Recent events have made remote working a reality for many businesses that may not have considered it before. With more employees working from home temporarily, some companies are recognizing the benefits of remote work and some employees are finding they prefer it over going to the office.

These developments have greatly increased the possibility that more employers will change their working model to a remote one permanently. In fact, some already have. For example, Twitter and Square both announced in May 2020 that employees now have the option to work from home permanently if they desire. (1)

While remote work offers benefits to both employers and employees, there are challenges that come along with it. Organizations shifting to a remote work model can learn about the dos and do nots of navigating this arrangement.

The Dos 

  • Do communicate on a regular basis. This does not mean bombarding employees with emails or phone calls. Instead, it means checking in with them on a one-on-one basis and as a team. One-on-one check-ins make employees feel valued and like their well-being is important to their employer, both of which ramp up productivity and increase engagement. Group check-ins help solidify the team and make them feel more connected despite their physical separation.
  • Do set boundaries. It is important for all parties involved to understand that working remotely does not mean they are on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week. If flexible hours are one of the company’s practices, each employee should get “assigned office hours” to dictate when they are available. Useful tools for maintaining a balance include TimeTrade, calendar sharing such as Office 365 and project management tools. Creating ownership over tasks also goes a long way in establishing trust.
  • Do establish deadlines, milestones and goals for everyone including management. No one can achieve the overall objectives of the business if they are not working toward smaller goals along the way. Management should be clear about what those goals are and how each will be measured (and quantified with metrics) so that everyone is aligned.
  • Do work as a team. Apollo 13 is a perfect example. Between two different teams located in two vastly different environments, everyone had to come together to find a solution during a moment of crisis. Employees need to work as a team regardless of personal differences and opinions for the greater good of the business. Clear and open communication is critical for this endeavor to work.
  • Do incorporate training that includes safety and care protocols. From recording and sharing data to displaying empathy and compassion, the team needs guidelines on how to best work together in a remote setting. Training should be part of incentive programs, as well.
  • Do lead by example. This goes back to the old cliché of actions speaking louder than words. Displaying the behavior that management asks employees to exhibit fosters respect and makes it much more likely they will follow suit.

The Do Nots 

  • Don’t allow gossip and rumors to fester and spread like wildfire. Doing so depletes morale and creates a toxic work culture. Management should proactively and promptly nip these issues in the bud and encourage employees to do the same.
  • Don’t ignore boundaries such as personal time and vacation time. Weekends and holidays are off limits except in an emergency and/or unless they are part of an assigned job shift. Employers can offset these boundaries by anticipating issues that could arise and planning carefully to address them when the involved employees are off the clock. Leadership should encourage employees to provide copious notes and access to the appropriate resources so that business can carry on in their absence.
  • Don’t allow employees to slack off or deliver poor quality work. Working from home does not make it okay to watch Netflix all day instead of completing assignments. This not only blows productivity and deadlines to smithereens, but it also creates resentment among the employees who are affected by the slackers. While everyone may have unique working styles, blatant disregard for the company and co-workers through procrastination, disorganization and lack of follow-through must be addressed to minimize disruption.
  • Don’t let management isolate themselves from their team. It is easy when working remotely to fall into a groove of working solo, but this is not a luxury that managers have. Their team counts on them for answers, leadership, guidance and putting out fires. Managers should hold weekly video calls, communicate on a regular basis with employees via instant messaging and take others measures that create a virtual office space where the members of their team feel connected, motivated and encouraged to get the job done well.
  • Don’t exhibit complacency when managers micromanage or go missing-in-action. While these two approaches to leadership are the polar opposite each other, they are both equally damaging. Sending too many emails requesting frequent updates, demanding to see every change while in progress, requiring screen tracking software and other forms of micromanagement erode trust and create a toxic environment rife with resentment. On the flip side, going missing-in-action is frustrating and makes employees feel like they are in it alone. It also leaves them without crucial guidance for major decisions.
  • Don’t fail to require improvement. Teams should not be allowed to dissolve into dysfunction. Much like micromanaging, a dysfunctional environment causes deterioration among co-workers that can prove costly to the business. Providing sensitivity training about cyberbullying, psychological distress, loneliness and juggling work plus personal demands is imperative. Additionally, protecting the business from data security issues, theft, hackers and other threats – as well as understanding regulations and protocols – is also essential.

Implementing a remote working model can prove tremendously beneficial when employers leverage it correctly. By following these dos and do nots, companies will ensure success for their team and business.      

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Jim Bozzelli