In March 2020 remote work had to be adopted overnight and ideas about how we work changed. With rapidly closing workplaces, it became necessary for 37% of all jobs in the US to be executed remotely. Since then, businesses have had to adapt to new ideas about innovative work environments
This new era of work gives us the freedom to decide how to manage our time and our teams. But how do you help your employees manage their projects remotely? How do you ensure your business creates a productive remote working experience to encourage innovation?
Read on to discover the pros and cons of remote work, and how you can make the most of innovative remote work policies, and continue to foster your company’s growth.
Table of Contents
The Pros of Remote Work
When your employees have more freedom and feel like they own their work you can expect to see less turnover and more innovation within your business. 69% of millennials worldwide say they’re happier when they have flexibility in how and where they work. Over half of office workers would prefer to switch to a job offering flexible working hours.
Other benefits include:
1. Better Commute: With virtually no time spent traveling or getting settled in and out of work every day, productivity shoots up.
2. Employee Engagement: It is a common belief that remote and hybrid work decreases engagement levels. Yet, hybrid employees have reported an engagement rate of 81% in the last two years.
3. Increased Mental Health: A remote job allows for better mental health practices, like taking walks throughout the day, spending time with family, or making healthy meals.
4. Recruiting Advantages: Your company can now find talent from a wider pool. You can even allow a full distributed workforce and allow your employees to be fully remote or digital nomads.
These are just a few of the opportunities that make this new working situation beneficial for your business.
The Cons of Remote Work
Of course, the most obvious challenge with remote working is the lack of resources to work from home. Thus, employers must actively take feedback from their employees to stay ahead in these areas of concern. Some factors to consider are:
1. Poor Home Workspace: Nearly 25% of new hires, according to Quantum Workplace research, do not have the tools they need to get their work done.
2. Psychological Drawbacks: Although remote working increases overall productivity, there is a potential risk of burnout. In many organizations, employees tend to feel overworked and exhausted.
3. Lack of Work-Life Balance: With constant emails, chats, and conferences, employees may feel like they need to work round the clock.
4. Social Isolation: The lack of social collaboration can sometimes lead to communication gaps and misunderstandings. Despite the increase in the number of meetings, people may feel disconnected from their colleagues.
So how can you connect to your remote workforce and encourage innovation while not physically together? Read on to find out!
6 Strategies for Encouraging Innovation in the Remote Workplace
1) Use the Goal Setting Theory of Motivation
Harvard research documents 83% of the population of the United States do not have goals. Luckily for us, Edwin Locke created a goal-setting theory of motivation in the 1960s. It states that specific and challenging goals along with regular feedback can lead to higher and better task performance within an organization and beyond. With the absence of usual social collaboration, employers need to set clear goals for their teams
Effective goal-setting principles within this structure include:
1. Clarity: A specific goal is more achievable in the long run. The most effective goals have a timeline for completion.
2. Challenge: The goal must be relatively hard to achieve, yet still attainable.
3. Commitment: Goals must be accepted, dedicated to, and shared. Writing it down helps, people who write their goals are more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t by 50%.
4. Deadlines: Make an end to your goal timeline and stick to it.
5. Feedback: Once the goal is reached you need to have a dialogue and feedback system to assess it.
An easier way to remember these ideas are S.M.A.R.T goals:
There is very little room for innovation management when the existing processes are in constant upheaval. So, well-defined, and meaningful goals will help everyone stay motivated and create an environment that allows innovation to thrive.
2) Research Psychological Theories on Remote Work
In new research, Gartner asked 300 CFOs what proportion of their employees they intended to move from on-site to off-site roles after Covid-19. 23% said they intended a fifth or more of former on-site workers to stay at home.
Teleworkers operating from a home office lack the physical and psychological separation that exists in a traditional office setting. Spending time with family and social interactions can easily bleed over into work hours. A 2013 Gallup poll found that teleworkers log an extra four hours per week on average compared with their counterparts in the office.
Research has found that formalizing a virtual team’s goals, roles, and communication methods at the outset improves effectiveness. A study of 101 virtual teams co-authored by Steve Kozlowski, Ph.D., at Michigan State University, shows that shared leadership rather than traditional hierarchical leadership is associated with improved team performance.
Managers should be extensively trained on adapting to leading teams remotely, given the rate of scaling of remote work is currently exponential. The company must pay attention to the individual concerns of team members. Also, the ways to uniquely address them should be identified (surveys, check-ins, one on ones, and town halls all can be good solutions).
