How can we use digital technology to better support remote workers? Are some staff frustrated that they cannot get their work done on time? Do others feel out of touch or not belong? Are a few relationships more tense than they should be?
Rogan Hounsell-Roberts was a founder of a successful scale-up; has helped organisations across many sectors achieve success; a founder of KR5 Consulting; and passionate to help ambitious business leaders succeed.
Shocked with how quickly and how much things have changed; anxious for family and friends; our daily routines changed; and on top of all that – works disrupted. Even for regular remote workers, things have changed so much we wonder if it will ever be the same again.
As we become more reliant on digital technology to connect with the people we love and with those we work, we are on a steep learning curve to adjust to a new norm. See also the HBR article “A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers”. As leaders, can we use digital technology to better support remote workers? What are the issues, and could better tools make a difference? We believe the answer is a resounding yes. See also “Can Mobile Working be a powerful force for growth?”.
Our three-part series takes a fresh look at helping remote workers. This part looks at supporting remote workers with better digital systems. Part two, “Adapting to Technology: 4 steps to gain an advantage” looks at how a business can adapt using technology. Finally, part three digs into driving successful technology adoption in “Adopting Technology: Making it Happen”.
Lack of information to get the job done
Have you ever done a home improvement job where you have spent as much time going backwards and forwards to the shops as it took to complete the project? As frustrating as that might feel, if you don’t have everything you need to get the job done at work, you can feel anxious. You worry that others will judge you and you might feel annoyed with, or ashamed of yourself too.
A common problem with working remotely is getting the information and support you need when you need it. Management solutions might involve regular check-ins and getting the team together daily via a web meeting. But how can systems help? Questions answered before starting work reduces delays. This might involve changing the work process to anticipate information needs. Meeting support and information needs before the assignment means that work is easier to complete. Digital systems can efficiently support the process and capture the information needed to complete work quickly. Staff can then feel in control, productive, independent, and better about themselves.
Out of touch
There is something about the chit chat and office banter that makes us feel that we belong. We also see what everyone else is doing and get a sense of being in it together. When working at home, we can feel isolated and alone. A management solution is to arrange a virtual social, perhaps having lunch where people can talk and have a laugh together.
Good systems can also make you feel part of something bigger. For example, in a customer relationship management (CRM) system you see other people’s updates, notes, emails, and chatter. Suddenly you don’t feel so alone. Others are working alongside you to move work forward. These interactions give opportunities for discussion and problem solving. The systems provide structure and bring people together. It feels like a good exchange of comments on a social media post, only now it’s about getting work done.
In an office we pick up on what’s going on outside of work. If we know that someone’s having a bad day, we’ll cut them some slack. The problem with working from home, perhaps feeling more anxious and alone is that we can be… well a bit on edge. We can take things the wrong way and things can get a bit tense.
At this point, you might wonder how on earth digital can help beyond the management approaches mentioned above. Well it’s a bit of a slight of hand, because it’s about creating a system so that everyone knows where they are, it’s all so predictable and everything runs smoothly. Good systems sooth the tension and reduce the anxieties. Of course, the best way of making good systems work well is … with digital!
If you want to support remote workers well – nothing beats good management and positive culture. However, digital technology, applied well, is good for making the job and life much easier: A virtual world that brings people together allows them to share timely and accurate information. Equally important is the overview and transparency that technology systems provide. Leaders have data to make decisions and maintain control. Staff feel empowered and part of something bigger.
Some leaders struggle to figure out what’s needed; others feel overwhelmed with all the possible choices; and a few feel frustrated that they’re just not moving fast enough. Meet with me for a free 30-minute virtual call and let’s work together to explore the best way forward for you and your business.
KR5 Consulting help business leaders achieve their vision. We want to understand what makes you and your business tick, so we can help you create solutions that really work for you. We work alongside you and your team, run workshops, analyse, design, plan, manage and deliver business solutions to power you onto your destination. Our purpose is to help you accelerate, increase profits, scale-up, acquire customers and beat the competition.
If you’d like to explore the ideas in this article further or need help and advice, please contact Rogan at email@example.com – to arrange an informal chat.
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