Remote Working: The future for Agencies

Sankar Dharmarajan /
LinkedIn
Sankar Dharmarajan
July 13, 2020

As the global outbreak of COVID-19 intensifies, widespread travel restrictions have been announced across the globe affecting the business world immensely. Remote working is shaping how the global workspace operates. According to a survey, more than 50% of the workforce don’t want to return to their office after COVID-19. This means that the demand for remote working is going to increase rapidly.

Even though agencies and tech companies have come up with an emergency plan and have taken this opportunity to shift to remote working, their plan has not been adequate enough to cope with the scale of the outbreak. Though emergency remote working plans are an effective way to separate employees and mitigate the risk of contact with the virus, these plans do not strictly confirm with the best practices. It is important to make a clear distinction between smart plans and less-strategically-conceived plans. There are new challenges that agencies have to battle as the pandemic accelerates the shift to a virtual model.

Both start-ups and large agencies can’t succeed without resiliency in the face of adversity. Agencies contemplating on going remote full-time need to communicate how emergency measures differ from long-term strategies, as this could lay the wrong groundwork for implementing a remote-working plan in the future.

There are long-term challenges that agencies will have to deal with in the future. Here are the hurdles agencies need to know about before making the decision to adopt remote working successfully:

  • Focus on the process
    Too many procedures stifle creativity and productivity, but just the right amount can streamline work, creating an efficient and productive work environment. Processes must match the end objective. Keeping the process simple while following procedures ensures quality and makes the team more efficient. In complex working environments, when there are too many complicated steps, a little bit of agility and adaptation gets things done.
    An efficient process involves –

    • Documentation of project-related information: Through proper documentation, the expected process is captured and can be used as a standard for process control.
    • Identifying roles and communicating protocols: This way, expectations are understood and the ability to self-manage the process is driven.
    • Ensuring enforcement of the process: Strong leaders do have contingency plans and the ability to drive activity through the process even in unanticipated conditions.
  • Communication
    Communication is one of the biggest challenges for agencies transitioning to remote working. It can be difficult to keep remote workers in the loop and establish a clear plan for communicating with each member. The important thing is to make sure processes are communicated to those who participate in them, so that everyone is consistent. By creating the expectation that the entire team will communicate regularly with one another, team members will feel connected regardless of where they are.
    To establish good communication –

    • Determine the best mode. (Phone, email, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
    • Make sure everyone knows how to use the selected communication platform.
    • Conduct regular check-ins. Schedule regular communication, clarify responsibilities on what’s expected of each employee on a daily basis.
  • Mimic Office Culture Remotely
    Company culture can be partially defined by the connections that the employees make. It is the holistic force that guides actions and interactions in the workplace. A sense of community improves employee engagement because this helps employees feel more enthusiastic about their work.
    A time of disruption like this presents an opportunity to ensure that remote teams embrace the culture. This is crucial to growth, productivity and professional development for everyone involved.You can do so by:

    • Hosting virtual team building events. These events can include employee milestone celebrations or company-wide contests. This ensures that your team feels engaged and connected to the company culture.

By addressing the challenges, you can reimagine your business. To make things easier for teams, the key is to make the transition process as frictionless as possible. It’s crucial that the team thinks ahead and creates a plan that makes sure all team members are provided the necessary resources. Although this is still a developing field, there are some steps you can adopt to transition smoothly to remote work:

  • Embrace digital documentation
    One of the key challenges to remote working is getting access to paper or other physical documents. Today’s advanced platforms ensure that all of this is done digitally and made available to remote workers. Document management saves time and reduces errors associated with having multiple copies of the same information. By digitizing documents, you can ensure that remote employees have all of the information they need to do their jobs, while also avoiding the cost and complexity of managing physical documents. Digital information can be managed in an automated fashion, from the creation and collaboration process to the business support process and ultimately the disposal process at the end of its lifecycle.
  • Create a Remote Work Policy:
    In order to have a smooth transition to remote working, it’s important to create a set of guidelines or rules that employees should follow when working from home (or locations other than the office). You can decide which roles can be done remotely. It is important to know from the start which roles can shift from the office to the home in a fluid fashion. It is important to make clear that while employees no longer work at the office, rules, regulations, and policies may still apply.
  • Schedule Virtual meetings
    One of the most common mistakes to avoid when leading a remote team is not checking-in on a regular basis. When your team is transitioning to remote working, it is essential to schedule recurring one-on-one meetings for getting on the same page with your colleagues.
    Carefully set up an agenda, test your tech, make sure the desired outcomes of the meeting are clear and follow up on action items, it can save time and really help your team. Regular team meetings can help you ensure that the team is aligned and motivated.
  • Take advantage of technology
    As remote workers and virtual teams are on the rise, so is the number of tools and software that cater to remote workers. Advanced technology has made remote working possible today. An important part of planning includes arming yourself with a toolbox of software that can help you reach your goals.
    A remote team simply can’t work without everyone accessing and using the right tools for their work. First, know all the tools used by your team and learn how to use them best. This will help you in quick and efficient communication with the team. Next, find out the best remote collaboration tools that can help with your productivity.
  • Adopt a project management system
    If you are not already using a project management system, now is definitely the time. By using the right tools any remote team can become more productive and ensure great team collaboration. Managing multiple remote teams and projects can quickly become messy. A project management system proves invaluable for agencies handling numerous projects simultaneously and remote teams of any size. It helps with almost every project management activity, and also keeps everyone on the same page on both the workflow and deadlines. These tools help employees track their time and manage their productivity.

Transitioning to remote working allows businesses to continue to operate, but limits the interactions between employees. As we progress, it is important to adapt — and agencies are no exception. Agencies think about new customer needs, employee needs and communication strategy.

Our project management software, JD Flow can help remote teams to streamline the processes within a project. It also has a collaborative proof tool that you can use to annotate images, PDF, videos, etc. and leave comments for the designers. It allows remote workers and managers to stay in the loop regarding all the tasks and activities of a project.

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About the author:

Sankar currently heads Product Management at the Ad2pro Group. Prior to this, he has worked for industry leaders such as [24]7.ai as well as early stage startups, shipping both enterprise and consumer products. He is a seasoned product management professional who is passionate about building products that enhance people’s lives.

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