Remote work has been around for a long time, but a lot of companies still think of work as something that only happens in the office.
But the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work. Working from home was the only way a lot of companies could stay open safely and legally.
As we all search for our new normal, it’s useful to look at how other business leaders have adapted and succeeded with remote work. In this post, we’ll share tips and stories from companies who transitioned to remote work during the pandemic.
Adapting to remote work during a pandemic
Millions of people now work remotely, many for the first time, and the benefits are obvious.
There’s no commute. Work schedules are more flexible and allow people to focus on other priorities. Remote workers are more productive, and working from home saves money for both the company and the employee.
Of course, working remotely during a pandemic isn’t the same thing as choosing remote work as a smart way to operate your business.
The global crisis has impacted mental and physical health. Social distancing is an important safety measure, but it leaves people feeling isolated on top of their other fears.
Businesses are still facing this challenge today. This is more than just transitioning to remote work. On top of taking their companies remote, leaders have to navigate huge economic changes while their teams are stressed and scared.
Would you like to know how they are doing it?
Stories from business leaders about adjusting to remote work
We have the data on how the pandemic affected remote work.
But we wanted to know the stories behind the numbers. What was it like for businesses who had never worked remotely before? How was this transition different for companies that already had established remote work policies?
Dozens of CEOs, founders, managers, and experts shared their experiences. Here’s what they have to say:
Productivity is better than expected
One of the most common concerns about going remote is productivity.
Despite all the evidence that remote workers are more productive, lots of managers assume that the distractions and temptations at home will be too much to resist.
Experience is the best teacher.
Despite the pandemic, leaders found that their teams were more productive than expected. In fact, some teams were more productive working from home during a crisis than they had been in the office.
Here are some of the comments we received about productivity:
— Brian Lim, CEO of iHeartRaves
— Kean Graham, CEO of MonetizeMore
Quality is the more important than quantity
Remote leaders can’t stop by an employee’s desk to see what they’re working on. Instead, productivity is measured by output.
The first instinct for most managers without remote experience is to try to replicate the office environment as much as possible. They check in to make sure employees are at their desk, schedule lots of meetings, and look at the number of completed to-dos to gauge whether or not an employee is productive.
There are problems with that way of thinking, though.
Most people didn’t actually track productivity in the office. They just assumed that if an employee was at their desk and looking at their computer, then they were basically productive. The only time output was ever examined was when someone fell behind or turned in subpar work.
Working from home has forced companies to reevaluate how they measure productivity, and leaders have found that the quality of completed work is the most important thing to measure.
Here’s what some of them had to say about it:
— Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry, Inc
— Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful
Existing remote work policies were a big advantage
Remote work during pandemic conditions is a different beast, but you can still apply best practices for success.
Making the move to remote work has its own challenges. Things like remote communication, task management, and measuring productivity are standard speed bumps that newly remote teams need to navigate.
Companies with some remote experience felt that they had an advantage. It was useful to have the technology in place and policies already established so that going remote wasn’t quite a shock.
Here are some examples:
— Renato Proficio, CEO of Doodle
— Sean Nguyen, Director of Internet Advisor
Leaders learned to focus on trust and transparency
Employees everywhere are worried about their health, their job security, and their future.
Some people have to juggle extra demands like virtual learning and childcare. Others are struggling with burnout or poor mental health.
In this environment, it’s vital for leaders to actively build trust within their teams.
This is what leaders had to say about the changes they’ve made to adapt to remote work:
— Kevin Miller, CEO of The Word Counter
— Saurabh Jindal, Owner of Talk Travel
— David Reischer, Esq., Operations Manager at LegalAdvice.com
Technology helped ease the transition
You already know that work is easier when you have the right tools for the job. For remote work, there are lots of types of tools that help your team get more done.
There are a lot of remote team management programs out there, but a lot of people mentioned other types of tools in their responses.
For some, project management software was a game changer. Other teams needed a better way to manage their files in the cloud. Technology helps teams with communication, organization, and even staying socially connected.
Here are some of the comments we heard about technology:
— Michael Lowe, CEO of Car Passionate
— Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO of GetVoIP
Expert recommendations for best practices
There’s a trend in the stories we shared above. As companies sent their employees to work from home for the first time, they got a crash course in the best practices for remote working.