3) Examine Complexity Theory for Business
Complexity theory is a way of understanding how organizations should be managed and how they can cope with conditions of uncertainty. By applying these ideas to remote innovation, businesses can begin to see how order, pattern, and structure arise from company structure.
The 4 main theories that contribute to Complexity Theory are:
1. Systems Theory: Deals with ideas surrounding self-organization and adaptability.
2. Chaos Theory: The study of nonlinear systems, or things that may look random but still have an underlying cause.
3. Network Theory: Network Theory is a more practical application that relies on real-world data. It includes the study of the world’s supply chain, communication networks, and social networks.
4. Adaptive Self-Organization Theory: This is the study of the actions and reactions to others’ behavior.
So how to use these tenants? Complexity leadership theory proposes that adaptability occurs in the everyday interactions of individuals responding to triggers in the work environment. This approach advocates forming a culture of trust which welcomes outsiders embraces new ideas and promotes cooperation. Complexity Theory also focuses on more flexible organizations, rather than top-down, controlling styles of management.
Your application of complexity theory should consider the fact that innovation is tangible. In fact, you can read our report on how you can measure innovation here.
4) Encourage Intrinsic Motivation Theory
The most recognized theory of intrinsic motivation was first based on people’s needs and drives. Goals come from within and the outcomes satisfy your basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and self-satisfaction.
An increased focus on outcomes doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be much room for failure and experimentation. It is crucial to allow your employees to try new ways to perform their tasks and experiment with different personalized processes. By doing so you can ensure they are taking on more responsibility at work because they enjoy being challenged and feeling accomplished, rather than getting a raise or promotion.
This environment creates an intrinsic motivation that can help your business arrive at the most innovative yet efficient processes. Not only will you have better solutions but you can engage your employees no matter where they are based.
5) Understand Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication in the Remote Setting
Frequent team meetings and messages ensure the smooth flow of work.
Synchronous communication is any communication that happens in real-time, thereby allowing for immediate responses.
Asynchronous communication may be higher-level communications or documentation of workflows.
Traditionally, asynchronous communication occurs in person at workplaces like one-on-ones, or spontaneous water cooler chat which has come to a halt during remote work. This type of dialogue often sparks innovation and new ideas by connecting individuals to others. Using video conferencing often can continue this communication style even when you aren’t in person. Even if it is virtual, face-to-face communication is much more engaging.
In fact, according to IBM, a minimum of three virtual meetings every week is necessary to keep the team collaborative. And a Gallup study found remote workers are three times more likely to show outstanding performance when their managers have weekly feedback conversations with them.
By employing both forms of communication you can encourage team brainstorms and collaboration to ensure that your company is churning out great ideas consistently.
6) Increase Your Dedication to Company Diversity
It is no surprise that companies encouraging a diverse workforce perform better in developing innovative products and services. According to a North Carolina State study, companies promoting friendly cultures, especially to women and minorities, showcased more new product announcements and patent citations. Companies with diversity programs often report higher revenue as well.
In fact, based on Forbes research, by increasing your business focus on fostering diversity you can expect more of these outcomes:
1. Increased Innovation: Among companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenues, 56% strongly agreed diversity helps drive innovation.
2. Attracting Top Talent: Hiring the best talent possible often means broadening your applicant pool to find the absolute best options. Among Forbes survey respondents, most (65%) have in place programs specifically to recruit diverse employees.
3. Increased Employee Retention: By creating an effective diversity program, your employees will feel they have the tools to be successful, no matter their personal background.
4. Future Success on a Global Scale: More than three-quarters of Forbes respondents reported their companies are looking to focus more on leveraging diversity for innovation and other business goals over the next three years.
Shifting to remote work saves on infrastructure, turnover and overhead costs and doesn’t have to lead to a decrease in your innovation strategy. There are plenty of methods an organization can do to kickstart and sustain innovation.
With these strategies you can move forward with your remote environment with the best innovation strategies for your business. Turn remote work from something that was a global surprise to an opportunity for extensive innovation. To find out more about how your company can encourage innovation reach out to our consulting services here.
About Runway Innovation Hub
Runway is a Silicon Valley-based innovation company accelerating the success of global innovators and entrepreneurs. We help corporations through results-focused innovation consulting, and power the growth of startups through acceleration programs, mentorship and coworking services.
Since 2013, we have helped companies like IBM, Epson and Emirates identify their biggest growth opportunities, and built customized, hands-on innovation programs to generate real business results. Learn more about how we can help you do the same here.