What We’ve Learned About Working Remotely

Before the pandemic struck, many businesses were already engaged in implementing some form of remote work system or flexible scheduling for employees. Since then, of course, virtually every business in this country and around the world has had to take a closer look at the pros and cons of supervising a remote workforce for their business. As usual, for those roles outside of the sawmills and concentration yards, the hardwood lumber industry has been no exception to this trend.

The good news? In most cases, the verdict is in: “Remote working can be done!” During our journey to expand remote working we have found that, in order to succeed, focusing on a few key areas certainly helps. For example:workingremote

  • Focus on utilizing the best employee communications tools.
  • Emphasize team- and relationship-building.
  • Understand that a remote working situation isn’t right for everyone.
  • Offering different types of work options can boost talent acquisition and retention.

Here are a few tips we found can help increase the odds of success:

Communicate your expectations for remote workers. Clear, consistent, and transparent communication is key! Even now, as some employees slowly begin to return to the workplace, it’s vital to clarify “what will change, what will not change and what might change, as well as what you expect,” says Business.com. In particular, consider sharing details “of what your company is doing in response to COVID-19” or other important changes.

Arrange for regular “check-ins” from offsite team members. If you have a remote program in place, do all you can to make these workers feel they’re an integral part of the team. Schedule ongoing video meetings, at least once a week, to see how employees are faring with both short-term and long-range projects. Both group meetings and individual check-ins are helpful in maintaining morale and confidence.

Provide the necessary technology to get the job done. There are plenty of apps and other technology to help your remote team get the job done. These can include:

  • Virtual meeting tools
  • Project management tools
  • File-sharing tools
  • Shared calendar notifications
  • To-do list tools

A lot depends on what type of work your remote team is engaged in, and other factors that affect your choice of the right technology for your business.

Avoid micromanagement. Presumably, you’ve hired a team of diligent, hardworking team members who are eager to take on tasks associated with their job. Therefore, it’s foolish (and usually a waste of time) to try and micromanage their efforts. Do all you can to make employees feel empowered to make key decisions within their range of responsibilities—or, alternatively, to be as accessible as possible for them to share ideas and feedback with you.

Emphasize flexibility. These are unprecedented times. As a result, the more flexibility your company can introduce into the workplace, the more you’re likely to get done. Remember that employees have personal lives, in addition to their professional duties. Work with them to arrange schedules so they can do their jobs and attend to obligations that come up every day in the home setting.

Establish clear guidelines. Accountability is as important offsite as it is in the workplace. Establish guidelines for remote workers so everyone understands the parameters of this working relationship and knows how to abide by the rules. This will help eliminate confusion and/or misunderstandings about what can and cannot be done offsite.

Maintain your employee recognition efforts. As we have noted before, “Even (or especially) in a remote setting, employees need to know their efforts and sacrifices are noted by the company.” If you have an employee recognition program in place, this is an ideal time to refine the program so the focus includes the contributions made by the remote team.  

As remote working continues to grow as a business trend, it is important to keep thinking about ways to effectively manage off-site employees to achieve the highest levels of employee productivity and engagement.

For us that might mean a hardwood lumber trader now working from their home office, a sawmill manager having to work in a different building, or even office staff rotating on a remote work schedule. Whatever it is, adjusting to a flexible work environment and embracing new ways to work and manage remote employees is vital to your business's success.

How has your business adapted to remote work? What has worked for you? Let us know! We would love to hear your thoughts.

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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