Many organisations have difficulties with getting remote work to work. The typical strategy is to focus on technical solutions. However, there are better ways to make remote work — work.

1. Remote work is primarily a cultural challenge

Many organisations have difficulties with getting remote work to work. A popular way of addressing this issue is to focus on technical solutions for online meetings and collaborations. However, as most of us know — this doesn’t solve the underlying problem of corporate cultures where leaders don’t trust their workforce to do too much of their work from home. Remote work is typically more of a cultural issue than a technological one.

Are leaders wrong to distrust their workforce? In a sense, no. Working from home requires a tremendous discipline. Anyone can get stuck in a rut of fighting procrastination and faking busyness. The problem here isn’t a lack of trust or a lack of work ethic; the problem is the transference of office work to remote work without making serious adjustments to internal communication processes.

  • Tackle remote work as a cultural challenge, not as a technical issue.

2. Remote meetings is for in-group confirmation

A remote workforce should check in with each other via phone, messages, and video meetings on a regular meetings. This is primarily important from a social perspective; as humans we need constant in-group feedback to feel that we belong and that our purpose has meaning. At the office, we get this deep-seeded psychological need met outside of meetings and, thus, we can use meetings for more objective-oriented purposes. Our need for in-group confirmation grows stronger when we’re isolated. 

The primary purpose of remote meetings and calls should therefore be social. Because without in-group confirmation on a regular basis, we lose touch with our sense of meaning and belonging. A conference call or a hangout with a remote workforce should therefore be more closely related to a team building exercise than to a typical in-office meeting.

  • Use online meetings to replenish social energy (in-group feedback).

3. Communication by deliverables is the best approach

Teamwork and open-office solutions are useful. But for a remote workforce, we must re-learn to appreciate and place more emphasis on independent problem-solving and freedom. A better approach is to focus on communication by deliverables.

This means that you should allow your remote workers to report progress by shipping highly specific deliverables. In essence, this means that managers should spend less time on controlling what people are doing at all times and instead focus on packaging and distributing scopes of work and following up on missed shipping deadlines. This means more freedom for remote workers to manage their own time in any way that works best for them — just as long as they ship their deliverables with a tremendous degree of accuracy.

  • Let remote workers report progress simply by shipping their deliverables.

About the Author

This article was written by Jerry Silfwer is an awarded freelance consultant specialising in digital strategy and public relations. Based in Stockholm, Sweden. See more.