The late legendary CEO Jack Welch said people should "face reality as it is. Not as it was or as you wish it to be."
Remote teams need an accurate paradigm of the recessionary landscape so they can see around corners, deal with threats, and seize on emerging opportunities. According to 2020 McKinsey research, 80 percent of respondents said they enjoy working from home while 41 percent said they are more productive.
Business leaders should establish best practices for WFH spaces to boost productivity, reduce distractions, and keep everyone marching in the same direction. Here are traits of a high-performing telecommute workforce.
A remote workforce requires more out of business leaders, who need to regularly communicate an organization's mission to keep everyone prioritizing the right activities and metrics. A workforce that lacks discipline can fall prey to the drawbacks of WFH, as blurred lines between personal and office life allow distractions to interrupt workflows.
Managers need to foster teamwork and accountability, as well as encourage collaboration between co-workers, some of whom may be tempted to skip virtual meetings with colleagues. Emails and chat messages are not substitutes for video calls.
Secondly, business leaders must keep serving customers' core needs, whether delivering outstanding products or providing excellent aftermarket services. Too many companies are using Covid as a reason to reduce customer support, but it only gives competitors a chance to steal sales.
According to a PwC June 2020 survey, 50 percent of executives said they anticipate an increase in long-term remote work. Remote teams must exercise discipline, reduce background noise, and prioritize customer needs. Doing so enables leaders to turn challenging times into opportunities to gain market share.
Experienced Team Members
In a difficult environment, work experience and adaptability trump other employee attributes. Industry insights, operational know-how, and pragmatic execution are invaluable during extreme adversity. It's not about theory or business plans. These qualities give remote teams an ability to maneuver an organization toward continued growth and stave off threats.
During the pandemic recession, customers are bound to experience pain points in their journey as supply chains are disrupted or adjusted for new health protocols. Experienced managers and employees are in a better position to ensure business continuity, because they will have been employed at their company for years and know how the organization interacts with vendors, customers, bill collectors, regulators, and stakeholders.
According to the same PwC survey, 72 percent of office workers would like to telecommute at least two days a week. Experienced team members should show initiative by championing process improvements. For example, managers should find new ways of better serving customers such as in-store pickup, contactless delivery, getting lower-cost suppliers, and ensuring products are in stock.
A tech-forward culture gives telecommute workers an advantage in the new normal. Managers should give people access to the latest remote technologies, ones with day-to-day benefits, not nice-to-have but impractical features.
Remote infrastructure includes mobile and cloud-based applications that can support document creation, task management, virtual collaboration, and more. Cloud-based solutions are important because they facilitate sharing of information between geographically distant teams.
I recently spoke with Jacob Hawley, founder of TLM Partners, a game and entertainment development firm in Irvine, California, whose employees work across five time zones.
"Using cloud technologies," he says, "enables our teams to work from anywhere while committing to a collaborative culture and developer excellence."
Hawley says TLM succeeds by grooming talent in areas where the gaming industry is headed, which are physics (an open-source engine), artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and visual effects. The firm's remote developers make Hollywood effects appear realistic in games, and the team is working with Warner Brothers on the new Batman franchise.
Culture of Trust
Leadership, work experience, and technical excellence combine to create a culture of trust and peak performance. Remote co-workers who share information and who strive toward common goals help a company stay competitive in uncertain times.
In October 2020, Microsoft informed telecommute staff that, with their manager's approval, they could work from home permanently. Facebook and Twitter made similar moves earlier this year.
High-performing organizations are cognizant of WFH limitations, such as the inability to access hardware and the greater need to maintain discipline and focus. However, WFH frees up workers by saving commute time, boosting productivity, providing flexibility, and protecting health.