As the COVID-19 situation develops, we are collectively facing a moment of uncertainty. We are not only wondering what the impact will be on our lives and families, but also on our businesses. Many of us are facing the possibility that we will need to start supporting a remote workforce practically overnight.
At Blue Beyond, we have helped countless clients manage through big changes, and also enjoy a thriving virtual work culture ourselves. So, here’s some of our tried-and-tested advice to help you feel calm and confident as you transition to a virtual work environment.
Be a champion for remote working
A common issue you’ll face in transitioning to a remote culture is trust. Many have preconceived notions about remote working—everything from decreased productivity to security concerns to a general sense of losing control. It’s important to address these concerns because the success of your virtual work culture will rely on collective trust and participation. You can help by becoming a believer yourself and serving as an informed champion for these changes.
In fact, there are myriad statistics in support of remote working, including increased productivity and improved employee engagement. Grounding conversations in data may help your leadership team feel more confident in these changes, so take time to brush up on the facts.
“The success of your virtual work culture will rely on collective trust and participation”
You can also be assured that you aren’t pioneering radical change, even if remote working feels new to your organization. The world is already adapting to virtual work in surprising and positive ways.
Many challenges have already been uncovered and there are incredible resources and solutions out there as a result. (Check out this SHRM article on using technology to support remote teams for some initial ideas!)
Strengthen your internal partnerships
Even with good preparation and resources, organizational change won’t go smoothly without serious teamwork behind the scenes. The most critical collaboration will need to be between people leaders, communications, operations, and IT. Now is the time to reach out and form an official committee or task force and start working together to build a solid plan. A few things for your cross-functional team to consider:
- Issue an official remote working policy. Put pen to paper and get a comprehensive policy in place to help everyone be on the same page regarding norms and expectations.
- Consider a policies and procedures audit. Ensure policies such as personal technology use, work hours, and others support and enable virtual workers.
- Brainstorm new policies or changes you may need to introduce. One example from our own business: we have an official “culture and connection” project code that we use to account for our time when we’re socializing with one another. Since our team isn’t in an office and misses those moments of organic “watercooler” connection, this helps remind us to make time for connecting.
- Test your thinking. You’ll need to make sure your tools, communications, and policies are clear and helpful to employees across all roles and levels. Create some varying employee personas and think about virtual working from their perspective – what questions might they have? What might help them to do their best work in a virtual setting?
- Focus first on the day-to-day work, but don’t forget the rest. If you’re making these changes very quickly, focus first on ensuring people can get their jobs done outside of the office. Longer-term, plan for things like training programs and events as well.
- Empower others to drive longer-term progress. For changes that can’t happen overnight, form an employee task force and give them the clearance to lead the charge. Bringing employees into the fold and making them a part of the solution will ensure these changes are deeply felt and long-lasting.
Harness the power of communications
As you make these changes, internal communications will be critically important to both supporting the change as well as enabling successful remote working.
Internal communications is critically important to enabling successful remote working
In a virtual work culture, both big C Communications (formal, intentional communications) and little c communications (informal, day-to-day communications) need thoughtful support from the business.
- For big C Communications, start by focusing on manager enablement. It is essential that leaders have the skills and resources they need to lead and engage with a remote team. Managers may need hands-on training on virtual collaboration platforms – not only from a technology standpoint, but also on best practices. They may also need reference guides, templates, or other tools.
- For little c communications, help everyone in the business learn and adopt day-to-day practices for staying connected and productive as a virtual workforce. Make sure your cross-functional task force is implementing and supporting tools and policies that encourage connection, like unblocking social media sites and enabling chat/IM platforms. Our blogs engaging remote employees and 6 ways to engage remote employees have more tips, including creative ideas for keeping teams connected through things like buddy programs, lunch chats, and social media channels.
Most importantly, now is the time to show up with understanding and support for one another. Working virtually means people must feel safe bringing their whole selves to work. An early-career professional may live with roommates and struggle to find a quiet place to take calls. An accomplished leader may be struggling with a new technology platform. A working parent may have a childcare challenge and need to adjust their schedule. A neurodivergent colleague may take more time than others in adapting to working in a non-social setting. Find ways to hold one another with empathy as you navigate these changes together.
As always, we are here for you as you move forward. Whether it’s change management, communications, training and enablement, or other “people side of the business” challenges you face, we’re here to listen and help.
Beth is a consultant at Blue Beyond and has been working in the communications field for 15 years. She specializes in strategic communications, culture evolution, and change management.