Loosen Up: 4 Strategies for a Successful Remote-Work Reset

As the months go on, are you still struggling to manage your remote team effectively? Here are four ways to reboot and refocus on results.

Try as you might, remote work isn’t getting any easier to manage, even after five months of practice—and the reason for that may be rooted in the office you’ve left behind. Many employers are still trying to adapt their in-person management practices to virtual work. If that’s been your organization’s approach, it’s probably not going particularly well.

So it might be time for a reset, especially considering it may be a while yet before it’s possible to a return to a traditional office experience. A few tips to help you start fresh:

Reconsider how you schedule team meetings. The software company Basecamp, which has been operating remotely for decades, has a smart approach to virtual meetings. In comments to Medium’s Marker site, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried said the secret to productive remote work is to minimize distractions. “Having video conferences all day long is totally the wrong direction,” Fried said. “The beauty of remote working is the opportunity to improve the way you work, to cut way back on meetings, to cut back on the number of people that need to be involved in any decision, to cut back on the need to FaceTime constantly.” Consider setting aside dedicated meeting-free times to give people the bandwidth they need to work without interruption.

Encourage employees to find their own work rhythms. Employees have been asked to make a whole lot of changes in short order to account for shifting needs. It’s only fair that employers do the same for them, allowing workers to structure their days in a way that produces their best results. That won’t look the same for everyone, writes Alexandra Samuel in the Wall Street Journal. “If you miss the creative spark that comes from in-person brainstorming, for instance, maybe it’s time to experiment with online whiteboards and mind-mapping tools that let you brainstorm with your colleagues in real time over the internet,” she writes. “If it’s hard to concentrate when you know the kitchen is full of dirty dishes, perhaps make a habit of calling into your first meeting of the day by phone instead of video, and do the dishes while you listen in. If you find yourself struggling with the blues every afternoon, when the isolation of home-based work sets in, maybe try restructuring your workweek around two-part workdays, and spend the middle of each day going for a walk or visiting with a friend.”

Understand that distractions will happen. People are working from home in unusual circumstances—with children, spouses, and roommates also present. In addition, television, social media, video games, and other home-based distractions are always within reach. Managers should try not to sweat it too much: Even though employees may be more easily pulled away from their desks, there’s evidence that they tend to work longer than they would in a traditional office—as much as two hours longer on average.

Worry less about the schedule and more about results. In other words, rethink your expectations. A New York Times piece recommends that leaders focus less on when people work and more on the performance results they show. “To adapt, managers should be very clear about expectations for the work assigned and when it’s due, researchers said—then leave the ‘how’ up to the workers and not worry about following the traditional 9-to-5 schedule,” Claire Cain Miller writes.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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