REMOTE WORK

Transparency at work – the foundation of an effective home office

Managers are afraid that remote workers will overwork themselves while not being as effective as in the office. A transparent culture is the best answer to this challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a sudden and a forced shift toward remote work. According to the Eurostat data, up to 40% of all European workforce was shifted toward the telework. The transfer was sudden – the pandemic gave no transitional period and no time to adapt.

Image taken from pxhere

This time it was really about the survival of the fittest without the typical business exaggeration – with the creeping virus the shift toward remote working was about the health and well-being of employees. And even their lives.

A threat indeed

There were over 189 thousand deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States – nearly two times more than US soldiers’ deaths during World War 1 (116,516) or over three times more than Vietnam war deaths (58,209).

The numbers in Europe are equally thrilling, with 211,948 deaths reported. The number surpasses the EU road traffic casualties eightfold (25.1K according to the European Commission data).

So keeping the employees in their home office was both an act of caring for them and the only reasonable way to keep the company’s operations. People stay healthy and productive in their homes.

But the fact that the shift was necessary didn’t make it easy. The World Economic Forum pointed out several concerns employees face when it comes to managing a remote team.

  • 82% of managers are afraid of lost productivity and focus
  • 75% are afraid of reduced team cohesiveness
  • 70% are concerned about losing a company culture
  • 67% of employees overworking
  • 65% express their uncertainty about the impact on employees’ careers future

Concerns about remote workSource: Visual Capitalist

Interestingly, employers and managers are concerned both about dropping productivity and overworking. The only way to tackle these challenges is to make the organization as transparent as possible.

The transparency applied

Transparency itself is not a technology that can be easily applied to a bunch of bullet points on a to-do list. It is a whole culture to be implemented, usually not without a struggle and not without the need to do a huge mental shift.

But in basics, there are five pillars that make the organization transparent and boost the productivity of remote workers as well as reduce the fear and anxiety of both employers and employees.

Plan ahead

Sitting hours in the office is a good way to show productivity – but not exactly to be productive. In fact, the less the employee works, the more productive he or she is.

On the other hand, though, unproductive sitting is sometimes necessary – there is nothing to do due to the lack of good planning procedures and the ad-hoc working paradigm. Thus, the employee sits unproductive for hours and that works overtime to deliver the work on time.

Madness, isn’t it?

Planning ahead with chopping every project into smaller chunks with clear accountability for remote workers is a great way to make sure that every employee knows what he or she has to do and what is necessary to be done earlier.

There are several great tools to tackle this challenge with Asana being a great example.

Communicate

Knowing what to do is the first stage. Providing information is the second one. The team is distributed and unable to meet, but it doesn’t mean a lack of communication. There are multiple tools to communicate online, both in real-time and in an asynchronous way.

Slack is a good example of a chat tool that makes creating rooms, teams, and groups easy. Google Hangouts on the other hand is great to arrange a short call that requires sharing the screen or just a little chit-chat in the team.

According to the Gallup study, one of the key components of a transparent culture is constant communication with employees with a key goal of knowing their attitude and approach toward their workplace. The research company suggests that the manager or the owner needs to ask them questions like:

  1. What do I know that has made me feel secure about our organization's future that I could share with my remote employees?
  2. What could I say to help my remote employees feel like true business partners?
  3. What could I say to help my remote employees feel more secure in their role given the changes we are facing right now?
  4. Do I know what matters most to each of my remote employees? Have I helped them see how their personal mission connects to their role, our team, and the organization's future?

With a culture of transparency and communication, answers given for these questions will give a significant boost to morale. What’s even more important, the answers will also improve the company’s stability, a thing that is valued by more than a half US workforce, especially in these hard times.

Track time

So how to know if remote employees are working? Tracking time is the only way to measure the performance of a remote employee. With clear information on the projects to deliver and work to be done, one can manage his or her time in the way considered optimal.

In the end, every party engaged gets the information it needs – the employee shows his or her dedication and the employer is sure that there is no cheating on the other side. A clear win-win situation, especially when boosted by the clear remote worker accountability.

On the other hand, though, the time tracking needs to be communicated in a way that will bring the employees a sense of security and caring, not a phantom of micromanagement and overcontrol.

Provide feedback

Transparency is also about keeping the air clean – sometimes the negative feedback has to be given. But not only.

The lack of positive information is a clear way to burnout and bitterness. According to the Psychology Today article, the power of gratitude is so great that it can even reshape the neural links in the brain. A simple “thank you” reshapes the employee’s day and approach both in the home office and on-site. But what comes naturally near the coffee machine needs to be planned during the teleconference.

According to the PwC study, employees under 30 are willing to hear and get feedback on a daily basis rather than once a year or quarterly. Cutting the feedback stream during the remote working due to the lack of on-the-go office interactions can be disastrous.

Analyze and optimize

Last but not least, the transparency culture is not only about showing how the work is done – it is also about understanding it and leveraging the gathered information during the process.

Having the goals set, the list of tasks prepared and the time tracked, the company needs to take a short break and think about its effectiveness. There are a few questions to be answered on this stage:

  • What was performing well? Are there some good practices to implement company-wide?
  • What was underperforming? Why? How to avoid it in the future?
  • What are the lessons learned?

Without this phase building transparency is like building the library in the desert – no matter how great the books will be, there is no one to read them.

Summary

There are multiple tools that support building the culture of transparent remote working in the company. But tools are worthless without people willing to use them. At Calamari we are used to implementing all the practices described above, to work in a distributed team, and to gather the knowledge from our data.

If you wish to leverage our experience in this matter, do not hesitate to contact us! We will be happy to share our knowledge!

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