Regardless of scale, industry or location, businesses globally have been forced to innovate and change to accommodate remote working. Many organisations have successfully embraced this, establishing more dynamic work environments that allow employees greater flexibility.
As businesses begin to focus on what comes next, they will need to ensure that everyone remains connected, aligned and focused on moving the organisation forward, regardless of whether they’re in the office or working from home.
Here are my top tips for business leaders on how to foster transparency and clarity across their distributed teams.
Leverage the right toolset
An instinctive reaction from businesses plunged into remote work was to invest in a host of different technologies to keep things moving. But now, as businesses begin thinking beyond continuity, it’s important for them to take stock of the technologies that will help them thrive. Start by separating the tools and platforms that increase clarity and transparency from those that further contribute to information silos and wide-spread confusion.
When consolidating tools, business leaders should also provide guidance to distributed teams on how (and when) to best use the technology offered by the organisation. For example, my team uses Asana to manage our work, Google Docs for document sharing, Zoom for meetings, Slack for one-off communication. Failing to establish best practice and guidelines will result in deepened silos, as teams and individuals across the company use different platforms inconsistently.
Take control of your notifications
With remote work removing face-to-face interactions, it can be easy to fall into the “always-on” mindset, as individuals become increasingly eager to show they are constantly available. This mentality isn’t beneficial to employee wellbeing and can hinder creative thinking which requires uninterrupted focus. It’s important that distributed teams establish best practice on handling notifications at work and set clear expectations around when and how each team member should respond or switch off.
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Start by advising your team to turn off all but the most critical notifications – whether from a specific person or related to a particular project – while heads down in work. On occasions where you require deep uninterrupted focus time, try utilising Do Not Disturb modes, which have become standard features for many communication and collaboration tools. These can help individuals take back control of their time to allow for uninterrupted work or to allow them to alert their team to the fact they’re not currently online and available.
Provide purpose and direction with goal setting
Employees feel most empowered when they have a clear purpose and clarity around the work they do each day. The easiest way for organisations to achieve this is to provide clear goals for individuals, teams and the company as a whole. At the manager level, this means ensuring that the team – no matter where each individual member is located – has clarity on what they need to do and by when and how their work ladders up to company-wide goals. This transparency of information can help everyone understand which tasks to prioritise based on which will deliver the greatest impact.
Create a supportive company culture
To create a supportive community in your organisation, it’s essential to meet people where they are and allow them to be authentic. For instance, a parent may now have different work-life responsibilities to balance than before. By fostering an inclusive environment, that person will feel safe sharing with their manager how these responsibilities may be impacting their work.
Empowering people to be real about the things that are impacting their schedules, and enabling them to build human connection, ties right back to work. With authenticity comes confidence and acceptance, and that allows people to do their best work and thrive.
Celebrate your team’s successes
One important way to keep distributed teams motivated is by celebrating their successes. Managers and team members should think about how they can authentically show their appreciation for each other daily. For example, praising an individual’s work in a team meeting or congratulating someone with a fun emoji in the shared workspace. Praising a team member among peers and colleagues, builds their confidence and makes them want to continue striving to do their best work. Not only does this benefit the individual’s development and boost overall team performance, but positive reinforcement also helps to create a positive work culture.
With both remote and distributed work set to be part of our work-life reality for the foreseeable future, business leaders need to establish the best methods of driving business success while supporting employee engagement. Establishing transparency and collaboration across the organisation will enable businesses to remain agile in the new world of work. Now is the time, for organisations globally to take this opportunity to test new ways of working, to ensure their business remains ready for what’s to come.
Prashant Pandey is head of engineering at Asana, an app that helps teams organise, track, and manage their work.