Leaders of Remote Teams Must Learn to Protect the Overachievers

Your team has probably been working remotely for a year or more now, and even as the country moves into fast-forward about “opening up”, it’s likely that remote work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

What may have been quick emergency actions like having the basic tools and defining remote processes is now moving toward a new normal.

To make it through the current crisis and return to that new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible.

As Bryan Miles, CEO and cofounder of BELAY, a leading U.S.-based, virtual solutions company says:

“Productivity comes from people completing their tasks in a timely, professional, adult manner, not from daily attendance in a sea of cubicles and offices.”

How will you lead your team through both this changing tide and new reality?

THE QUICK SUMMARYRemote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The “work from home” phenomenon is thoroughly explored in this illuminating book from bestselling 37signals founders Fried and Hansson, who point to the surging trend of employees working from home (and anywhere else) and explain the challenges and unexpected benefits. Most important, they show why – with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo – more businesses will want to promote this new model of getting things done.

The Industrial Revolution’s “under one roof” model of conducting work is steadily declining owing to technology that is rapidly creating virtual workspaces and allowing workers to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is “move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace.” According to Reuters, one in five global workers telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day. Moms in particular will welcome this trend. A full 60% wish they had a flexible work option. But companies see advantages too in the way remote work increases their talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens their real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. In Remote, authors Fried and Hansson will convince readers that letting all or part of work teams function remotely is a great idea–and they’re going to show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

A common belief among managers contemplating remote work teams is the fear that their employees would slack off when out of the office and away from their watchful eyes.

The reality is that remote employees are more likely to overwork than underwork.

The employee who has passion and dedication to their work often has difficulty balancing their work and demands of their private lives when their work is being done in the spaces normally dedicated to private lives.

Leaders of remote teams must be aware of the signs of overwork, and intentionally work to prevent it.

Be on the lookout for overwork, not underwork.

If you’ve read about remote-work failures in the press, you might thing that the major risk in setting our people free is that they’ll turn into lazy, unproductive slackers. In reality, it’s overwork, not underwork, that’s the real enemy in a successful remote working environment.

Working at home and living there means there’s less delineation between the two parts of your life. You’ll have all your files and all your equipment right at hand, so if you come up with an idea at 9pm, you can keep plowing through, even if you already put in more than adequate hours from 7am to 3pm.

The fact is, it’s easy to turn work into your predominate hobby.

If work is all-consuming, the worker is far more likely to burn out. This is true even if the person loves what he does. Perhaps especially if he loves what he does, since it won’t seem like a problem until it’s too late.

It’s everyone’s job to be on the lookout for coworkers who are overworking themselves, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the managers to set the tone.

In the same way that you don’t want a gang of slackers, you also don’t want a band of supermen. The best workers over the long term are people who put in sustainable hours. Not too much, not too little – just right.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Remote: Office Not Required

A NEXT STEP

As the leader of remote teams, how you practice working remotely will often set the pattern and practice of your team.

Using the following ideas from Work Together Anywhere, evaluate your own remote practices, and then determine how you will share the expectations with your team.

Motivation and Self-Discipline

  • Have a set routine
  • Dress like you’re going to work
  • Work in a space designated for work
  • Set a schedule and stick to it

Productivity

  • Experiment with time- and task-management methodologies and apps
  • Minimize multitasking; instead, focus on one thing at a time
  • Pace yourself to regulate your energy, maximizing your stamina and mental acuity
  • Make sure your workspace aids rather than hinders your productivity

Self-Care

  • Balance stints of productive, focused work with sufficient breaks that include movement.
  • Don’t forget to allow yourself the perks of remote working, like taking a break in your living room, or eating lunch on your patio
  • Combat the risk of loneliness by actively seeking social interaction both in person and online

Communication and Collaboration

  • Adopt a virtual-team mindset by trusting others to deliver the results they committed to while doing the same
  • Practice positive communication by being overtly friendly and assuming positive intent
  • Be reliable, consistent, and transparent: make sure your teammates know what you’re working on and how to reach you, within agreed upon guidelines

Escape the 9 to 5 Rut With a Virtual Office

If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond “the office.” If they do say the office, they’ll include a qualifier such as “super early in the morning before anyone gets in” or “I stay late at night after everyone’s left” or “I sneak in on the weekend.”

