5 Pillars for Creating a Tech-Savvy Remote Work Strategy
Actionable Tips for an Effective Long-Term Remote Work Strategy and the Tools To Make It Happen
Harvard Business Review finds that 40% of leaders surveyed feel less than confident about having the skills they need to lead remote teams effectively.
Ninety has good news for them and anyone who runs small- to medium-sized companies: Today’s technology makes it easier to facilitate a long-term strategy where remote work gets better results. Remote work technology sets your employees up for success with the right tools and processes.
This list explores the challenges of remote work, the five major pillars that support a successful remote work strategy, and how you can improve it all with Ninety’s platform of integrated tools.
The Biggest Challenges of Remote Work
Without today’s advanced technology, the challenges of remote work would drastically inhibit success. According to a recent McKinsey study, many seats, roles, and responsibilities that used to require a physical presence somewhere can now be done from anywhere.
“We know from our research that as much as 30% of what constitutes employee engagement is technology,” says Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research. “What leads to engagement is your ability to make progress in your work every day, and the technology you use is directly tied to that. How does tech enable or hinder that progress?”
Ninety is a cloud-based platform that supports employee engagement, alignment, and productivity. Through awareness, communication, and agreement around a shared vision, Ninety helps connect the entire organization.
This tech can help leaders build a solid way to develop and implement a long-term remote strategy that may also include hybrid work environments. It helps them deal with the cons of remote work like:
- The remote leadership skill gap. With Ninety, leaders are equipped to run remote teams and evaluate their performance without falling short.
- Expectations and feelings around remote work. You can help your team stay connected through Ninety’s Meetings tool.
- Confusion over new working rules. In a remote work environment, it’s important to align remote and hybrid teams with strategic goals. The Accountability Chart in Ninety will help your teams stay clear on what’s expected of them and how their productivity and performance will be evaluated.
- FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Leaders need to make an intentional effort to make everyone on their team feel included and connected, no matter where they’re working. Ninety’s Feedback helps leaders do just that — with regular one-on-one meetings, quarterly check-ins, and annual reviews.
- Poor work-life balance. When remote workers can set healthy boundaries around work and personal time, they will stay less stressed, improve productivity, and avoid burnout.
Ninety also enables other tech tools, such as video conferencing, collaboration apps, and chat solutions like Slack to work better together.
As Andrew Hewitt says, “You have to look at this holistically because it’s all of these technologies together that really make or break the remote work experience.”
The 5 Pillars Supporting a Successful Strategy for Remote Work
The key to a successful remote work strategy is a thoughtful analysis of your current operation in these critical areas of business growth:
- Company Culture
- Clear, Effective Communication
- Active Trust Building
- Performance Tracking and Measurement
- Remote Employee Leadership
1. Company Culture
Why is company culture important? A strong company culture:
- Builds brand identity
- Guides decision-making processes
- Improves workflows
- Increases employee engagement
- Elevates productivity
- Transforms employees into advocates
- Inspires top performers
- Decreases turnover
- Promotes employee loyalty and longevity
- Helps new hires transition into their roles
- Creates a healthy team environment
- Unifies employees
Why Company Culture Is Becoming Even More Important
As leaders reimagine where and how work will get done, they’re also considering the role that company culture plays in their growth and success:
- More companies are using a strong culture as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.
- Today’s workforce is dominated by Millennials, who value a strong company culture highly when deciding who to work for.
- More people want to work for a High Trust Company (HTC) and do meaningful work. They value trust and want their company to value it, too. They want to feel respected and nurtured. They want to believe that their products and services make the world better. They want to agree with the direction the company is moving.
- More entrepreneurs are talking about remote company culture as a positive trend.
- For companies with a poor, irrelevant, or unrelatable culture, recent studies show they have a marked increase in employee turnover.
Workplace Culture and Employee Experience
The Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO) in Ninety helps leaders gain visibility around creating a cohesive work culture for hybrid remote teams. You can set goals, align them with core values, establish how to meet them, and share them throughout the company. V/TO data integrates with Rocks and Scorecards in Ninety. With it, you hold all the building blocks for creating a culture that aligns with your company’s shared vision.
Tips for Building a Strong Company Culture
- Do a culture audit. The experts at Forbes suggest a culture audit for companies that want to evaluate where their culture stands. When planning a permanent remote work strategy, questions to ask include:
- How well-defined is your company culture?
- Does it translate to a remote culture?
- Where is it defined? Is it accessible to everyone?
