Coronavirus erupted, social distancing emerged, and offices asked their people to work from home - a first for many. So now what?

Remote work has presented new challenges for lot’s of organisations. Working from home could be the new norm for months to come - so it’s time to tackle the challenges head on and enable your team to be successful and productive regardless of their environment.

Naturally we want to aspire towards highly motivated and resilient teams, whether we’re working in the office, at home or on the moon. The model below is a simple visualisation that can help gauge team performance against these two factors.

If you don’t feel like you or your team are in the top quadrant, you’re not alone. Rest assured, there’s simple things you can do to help you get there.

The most common challenges that face newly remote teams are:

  1. Motivation
  2. Enablement
  3. Visibility
  4. Accountability

How can you overcome these challenges and set your team up for success? The Remote Social Contract is my favourite tool given its effectiveness and how easy it is to develop with your team. It essentially outlines how the team is going to work together when they can’t meet face to face.

The way you bring the tool to life is by facilitating a workshop with the entire team to complete the empty boxes. It’s important to incorporate everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and create an environment where people feel safe to voice their opinions. Everyone should contribute their ideas to the contract, and everyone should feel comfortable in signing up to it.

Purpose trumps a paycheck

Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us presents a convincing argument that human motivation is largely intrinsic, and that the aspects of this motivation can be divided into autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

We’re presented with clear evidence that purpose trumps a paycheck. There’s good reason why individuals who are clear on their purpose and understand how their work contributes to the overall team’s goals - and in turn ladders up to the organisation’s vision - inevitably become more intrinsically motivated.

That’s why the first section of the social contract focuses on purpose. Here’s it’s important to be clear on the team’s mission - what we’re trying to achieve while working remotely and why - as well as who we are doing the work for, and what value we’re trying to deliver.

Environment

Culture isn’t a table tennis table, it’s about values. Values scale, foosball doesn’t!

Although remote work brings unique cultural and ‘ways of working’ challenges, it’s important to create the right environment so that teams can be effective and successful from home.

You need to be clear on behaviours the team expects and those we don’t accept, and ensure we create a positive flexible working culture. Simple things like blocking out focus time, shutting down at the end of the day, looking out for each other and checking in with people can make a huge difference.

One of the biggest challenges we see relates to tools. Some people can’t log into their network, while others are using outdated video software that makes it feel virtually impossible to have a productive conversation. Ensure you’re using the right digital tools - like Zoom, Slack, Trello and Miro - to make remote work and collaboration a breeze.

Operating model

This is usually what is lost when we move from co-located to remote working. Your operating model is the crux of what you do and how you do it.

If you want to create a good team dynamic then take the time to ensure you’re clear on team principles. It’s important that everyone knows what’s expected of them and what they can expect from others. Also be clear on the decision making process, conflict resolution, communication channels and how the team can continue to improve. The last thing you want is the whole team being stuck in back to back video calls because we didn’t have a concrete process from the get go.

The world as we knew it has changed

COVID-19 is just the first extreme modern example of the need to build resilient teams. We saw bushfires before that. We've seen digital disruption before that. Inevitably we'll continue to see radical change, so let's make sure we're ready for it.

One final nugget

Remote work presents us with a good opportunity to rethink the way we do business, become more digitally savvy and prepare for the future of work. The future is unknown and unpredictable. It would be a mistake to just focus on building a remote team. Instead focus on building a resilient team. Strong teams can deal with anything, not just coronavirus but whatever comes their way.