Wipro

Challenges faced by IT companies when moving to a virtual office and how to overcome them

2020 is the year that changed the world. For organizations worldwide, the pandemic coping mantra was clear – adapt and survive. Virtual offices have become a reality and companies are adopting newer techniques to embrace them. According to a report, Information Technology (IT) industry ranks 2nd in accepting the remote work culture. And why not? If there was any industry better equipped for this move, it was the IT industry and IT companies.

However, it is easier said than done. Even with the right set-up and favorable policies, going completely remote as an organization is an uphill task. It includes an overhaul of the business strategy, operational processes, and entire working machinery. It is more of a cultural transformation journey, instead of a business decision.

As with anything, there are challenges to remote working. Thankfully, there are also working strategies and tools to overcome these issues that IT companies can adopt.

Open Communication Challenges

A study by Zogby Analytics shows that employees reported a lack of information from leadership and timeliness of the information as the largest obstacles of working from home. Remote working has also taken away the luxury of impromptu team huddles, on-spot issue resolutions, and regular workday conversations, which is common at IT companies. Communication issues can impact your employees’ progress as well as morale.

Solutions

  • Invest in the right tools

Invest in the right technology stack, develop seamless processes that make remote working easier, for your employees and customers alike. Mattermost, Miro, Zoom, Weekdone are a few of the right platforms for your daily stand-ups, project updates, OKRs tracking, employee engagement sessions, and more. Try to move towards collaborative tools rather than focusing more on emails, thus maintaining constant and open two-way communication for all.

  • Observe and launch communication initiatives

Cross-communication and management access gets limited in the remote set-up; make way for your communication initiatives. Companies have moved from having monthly 1:1s to weekly 1:1s. More frequent engagement sessions, leadership team drop-ins, department-based office hours can all be tactfully planned, apart from the virtual fun Fridays, and celebrations. At a later stage, plan to have company-wide meetups, and more frequent regional meetups, either with attending conferences together or having family brunches. Every company would have its own unique set of communication requirements. Observe, ideate, and implement what works best for you and your team.

  • Video always on

Body language and facial expressions are essential to communication. It not only adds a personality but also improves the quality of communication. Make it a point to keep our videos ON for all your meetings. Organisations are offering reimbursements of monthly internet bills to their employees.

Tracking Performance to Meet Goals 

Finding the right balance between tracking performance and micromanaging is tricky when working remotely. The extreme is also true, that’s when your team overcompensates by working for longer hours and leads to burnout.

Solutions

  • Focus on the result than tasks

Organisations are adopting Responsible Flexibility, wherein there are no prescribed login/logout times and these are left to the individual to decide as long as the stated goals of the role are met. Leaders are now tuning towards outcomes rather than activities for their weekly, monthly, quarterly updates and are mapping progress to the end-goals, right from an individual to the company level. It helps to minimize regular distractions, without micromanaging, and keep the focus on the larger business goals.

  • Improved processes, supported by tools

Fine-tune your operational processes for a well-functional system like better documentation, and invest in the right tools to support these. For instance, Mattermost, a slack like tool, can be used for regular communication and for your daily stand-up meetings.

This setup can pave the way to give a well-defined structure and streamline a lot of things that were earlier done on an ad-hoc basis. These processes and tools can allow you to take the bold step towards asynchronous communication to really allow for that responsible flexibility you are after.

  • Establish expectations and give feedback

It works best when employees know what is expected of them at all times. Clear goal setting is the key here. Create a feedback channel if you haven’t. Timely and quality feedback is essential for performance improvement.

Employee Connect and  Bonding 

Remote working gives fewer opportunities to bond and develops a sense of community. As per CoSo Cloud, more than half of remote employees say they feel disconnected from in-office employees. While it is not an easy task, it’s essential to align employees with the company culture and have that camaraderie in the team.

Solutions

  • Cultural transformation journey

You can start by conducting listening sessions with your employees, taking feedback on what’s changed since going remote, and what they’d have liked to have. This would provide key insights into how to go up and about your day to day operations. Try to involve employees in each step of your remote working decision process. The cultural transformation journey could make you revisit your company’s mission, vision, and core values from a fresh perspective. You would be more open and better prepared to implement it.

  • Employee engagement sessions

Move all your regular employee sessions to the virtual world. Be it Fun Fridays, Team sessions, or 1:1s – nothing should be missed as mentioned earlier. Make sure to take some time off work to bond with each other in the virtual world over knowledge sharing sessions as well as fun activities.

  • Do not miss to celebrate

Festivals and celebrations play a huge role in employee bonding at IT companies. Devise ways to celebrate festivals and achievements with each other. Get your Diwali sweets delivered, Secret Santa gifts planned, and don’t forgo any celebration just because you are not physically co-located.

To Sum Up

As the remote working trend continues to go upward for IT companies, it comes with its fair share of challenges. Access what works for you and how well prepared are you to go remote. No size fits all. With the right solutions, remote working can give you both freedom and flexibility. It could rewire your ways of thinking and help you readapt to the opportunities ahead.

By Arpan Jha, co-founder, PromptCloud

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