Challenges of Remote Work
Remote work has come to the limelight as the ultimate solution to the public health crisis caused by COVID-19. However, this is certainly not the first time it was praised as the last word in managing workflow. For quite a while, the proponents of the concept have been vocal about the freedom and convenience it offers, as well as the incredible results they were able to get working from home. Sales teams, in particular, could access a host of benefits working remotely:
- Improved performance: Catering the workflow to personal preferences means better outcomes and higher employee satisfaction.
- Broader reach: Remote teams are not limited by location like in-person sales, attaining a truly global scale.
- Broader talent pool: Management can seek out top talent from anywhere in the world.
- Reduced costs: Running a virtual office takes a fraction of the expenses associated with a physical one.
With all those benefits, it feels like companies should be going remote in droves. In reality, however, the situation is very much the opposite: In recent years, many major players in the market have actually gone the opposite way, returning their remote teams to the office. These include Yahoo, IBM, Bank of America, and even Reddit.
While the reasons behind the decision are numerous, one continues to crop up: Remote teams seem to be less engaged and happy. If they have to work remotely for a long time, it may lead to motivation loss, discouragement, messy working schedules, sleep disorders, or even sleep deprivation. After all, humans are social creatures, and working in isolation can take a heavy toll on their mental state. In other words, staying away from the office may not be good for you in the long run.
So, is remote work hopelessly flawed? Not quite. People may not be carved out for working remotely but it doesn’t mean nothing can be done about it. There are many ways you can keep your sales team happy. Here are some of the most effective ones.
Transparency is usually brought up in the context of workplace ethics, so it might not be an obvious route for boosting happiness. However, there’s actually plenty of evidence that a transparent culture actually makes employees more motivated and fosters trust in managers. Simply put, a transparent culture feels fair, so it meshes with our perception of what’s right.
At the same time, being transparent helps the team understand the situation and predict the outcomes. We have evolved to avoid uncertainty and ambiguity as much as possible, and nowhere is this more relevant than in a remote setting. The trick here is to be proactive about sharing the information without flooding everyone with useless emails and calls.
A great example of this is Buffer’s Default to Transparency approach. The company is relentless in making as many of its policies transparent as possible – so much so that they document a timeline of disclosures. This way, their remote team always knows they are on the same page with everyone else.
Trust is among the most jarring issues related to remote work. In a recent survey from HBR, as many as 40% of managers expressed doubts on whether the team they are managing can stay motivated and productive when working remotely. These attitudes eventually spill over to the perception of employees, with more than a quarter of respondents also questioning the team’s competence.
However, it’s worth pointing out that the lack of trust is more of a gut response than a fact-based conclusion. For someone with little experience in the matter, it may be difficult to believe that people will keep doing their job when nobody’s there to watch over them.
Now, remember that the 2020 transition to remote work caught most companies unprepared. In many cases, neither employees nor managers had any idea how to handle the new mode of work. The truth is, remote teams excel thanks to additional freedom, not suffer from it. This is echoed in the Remote Work Summit experience, where they bend over backwards to not micromanage their teams.
So, instead of micromanaging your sales team’s every move, give them sufficient autonomy. This will reduce unnecessary pressure and make future achievements feel more rewarding. On top of that, it will actually show the team that you trust them and help establish a mutually respectful relationship in the long term.
Remember how we mentioned earlier that humans are social creatures? While this trait does not align well with the WFH setting, it actually works to our advantage otherwise. There’s no shortage of benefits collaboration can bring to the workplace:
- Increased productivity
- Improved individual performance
- Strengthened team communication
- Creating useful habits
- Fostering long-term commitment
However, its most interesting effect is that collaboration simply feels good. So much so, in fact, that the actual collaboration doesn’t even need to happen. A study from Stanford demonstrated that the perception of working collectively is enough to boost motivation.
That’s right, the idea of collaboration is so deeply hard-wired in our brains that we become happier just by feeling that we are a part of the team. In the absence of face-to-face communication, team members will eventually feel isolated and disconnected. Now, this doesn’t mean you should flood your remote sales team with video calls. However, a consistent communication strategy that will keep the team connected is a must. This was demonstrated by Accenture, who successfully led the transition of 20,000 oil company employees in just two weeks.
Find the Right Tools
Establishing remote collaboration was once expensive and hard to set up, which is why it started as a large corporation thing. As the technology progressed, complex CRM systems were superseded by feature-rich business communication platforms that can work on almost any device. These are both more accessible and more affordable, making them a great option for small enterprises and startups.
Today, there’s no shortage of team collaboration solutions boasting impressive lists of features for sales teams:
- Sales engagement
- Activity reporting
- Performance tracking
- Expense tracking
The trick here is to choose the one that will work for your team. A plethora of features may sound cool in theory but can actually have the unintended consequence of frustrating your team in the end (lately, Slack has been unfortunately notorious in this regard). In fact, many remote teams report increased satisfaction after switching to slimmer collaboration solutions. There’s
nothing as satisfying as working with the well-thought-out tool, so be sure to listen to employees when making a choice.
Don’t Skip on Coaching
Similarly to collaboration, coaching is universally recognized as essential to team productivity. And, as with collaboration, its connection to happiness is often overlooked. Meanwhile, it can make your sales team happier in several ways, according to the researchers from the Institute for Employment Studies:
- Employees who undergo coaching report higher levels of well-being;
- Coaching adds to the sense of purpose at work and helps them feel relaxed.
- Employees report being less stressed and more ready to deal with problems and unexpected situations.
- Coaching creates a sense of being closer to other people.
- Coachees feel more valued and committed to the workplace culture.
In other words, coaching is not only about equipping your team with the right skills. It is also a way of showing them that their presence in the team matters. As you might expect, this is especially relevant for remote arrangements, where the isolation can erode the sense of security and direction.
By now, it is clear that remote work is not a miraculous solution, and neither is it a disaster that will ruin your carefully nurtured workplace. As with any reasonably intricate system, it needs the right approach to work well. Fortunately, there’s already plenty of data on what works in the remote environment and what doesn’t. So, with the right tools and the commitment to understanding your team, you can make them happier than ever and eventually achieve those stellar results promised by the WFH advocates.
Mia Naumoska is a Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty – easy-to-use team collaboration hub with a mission to help companies boost their team’s productivity. Having over a decade of experience in the marketing field, Mia is responsible for Chanty’s overall marketing strategy, managing an amazing team of marketing experts.