6 Rules for Full-Scale Implementation of Remote Work
[April 14, 2020] BY Kazumasa Ikoma
Translated by Alexandria Hill
More and more companies are responding by implementing full remote work to reduce the risk of infectious diseases and minimize their impact. Tech companies such as Amazon, Twitter, and Microsoft have been forced to work from home. While desperate to protect the health of their employees, they have been pushing for a culture of collaboration in the office as much as possible, so many companies are facing a new kind of crisis. At the same time, the differences between those who can work from home and those who cannot is highlighted by the industry and occupation, dealing with how confidential information is handled, and so on have developed into a social problem.
Meanwhile, there is a gaping transition period for companies that do not have sufficient remote work measures set in place. For remote work, one must provide necessary procedures and tools such as company laptop and hardware loans, security measures, paperless options, deciding the flow of management, the selection of departments/employees allowed to work externally, communicating the permissions given to and by superiors, and even to a certain level of how to handle confidential information such as employee evaluations. For this reason, it is difficult for companies that did not incorporate remote work to take drastic measures. At present, there are only a few companies that can maintain productivity while taking care of their employees’ health with virus protection.
Remote work should be reviewed again. In an environment where employees have to work away from home, organize the 6 rules that are necessary for efficient work.
1. Schedule Visualization
Reduce the hard-to-see problem of what other employees are doing
The first problem with remote work is that you don’t know what or where the other employees are working. A remote work environment makes it difficult to meet colleagues, superiors, and subordinates, who are usually working at a nearby desk in the office or often passing by, creating communication problems. In an environment centered on phone and online communication, it is possible to have a rough grasp of when all parties can communicate (such as, “when they will reply” and “when I can call”) by making each appointment known and visible. And it’s possible to do so without any stress.
2. Reaffirming the Use of Communication Tools
Eliminating superfluous channels of communication and off-topic subjects
In addition to telephone and email, there are many services such as business chat tools, information sharing tools, and task management tools these days. In many cases, multiple communication tools are used within the company, and the complexity of communication such as “where and when conversations are being conducted” is an issue. By reconfirming which tool is used for communication in projects and management, it is possible to prevent leakage of information and alleviate any lack of communication.
Also, there are many cases where tools that are not introduced company-wide but that are easy to use are used on a team-by-team basis. In a remote work-centric environment, the traffic control of communication is important in order not to lose the team’s effective coordination.
3. Reply Within 5 Minutes
Removing the stress of “No Reply”
The most frequent problem with remote work lies in the lack of coherence, or smooth lines of communication in reporting and confirmation, which is usually done face-to-face in the office. Telephone calls may not be answered, e-mails may take a long time to respond, and business chat tools may not be able to expect the same amount of communication and quick response as direct conversations. All of these factors lead to increased stress and reduced productivity. Although the idea of “respond quickly” is a basic principle among working people, it is possible to reduce the aforementioned issues by redefining the rule specifically to “respond within X minutes” when introducing remote work.
4. Reaffirm Customer Information and How to Handle Highly Airtight Information
Manage the increased risk of information leakage due to the scattering of workers
The management of confidential information would be the most sensitive area. It is necessary to consider whether it is no problem to take out the information that was usually handled in the office to the outside. It’s one element that greatly influences the frequency of remote work employees.
Companies that do complete remote work, such as Automattic, Genuitec and GitLab, manage all information remotely, including customer information. However, most companies, except for these few, often limit the area of highly airtight information to the office. Many of the new companies that have started remote work follow this pattern, keeping the handling of customer information in the office.
Also, some information management is allowed outside the office, and companies that show flexibility in remote work are assessing the environment in which remote work is performed. For example, in a major Japanese recruitment company, if employees who want to work from home are living in a multi-person environment (when they have a family or live in a sharehouse), they are required to submit a picture of a room with a lock and key and must show the door lock.
From the viewpoint of information management, there should be many companies that deal with partial remote work, staggered commuting, and time differences. In that case, it is a good idea to keep these items in mind and to be committed to effectively utilize remote work.
5. Determine the Priority Tasks to be Performed in the Office
Maintain and improve employee productivity
“There is work that can only be done in the office.” Including the handling of customer information as described above, certain departments will have to work at the office while working on different time schedules. In such circumstances, it’s a good idea to set up a daily schedule for “work to be done in the office” and “work to be done outside the office.”
Today, working styles can be categorized into several types. For example, the office of ITOKI, a Japanese office equipment and furniture manufacturer, recently introduced the concept of activity-based working, which had been created by Veldhoen + Company, leaders in Activity Based Working. The “10 activities” that employees perform when they work are defined and classified as follows.
10 activities defined by Veldhoen + Company
Although written in Japanese, here is the English version:
Based on this, what would be “work to be done in the office” would be activities under “Duo, “Create,” and information management under “Individual Process.” With duo/co-work, you can work with a sense of speed while checking and consulting with the employees next to you. It can also be said the the sense of reality and passion from meetings focused on idea creation and information organization is lost via a web conference versus being carried out in the office. It’s a fact that many tasks do become difficult without an office.
Conversely, things like “Phone/Video Calls,” “Dialogue,” and “Inform” all encompass activities performed by multiple people, but they often include meetings that do not require that same sense of presence. This type of work can be easily replaced by remote work. In addition, “Individual Focus” work, or work that requires a high level of concentration, is often better suited for a location outside of work. This is a strong area for remote work to flourish.
By classifying the tasks performed in the office and the tasks performed outside the office in this way, and by making a good schedule for the day, it is possible to practice an efficient way of working while reducing frivolous uses of time.
6. Weekly 1-on-1 Meetings
-Eliminate HR evaluation gaps due to remote work
-Understand your business from a management perspective
-Prevent remote workers from becoming isolated, and maintain a sense of unity in the organization and corporate culture
When it comes to remote work, you spend less time with other employees, including your boss and subordinates. This is a factor that produces some unfortunate side effects.
One is the gap in human and personal evaluation. After the introduction of remote work, almost every employee is evaluated based on their products and output. Asian companies, such as in Japan, who value physical eye contact of others in the organization may face a problem of “how to evaluate subordinates who are not physically nearby.” So to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of employees, it is important to hold one-on-one meetings safely in the office or online and to cover invisible areas of evaluations with interviews. In fact, this is a necessary measure for European and American companies to maintain a certain mobility as a team. It is also effective for grasping the contents of work and confirming that the necessary tools for remote work are truly sufficient.
The more time employees spend away from the organization, the more isolated and the less cohesive the organization and corporate culture can become if not addressed correctly. Beyond’s Lian Han, who spoke at the work style conference WORKTECH SF19 recently held in San Francisco, discussed “Belonging” to a company even in an environment where employees can work remotely. “Belonging” is defined by the feeling of self-worth, feeling valued by the company, and to be able to recognize oneself as one of the important members. As a measure on the part of the company to ensure this sense of belonging, he found that in his experience as a manager it is vital to have regular meetings with team members directly providing opportunities to talk casually, including non-work related topics. Moving forward, for members to work remotely and work efficiently in remote locations, the importance of face-to-face discussions must always be considered.
Writer of this post
Kazumasa IkomaWhile working as an office manager in San Francisco, he posted numerous articles about the office designs, corporate cultures, and working styles on the West Coast. He researches what constitutes comfortable offices for companies and employees every day and puts his ideas into practice at his company.
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