Confidence in employees, clear guidance on work, and leadership by example – these are the three most important factors for remote work management.
“Remote working has been talked about for a long time. The technology for it exists, and for many young workers the possibility of remote work is one of the job criteria. However, weeks or months of remote working in an exceptional situation forces management to change, and this will not succeed unless the company’s management is fully involved and itself utilizes remote meeting models”, says Elisa’s Executive Vice President of new services Pasi Mäenpää.
Mäenpää leads an international sales team that is spread around the world. Remote management has become popular when it is not possible for people to attend weekly sales meetings in person.
“Elisa has been practicing remote work for 13 years already, and I myself have led remote working for years. It is natural that people want to interact, but it can also take place virtually. Meetings are meetings, and physical presence is not a requirement for participation”, Mäenpää says.
Building trust is the key to remote working
For remote work, providing clear goals and going through them is even more important than usual. Work management still involves leading people even when work is done from home for long periods.
“Remote management cannot be just a matter of PowerPoint presentations, and webcast-style pre-recordings are a thing of the past. For remote work management, there must be interaction and people must have the opportunity to ask questions”, Mäenpää adds.
He recommends that meetings be held remotely in the same way as they would otherwise be held. Meetings can also be approached from the point of view of a worker at home who thinks about how to make themselves and their work visible so that everyone believes that they are actually working.
“The importance of trust cannot be overemphasized. Supervisors must be confident that people can do a good job remotely. For companies where work is done remotely, it is often a mistake to start a round of emails after a videoconference, asking employees whether this or that has been done. If managers do not believe that work is actually being done remotely but instead inquire about one thing or another, it is better to hold a video meeting to talk about the situation again rather than sending emails”.
Meeting customers remotely
Remote working practices are no longer just a matter of internal meetings within companies. Management must also be able to attend meetings with third parties so that interaction can work.
Mäenpää criticized the long-held view that customers cannot be encountered by video, or that at least the first meeting needs to be held face to face.
“Elisa Videra has many big customers that use video connections as their main meeting channel. I myself may have meetings across three or four continents in the same day. In some cultures, such as in southern Europe, face-to-face meetings may need to be held at some point, but in Finland and the other Nordic countries this is not necessarily the case. Video can be used for smooth communications”.
However, Mäenpää points out that meetings always involve interacting with others. Too often, a video connection plays only a minor role in remote negotiations and slide presentations take up most of the time, although the situation should be the other way round.
Remote management requires a good camera and a big screen
“The Finnish video conferencing culture has somehow developed in such a way that the conference is held in front of the computer without the camera even being turned on. This must change. If the managers of international listed companies want to meet, they expect a reliable video conferencing system in addition to a decent camera and large screen. Everyone wants to see the other people in the meeting and the body language of the other participants”.
The functionality of technical solutions also matters. Many companies have internally operating video connections, but the sending of meeting links outside of the company is a challenge.
“The requirement should be that the technical-platform can also be used to send meeting invitation links outside of the company. In modern flexible solutions, there is no longer a need to think about what kind of device the recipient is using when sending them an invitation to a video meeting”.
Remote working requires leadership and new approaches
Mäenpää recommends that companies using remote working hold a briefing with their staff at least once a week.
“And these should not be just management team briefings–more people should be invited to participate in these meetings. Remote working should be led from the front and from the top down to make the change happen”.
Mäenpää often hears from customers who are disappointed that that innovation and planning must be put on ice when the Post-it notes that they are used to cannot be used remotely. However, digital solutions are also now available for most needs.
“Management of remote meetings does not in itself differ in any way from conducting meetings in person. The bottom line is that everyone has their camera on. Everyone has their own way of leading meetings, and every manager needs to use their imagination and think about how best to lead remote meetings. Nobody hands these approaches to managers on a plate–people must be willing to improvise and think innovatively to make these meetings work”.
Tips for remote working
1. Build trust. Believe in the ability of people to work even when they are not in the office. After all, people don’t have to be continually managed closely when they are present in the office either.
2. Make expectations and goals clear. These needs are no different for remote work.
3. Lead by example. Practice remote working with others. If you are working remotely for the first time, don’t give up at the first setback.
4. Be creative in thinking about new ways to manage. Group work can be done remotely, and Post-it notes can also be used virtually.
5. Stay positive. People want to see each other, and silence raises suspicion. Online team meetings are a perfect way to try out and exchange ideas.
Elisa Communications, tel. +358 50 305 1605, email@example.com