3 key reasons why your remote work strategy failed (and what to do about it)

Photo by Iris Wang on Unsplash

It’s hard to deny the role COVID-19 has played as the main catalyst for remote work worldwide.

A global survey conducted by Gartner, Inc. found that 88% of business organizations around the world mandated or encouraged all their employees to work from home as the virus started to spread

Another study shows, 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to some type of remote work post COVID19, as seen with Facebook, Twitter, and Coinbase.

Yet, the desire for remote work is split down the middle, with 41% of people surveyed in a Gallup panel poll wanting to “return to working at your office as much as you did previously.”

Now as offices begin to re-open, it begs the question how successful was your remote work strategy in the first place?

3 key reasons why remote work strategies fail

1. Management mishaps

Micromanagement, invasion of privacy and lack of trust are all traits for why remote frameworks fall apart.

What to do about it?

Set clear expectations and proactively build trust. Some ways to do this include:

  • Have an easy way for employees to self-identify their top priorities for the week and make commitments for clear deliverables. Use a weekly feedback loop to create transparency and trust.
  • Have synchronous 1:1s on a regular cadence to support your employees. Consider answering questions like “What communication tool works best for giving feedback?” “How can I give you more ownership on the project you are working on?” or “How often do you want to check-in with each other throughout the week?”

2. Assuming office culture translates to remote

Relying too much on Zoom meetings, and a strict 9-5 schedule, can hurt productivity and motivation in the long run.

What to do about it?

Develop strategies around asynchronous communication, and documentation to empower your team. Non-work events should be intentional and focused on meaningful relationship building. To avoid both extremes of isolation and Zoom fatigue, consider the following:

  • Create clear expectations around disconnecting and balance. Explain how employees can self-report standard working hours or flexible availability. Set behavioral norms for response times on various types of communication.
  • Create team-building with specific goals, such as skill-shares, Pomodoro sessions, or employee interest groups.
  • Increase virtual visibility of the Leadership team in the form of weekly Zoom All-Hands, regular Slack updates, or open “Office Hours.”
  • Develop a strategy around documentation, an essential method for creating an easy to navigate and central spot for company, team, or project knowledge that allows remote teams to function autonomously.

3. Not having a policy around technology and tools

There are three critical components to being able to work remotely: A laptop, stable internet, and the ability to access documents. Overlooking the availability and security of any one of these three things will immediately hinder your team.

What to do about it?

Create a comprehensive policy to ensure your team has all the necessary tools to do their job and understand security guidelines.

  • Have clear guidelines around passwords, two-factor authentication, and VPN usage.
  • Use secure, cloud based storage for documentation.
  • Consider benefits such as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot and booster to ensure connectivity, and a home-office stipend to purchase upgraded laptops, desks, chairs, and monitors.

Are you struggling with any of the above issues? It is not too late to create a successful remote working environment for your team.

Here are some final things to keep in mind as you develop your post-COVID remote work strategy.

  1. People Operations need to help their companies create psychological safety. Promote a culture of vulnerability-based trust and respect.
  2. Outline basic guidelines around role responsibilities, availability expectations, documentation and communication norms. Make sure leadership is leading by example.
  3. Flexibility is key! Experiment and create a feedback loop with your team. It is the only way to customize a remote work strategy aligned with your unique culture.

Despite your desire for an office return, or not, the shift brought on by the pandemic, means remote is here to stay (at least in some capacity). Now is the time to start re-evaluating, or creating, your own sustainable Remote Work Plan. What actions will you take to ensure your remote work plan succeeds?

Published by Ali Greene

Head of Culture and Community at Oyster. Ali has ten years of startup experience and four years leading remote teams and implementing frameworks for organizations while traveling full-time. From rolling out benefits for U.S. based teams while slurping ramen in Tokyo, to managing an organization re-structure from beaches in Spain, her unique point of view and solution-oriented mindset is focused on supporting the success of distributed organizations. At Oyster, Ali is the liaison between internal culture and best practices and external education of the wider Oyster community.