Meet Sara, she is a project manager. And meet Marco, he is a marketing assistant. They both work in large companies. And they are The Remotes, meaning, that they work fully remotely.

Sara has just finished her 5 km morning run and it was 8.55 when she skipped her shower and joined her internal Monday team Zoom meeting at 9 am still wearing her sweater and cap. She was glowing, partly due to happiness and partly due to heat. Her team applauded and her running accomplishment became the team meeting icebreaker and the meeting went great afterward. Marco worked on a digital campaign project. He scheduled a team-brainstorming over MS Teams, put on his sneakers and headphones, and spent the entire video call in a sunny park walking. One of his co-workers was outside, too. They compared their steps on smartwatches at the end. In the meanwhile across the town, Saras’ notification beeped – it was 2 pm and she had to go to the doctor’s appointment. In the waiting room, she answered a couple of e-mails and communicated with her team via Slack. The appointment took more time than expected and due to the weather being so sunny outside, she decided to pick up her kids from the kindergarten right afterward. That was a bit early, but Sara knew that she could finish her excel sheets at 9 pm when the kids will be asleep.

Was that Life over Work or just Value over Busy?

The remotes remote meetings

Consider Sara and Marco lucky, since they are living the dream remote jobs in this remote work fairytale, at least that being true for still a vast majority of Slovenian employees. Employees who could work like Sara or Marco, don’t. The mentality ruling a large proportion of the Slovenian business environment encourages being Busy over Valuable. Managers still request daily hour reports for remote workers. The fear of not being in control or that people could get lazy is still deeply rooted. Team members are angry and jealous when they see others not being so busy as they are. 

Let me tell you, that both teams, that of Sara and Marco, are exceeding expectations. So, where do others fail? Or, better – what could be done to live and work like Sara and Marco?

Here are a couple of hints on how to begin and how to get the right buy-in. Caution, as they might surprise you:

  • Clear and well-communicated team goals instead of micromanagement
    As a leader, do the proper job of communicating clear goals and expectations to your team. Setting team goals over personal goals will spread a notion of mutual help and decrease destructive competitiveness or selfishness. It is crucial that you abandon micromanagement in a way that you let the team self-organize on how a project will be done to achieve the goal. Set intermediate team meetings to catch up as a team. Be there to help, not to check, nor to force your own ways, let alone doing the work by yourself instead.
  • Start with team trust and transparency
    Nurture a culture of trust and transparency very carefully. It takes time and devotion – people need time to see that something really changed and that they can open up. Do not tolerate brilliant jerks – individuals, who are valuable but at the same time tend to destroy good relationships in a team with their destructive behavior. Be transparent with individuals as well as with the whole team. Do not tolerate rumors, nor take part in them, nor send exclusive content to parts of the team. Remember – trust and transparency starts with leaders. The truth may hurt sometimes, but in time, transparency and trust become the strongest bond of a successful team.
  • Regular retrospectives
    Set dates in teams’ calendars for Retrospectives. Ask yourselves: What should we start-stop or continue doing? Take a virtual retrospective tool and let the team reflect on the work performance (you can use Jamboard or Metroretro for doing that pretty easily).
  • Nurturing psychological safety
    Think of what average number would have come up if an anonymous survey would be given to your team, assessing from 1-10, on the following statements, for example, I am afraid to speak up at a team meeting. I do not have the courage to oppose my manager’s opinion in front of the team, even if he is truly wrong. I am afraid that people will talk badly about me if I present my ideas. If I am told to do something that I think is wrong, I will still do it. The number might really surprise you, as a leader.

Being psychologically safe is, according to the Google Aristotle research, the one most important advantage of excellent teams over just good ones. Psychological safety results in less stress over relationships, less work absence, more collaboration, fresh ideas over the fear of expressing them, and a happier workspace.

the remotes

In the end, you might ask a funny question – when do you start using the remote work techniques, methods, and tools? Right after all the above mentioned. If you want to have successful remote working employees, make sure you establish a strong and happy team first. As a leader, start with the essentials, do not neglect them. As Ichak Adizes puts it: “How much love is in your life? And I will tell you how long you will live. How much love is in your company? …”