Whether you’ve worked remotely before or not, adjusting to remote work in 2020 has been a learning experience.
Leaders were happy to share the most important things they’ve learned about going remote. Here’s what they (and we) recommend:
1: Encourage communication
Remote teams have to communicate on purpose.
When your team starts working from home, you have a new responsibility to keep communication flowing. It takes effort for people to talk to each other now.
This is true for both work-related and social conversations. Keep your team healthy and happy by promoting both kinds of talk.
Remember that you need to work to keep everyone informed and up-to-date. If you forget to tell someone about changing priorities or important developments, they’ll waste time doing the wrong work. They might also feel that you don’t value their contributions.
Here are some tips:
— Irene Lopez, Business Development Associate at Online Optimism
- The ‘What’ – what they have accomplished since the prior stand-up?
- The ‘So What’ – why does it matter or what impact will it have?
- The ‘Now What’ – what happens next?
A lot of great and natural conversation typically emerges during this hour-long standup and important information is exchanged, such as responsibilities, deadlines, blockers, and prioritizations.”
— Jordan DiPietro, Managing Director of The Blueprint
2: Put employees’ wellbeing first
Concerns about work-life balance are far from new. The impacts of the pandemic brought those concerns to the forefront.
If your company is one of the many which took a profitability hit because of COVID-19, you’re probably under a lot of pressure to perform well and make up for it. It may even be a matter of survival.
The bottom line is important, but it also takes healthy, committed people to hit all your numbers.
This is both an ethical and a practical business issue. If you don’t prioritize your people, they’ll underperform or leave, which costs you a lot of money.
Especially when resources are already limited, it’s a good idea to invest some time and effort into the wellbeing of your team. Help them get through this and they’re a lot more likely to help your company succeed.
— Renato Proficio, CEO of Doodle
— Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls
3: Adapt your company culture
Culture isn’t just a buzzword. It drives the way your team interacts with each other and how they feel about their jobs.
If you didn’t put any effort into creating your culture, that doesn’t mean you don’t have one — it just means that your culture is out of your hands. Going remote is the perfect opportunity to step up and build the kind of culture you want.
This is a long road, especially if your current culture is negative.
You’re not going to shift the way your team thinks and behaves overnight, but get started now and you’ll reap the benefits for years, even if you go back to the office.
Here’s what leaders had to say about culture in their remote teams:
With a team scattered in different parts of the world, you don’t have that luxury. However, that’s no excuse for not doing a team-building activity. Take some time out from a webinar and let loose. Whatever you decide to do, get creative and be sure to allow every member of your team to contribute to that particular activity.”
— Rameez Ghayas Usmani, Digital Marketing Executive at PureVPN
— David Lynch, Content Lead at Payette Forward, Inc
4: Find a good balance of encouragement and accountability
Your team needs to be understood and encouraged. They also need to be held accountable for all the things they need to deliver.
If you use employee monitoring software, it’s a great tool to do both of these things. Your team’s productivity data is a great tool to see exactly where you can help people succeed.
Most likely, a team member who struggles to get stuff done isn’t goofing off at work. They might be overwhelmed with other responsibilities. There might be an issue with communication that makes it harder for them to do their job.
Lead with positive encouragement and offer support. At the same time, make your expectations clear like these leaders did:
— Vartika Kashyap, Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub
— Shawn Breyer, Owner of Georgia Foreclosure
— Monica Eaton-Cardone, Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks912
5: Use the right software to boost productivity
We already talked about the importance of having the right tools for the job. Of course, the “right tools” are different for every company.
Figure out what tools you need by listening to the things your team complains about.
Are they drowning in email because that’s how everyone discusses projects? Look for a new project management software that makes it easier to stay connected and organized.
Does your team hate digging through Slack channels to find the document you shared a few days ago? Upgrade your document management system and use some kind of shared drive to keep files where they need to be.
Here are some of the things business leaders shared about their game-changing tools:
Screen tracking gives you a much deeper understanding of where time is being spent at work, allowing you to more effectively diagnose and solve bottlenecks and evaluate performance.”
— Sam Maley, Head of Growth at Bailey & Associates
— Jayson DeMers, CEO of EmailAnalytics
— Brian DeChesare, Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions
— Kenny Trinh, Managing Editor at Netbooknews
What have you learned that other remote companies should know?
Share your experiences with us in the comments below.