- Do your employees have an understanding of company culture? (Do a poll.)
- Do they know the brand values?
- How is company culture exemplified at the company? Do leaders live it? Do employees adhere to it?
- Update HR policies, onboarding remote workers, and training.
- Include new or different skills and competencies for recruiting new hires, such as self-motivation, initiative, and effective virtual communications.
- Consider whether adjustments in compensation for remote workers are warranted.
- Adapt benefits to reflect a shift from traditional on-site perks to options for remote workers.
- Offer training and retraining that focus on the social and relational aspects of remote work. Skills include establishing working norms, building trust, effective virtual communication patterns, and incorporating social elements into virtual work relationships.
- Recent surveys show that 64% of executives plan to invest in training leaders to run a virtual workforce. Training on leading hybrid teams will be valuable in maintaining equity between remote and on-site employees.
- Make company culture part of a remote culture. Prior to COVID-19, 26 million people were already working at least some of the time remotely. Well-known brands have been on Forbes’ list of the top 100 companies for remote jobs for more than five years. Thousands of companies were already using cloud-based platforms like Ninety.io to help them build and run their organizations. What worked for these companies then still has power now. Like:
- Making your culture people-focused.
- Leading effective meetings.
- Having intentional communication sessions to share knowledge of important company initiatives with a distributed workforce.
- Leading virtual town halls and pulse check surveys that monitor whether shared values are coming across to employees.
- Hosting special virtual events like happy hours and annual company huddles build shared experiences.
2. Clear, Effective Communication
For hybrid remote teams, clear and effective communication must be deliberate, concise, and responsive. Leaders are developing new ways of getting messages across with advanced technology so that everyone can understand each other better.
Remote Work Team Building Ideas
- Set expectations early. Working remotely is a transition for many people. They'll appreciate clear communication on the process and your expectations. Encourage employees to work around their most productive hours instead of requiring specific start and end times. Figure out schedules for all-hands-on-deck time and regular check-ins. Set boundaries around work time and personal time.
- Run effective meetings. A group meeting can inspire ideas that people may not consider on their own. Teams can explore new ways to collaborate by focusing on brainstorming opportunities, solving challenges, and creating value.
- Rely on asynchronous communication. Compared to real-time communication, asynchronous communication on apps, texts, email, and more gives people time to receive, absorb, and comprehend the information before responding to it on their own schedule.
- Make synchronous communication better. Phone calls and live video conferencing allow people to deliver and respond to conversations in the moment. When video conferencing works as virtual face-to-face communication, people can gain more meaning through non-verbal cues that enhance collaboration.
- Try bursty communications. Harvard Business Review research suggests communication is more effective when people converse in rapid-fire bursts followed by periods of uninterrupted “deep work time.” This way, they can form and develop their ideas, then align their schedules to communicate synchronously.
- Schedule daily huddles. It’s one way to stay proactive about communication so remote workers can feel less isolated and in the dark. It’s also an example of leading with transparency to encourage accountability and engagement.
- Keep company culture alive. Continue to foster information interactions with teams that are essential for nurturing company culture. Creating virtual opportunities to connect casually can help maintain team rapport. Employees will be more inclined to work as a team.
3. Build Trust
- Agreements, aligned goals, and values.
- A trust characteristic, compatible interests, and purpose.
- Appreciation, investment, and respect.
- Time, structure, and processes.
Mark says connections-based trust is essential for building a healthy and vibrant culture for high-trust companies. It’s a culture that:
- Everyone in the organization loves.
- Attracts the talent you need and want to be connected with.
- Repels non-supporters of your uniqueness.
- Is integral for nurturing a company that’s built to last.
Tips for Building a Healthy and Nurturing Remote Hybrid Work Environment Through Trust
- Address isolation. Building connections-based trust includes strengthening shared common interests, goals, and core values among team members that can protect them against feelings of isolation.
- Get your Total Trust Score. It’s a number that helps to evaluate what is often a more emotional, gut-level concept — the level of trust in your organization — with more clarity. This could help with how much a leader trusts whether an individual is the right person for a project or team. It also helps team members gauge whether to trust company transparency.
- Intentionally create structure for people to build connections. Conduct meetings as video conferences. People can benefit from non-verbal cues, facial expressions, tone of voice, use of hands, and posture to provide critical context. This nurtures more authentic communication.
- Embrace small talk. Small talk can have a big impact on building trust among groups. It’s a chance to discover connections between people.
