an end, the shift to more remote work is likely to stay. Adjustments to workflow, tools and expectations can not only make this transition more effective, but can also create a lasting benefit to the culture and productivity of the entire company.

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