What they’re trying to tell you is that it is hard to actually get work done at the office. The average office has become the last place people want to be when they really want to get work done during the day. How many Pastors actually study for Sunday in their office? Most have a home-office or office-within-the-office they retreat into.

That’s because offices have become disruption factories.

Meaningful work, creative work, thoughtful work, and important work – this type of effort takes stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the zone. But in most offices, such long stretches just can’t be found. Instead, it’s just one appointment or distraction after another.

Millions of workers and thousands of companies have already discovered the joys and benefits of working remotely.

Is it time your church considered current remote working options?

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Remote by Jason Fried and Davis Heinemeier Hansson

The “work from home” phenomenon is thoroughly explored in this illuminating new book from bestselling 37signals founders Fried and Hansson, who point to the surging trend of employees working from home (and anywhere else) and explain the challenges and unexpected benefits. Most important, they show why – with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo — more businesses will want to promote this new model of getting things done.

The Industrial Revolution’s “under one roof” model of conducting work is steadily declining owing to technology that is rapidly creating virtual workspaces and allowing workers to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is “move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace.” According to Reuters, one in five global workers telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day. Moms in particular will welcome this trend. A full 60% wish they had a flexible work option. But companies see advantages too in the way remote work increases their talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens their real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. In Remote, iconoclastic authors Fried and Hansson will convince readers that letting all or part of work teams function remotely is a great idea–and they’re going to show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

9 to 5 is not just the name of a cheesy but funny 1980 movie; it’s also a practice engrained into our psyche which would have us believe that only during those hours at an office can real work take place.

It’s just not true anymore.

Think about it – if any of your work requires a computer, a few files, and your brainpower, do you really need to be in an office? Could you not just as easily do the work from a coffee shop, your kitchen table, or outside on a beautiful spring day?

Taking that thought further, do you even need to be doing that work in a specified time frame?

If the results of your work are the goal, then it’s time to consider remote work.

Remote work is about setting your team to be free to be the best it can be, whenever and wherever that might be.

Embracing remote work doesn’t mean you can’t have an office; just that it’s not required. It doesn’t mean all your employees can’t live in the same city, just that they don’t have to.

Your organization is probably already working remotely without you even knowing it. When you have legal issues, you probably don’t have lawyers on staff – you outsource the work to a lawyer or a law firm. Unless your organization is large enough for a full accounting staff, you probably outsource some or all of your financial work to a CPA or accounting firm. Human resources? Marketing? Lawn Care? Custodial Services? These are just a few examples of essential business activities being performed by outside people.

Every day this kind of remote work works, and no one considers it risk, reckless, or irresponsible. So why do so many of these same organizations that trust “outsiders” to do their critical work have such a hard time trusting “insiders” to work from home?

Look around inside your organization and notice what work already happens on the outside, or with minimal face-to-face interaction. You may be surprised to discover that your company is more remote than you think.

Jason Fried and Davis Heinemeier Hansson, Remote

A NEXT STEP

Conduct an “audit” of all the different types of work that goes on within your organization using the following process.

On a chart tablet, list all the work that is performed for your organization by an outside individual or group. Beside each item, write the frequency with which it is performed – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Beside the frequency, list the primary leader in your organization responsible for overseeing that work.

On a second chart tablet, list all the remaining work that is performed in your organization. As before, list both frequency and primary leader by the item.

As a team, review the work done inside your organization, and list up to 10 items that could conceivably be done remotely or outsourced. At this point, you are simply capturing ideas, not working out all the details.

Discuss the list of 10, and come to a consensus of which is most important by ranking them from 1 to 10.

Continuing that discussion, take the top three and list what it would take for that item to be moved from being accomplished onsite during specific hours to offsite or outsourced. Take the necessary steps to make it happen.

After three months, evaluate those three items; adjust as needed. Chose the next three times on the original list of 10, and repeat the process.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 67-2, issued May 2017


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.