- Create a dedicated channel for informal conversations. Encourage people to use it.
- Coach people on how to develop strong connections. Encourage team members to set up one-on-one time to chat, join interest groups, or attend classes on non-work interests such as cooking, yoga, classic cars, or any passion. It helps build a healthy and nurturing hybrid remote work environment.
- Remind yourself that words matter. Use precise words to communicate mindfully. Ensure that the meaning and intention are properly understood.
- Know when to use audio or video. If written communication is too open to personal interpretation, use audio and/or video to provide context.
4. Performance Tracking and Measurement
Eighty-three percent of company leaders say that the shift to remote work is a success for their organizations. How do they know? Because they’ve embraced what Ninety CEO Mark Abbott calls The Math of Work.
When building a sustainable business, leaders use numbers to fully understand how they’re reaching goals. Ninety Scorecards help capture the numbers, so people can track what works well and needs extra attention.
Tips for Mastering Key Metrics for Remote Work Success with Scorecards
- Measure less. If measurables are meaningful for people, they’ll probably achieve more as a result. Teams won’t be distracted by unnecessary metrics that can hinder goal achievement.
- But measure the basics. Key indicators from sales, finance, and operations are standard procedures for any industry. But with Scorecards, you can add filters to determine what the right numbers are for your company. Like quantifying delivery, customer satisfaction, and call response times, which can differentiate your company from the competition.
- Quantify process efficiency. Metrics should reflect your company’s core processes, which are key to the way you operate. Use a Scorecard to review and discuss improvements.
- Identify weekly measurables. Track results achieved every week to drive organizational growth. It makes it easier to see trends, if things are on track, and real accomplishments over a shorter time frame. Then you can do something about unhealthy metrics quicker.
- Recognize off-track measurables. The math of work is a work in progress. Ninety Scorecard uses a color-coded system so measurables can be analyzed instantly and adjusted when necessary. Green means all systems are a go. Yellow means the measurable has fallen below goal once over three consecutive weeks. Red means it’s fallen below the goal three weeks in a row. If you want to address what’s happening, you can simply turn the measurable into an issue for further discussion.
- Measure performance throughout your organization. Create metrics for different departments, teams, and seats. Each measurable should reflect and support the greater vision for the organization.
5. Remote Employee Leadership
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the transition to a remote work culture removes some of the personal context that helps people interact with each other. This can affect good communication, the sense of togetherness, and collaborative creativity. As a result, remote work can be a high-stress environment for many people.
Tips to Help Leaders Run Remote Teams Without the Stress
- Use remote work technology like Ninety to keep your teams connected.
- Set expectations early and often. This means providing guidelines, setting boundaries, reviewing the basics, being accessible, giving clarity on priorities, milestones, performance goals, and more.
- Stay flexible. Have a concrete plan for getting work done — one that’s flexible enough to accommodate multiple schedules and availability.
- Run better meetings. Ninety Meetings can help you run shorter, well-organized, virtual meetings and get to the point quickly.
- Track people’s progress. This provides a structure for people to fulfill their roles and responsibilities while giving you peace of mind. Boost trust and encourage development with performance feedback or one-on-one meetings with private teams.
- Emphasize consistent communication. Choose a combination of communication tools that fit your team's preferences. Then find that balance between too many pings and too much silence. It should all add up to what each employee needs to be productive working remotely. Leaders: you want to keep a pulse on what’s going on without showing signs of mistrust. Resist the urge to micromanage.
- Keep listening. Offer lots of opportunities for feedback. Consider using surveys, which are quick and easy to facilitate. Acknowledging and following up on the feedback communicates trust and respect. Inquire about workload and progress without too much interference.
- Build connections with your team. Dispel feelings of isolation among team members. Share positive feedback, open a fun chat channel, or start a vlog and create a direct emotional connection with individual team members.
- Be available for your teams. Having an open-door policy with remote teams may mean making yourself available across multiple time zones and means of technology.
- Prioritize a way to collaborate. Cloud-based platforms like Ninety will be helpful here, especially for providing shared documentation of company core processes and other work that’s accessible to everyone.
- Celebrate success. Great work is a reason to celebrate, no matter where it’s being done. Show employees your appreciation and support with recognition. Find unique ways to show remote support, such as specially produced videos.
Create Your Long-Term Remote Work Strategy on Ninety
The growing trend of working remotely is here to stay. Now that you know how to adjust your company operation to achieve long-term remote work success, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice:
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