The Christmas period is a double-edge sword for companies. How do you meet project deadlines, asks Jason Downes, and keep the business ticking over whilst your team get into the festive spirit?
One of the best ways to balance getting work done and enabling staff to enjoy the holiday season is to establish remote, flexible working practices. Not only can remote working increase motivation for staff to continue working in the run up to the festive period, it can also improve productivity and profitability by enabling them to work from locations that are convenient, as they can avoid the depressing commute and treacherous weather conditions attempting to get to the office.
As an employer, there’s no better gift to yourself this Christmas than reaping the benefits of a flexible workforce. However, there are still many leaders who are reluctant about letting employees work flexibly, fearing that unless staff are in the office, work will be pushed aside in favour of enjoying a mince pie by their local pub’s open fire. Here are some top tips on how to manage remote sparse teams over the Christmas period.
Establish open channels of communication
It’s essential to establish exactly how you will communicate with your staff when they are working remotely before they start to do so. One of the most common mistakes employers make when first implementing flexible working practices is not establishing how you would like teams to keep you updated. An internal plan should be shared with everyone in the team, which sets out how employees are expected to keep in touch with the rest of the team and how often they should check in, whether by phone, instant message, or email.
Instant messaging is beneficial for keeping an open channel of communication for when team members want to ask quick questions or give updates. At the same time, the power of picking up the phone shouldn’t be underestimated. Often, a two-minute call to provide feedback, discuss tasks or establish next steps is more efficient than a long-winded email chain.
Keep up to date with progress (without becoming a micro-manager)
A big concern for managers who are new to remote working is how to ensure productivity levels don’t plummet and staff complete the work that’s required of them. The internal plan should set out what is expected of employees and give them the opportunity to discuss potentially difficult tasks just as you would in an office.
Trust is essential when it comes to remote working to be successful, so it’s important to show staff that you trust them to complete their work, even when not in the office. It can be tempting to micro-manage staff when working in different locations, however this is highly counter-productive and can be detrimental to output and the success of remote working. Scheduling a brief catch-up before lunchtime or asking for an update on specific tasks to be sent to the team by the end of the day is a positive way of being kept up to date on progress without micromanaging staff.
Maintain a sense of team
When working remotely, it’s important to maintain a sense of team rapport and inclusion. While this can seem like a difficult task, implementing simple but effective measures such as having regular video calls, or weekly meetings in person, can be incredibly helpful in building and strengthening relationships between office-based and remote workers. Especially over the festive period, it’s important that these regular catch ups aren’t forgotten about as teams work hard to complete projects and produce yearly reports.
Harness the latest technology
The readily available technology needed to successfully work remotely means there’s little excuse to not offer employees the chance to work in locations that suit them and enable them to be more productive this Christmas. From conference technology to instant messaging platforms and collaborative working tools, there are lots of different ways teams can be kept in contact and successfully complete actions while working from remote locations.
When it comes to the festive period, there is a way everyone can have their Christmas cake and eat it too. For business leaders, enabling staff to work remotely means they can be sure that work will still be completed to a high standard. Working from locations that suit their lifestyle means employees will be able to spend time with loved ones over Christmas and continue to be productive.
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