At GDX Studios, working from home and having a flexible work environment is not something that was new to us when COVID-19 shut down our office. The Company’s owners have been a big proponent of everyone choosing their own working environment since they started the Company. That could be from home, at the office, or on the job site. Most of the weeks it’s usually some combination of them all. The reason they were able to do this, successfully, comes down to two things: Trust and smart use of technology.
I have worked with dozens of Companies, as an auditor and in private industry and I have heard lots of excuses from management teams as to why they will not let their employees work remotely. “I don’t know if they are actually working.” “I need them to be here during work hours so that I can access them.” “I’m scared the employees are going to steal the work product if they take it home.” If you really break down the root cause of these statements, they are all related to lack of trust and use of technology. Trust is built from hiring to firing and everything in between. Most people in management say they want to build a team that they can trust. However, for that to work successfully, there must be mutual trust and support between management and employee.
What can I do to build trust within my Company and on my team? It starts with hiring. From your application to your interview questions, there should be questions dealing with the issue of trust throughout the process. A couple of questions that can address this are “What are a couple of the most unpopular stands you have ever taken in your career (student life, military life, etc.)?” and “If there ever came a situation where I needed you to tell a lie on my behalf, could you?” These are uncomfortable questions, but someone with integrity will be able to answer them. For those of you who are wondering how to answer to the second question, the answer should always be no. If someone will lie for you, they will lie for someone else and that is not someone that exemplifies trust. During the hiring sessions, the candidates should meet members of the team on all levels, not just management. These team members who meet with candidates need to have a secure way to provide feedback without the fear of retaliation. In addition, feedback does not mean that you must act upon their recommendation. As the hiring manager, if you choose differently from a team member’s recommendation, you need to have the conversation of why you made your decision and the reasons for doing so. This also builds trust and reminds team members of their value. It helps foster a team mentality rather (action) than just telling people to have a team mentality (inaction). If these recommendations seem like work, they are, because building trust takes work.
Once hired, building trust comes from the whole team. Do you collaborate? Do you allow voices to be heard? Do you allow for dissenting opinions? Do you allow for open feedback when you have not requested it? Do you answer questions about process/policy? Or, like most, do you use the popular fallback of, “It’s always been done that way” or “You don’t need to know why, you just need to follow orders.” Ask yourself, do we have systems of accountability for each team member? Are their goals and deadlines delineated in writing? Do you have regular performance reviews that are actual discussions and not just checking boxes on a form? Do team members hold other team members to high standards? If you answered no to any of these, then there is still plenty of work to be done. If you want to build a culture imbedded in trust then you must put in the work as management.
TRUST IS A TWO-WAY STREET
Trust is a two-way street. In these examples, you must be trustworthy, in order trust others. You must have integrity to ensure that others have integrity. If you read this and you are already implementing these practices, then good job! And if you are not, that is okay too, now you have a tool that allows you to start to educate yourself on how to enact the change.
As I said earlier, trust is one component, actual functionality in remote working is the other component. Luckily, it is 2020 and information technology has been thriving as an affordable business tool for the last twenty years. G Suite and Microsoft OneDrive are two relatively low-cost options that allow team members to work from home and collaborate all at the same time. Gmail is also the most popular free email system used for personal email in the world . Therefore, your employees are probably already familiar with the basics, which means less training time and money spent. G Suite has an IM tool called hangouts that allows co-workers to easily chat all day when out of the office. It is easier than text because it is already on the computer that you are working on. G Suite also has amazing collaboration tools in the Google Drive. In my opinion, the collaboration tools are more functional than OneDrive. I can work on a spreadsheet that the entire team is working on at the same time; I can track every person’s edit’s; I can go back to an earlier version and save it on my own without sharing it with others; I can see who is accessing it at any point in time; I can use (almost all) the same formulas and tools that Excel has; I can easily share it with Client’s and Supplier’s and allow them to collaborate with me. And the same goes for their version of the “Word” and “PowerPoint” products. Did I mention that I can access it anywhere, on any computer, (if it has internet access because it is cloud based?)
It is also very secure. As an administrator, you have the ability to change passwords for anyone (for example, if someone is terminated unexpectedly), you can see if files have been downloaded and you can create two step verification for logins that help provide an additional level of security off-site. Is it the most secure email service out there? No. But it works for almost all industries we work with.
Usually the Google Drive (G Drive), is my go-to recommendation for storage. However, for me it has one major flaw and that is, that you cannot edit Adobe documents from the G Drive. Therefore, my next technology recommendation is for cloud-based storage systems or servers, which are relatively inexpensive options that allow employees to work from home and access everything that would have been in paper filing cabinets 20 years ago. I work in finance and our profession has requirements on keeping documents for extended periods of time. Therefore, we are notorious for keeping years of paper data in filing cabinets and boxes in storage rooms and places we never see them until an audit occurs. Establishing a paperless system, is not only great for remote working lifestyle, but also allows you to access years’ worth of data at your fingertips. Servers allow to you to have a way to access and work from a secure system anywhere, just as if you were working in an office, through something called a VPN (virtual private network). In very, simple terms, when you turn a VPN on it “creates an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server ”. This works much like the “intranet” or network that you are probably more familiar with in a traditional office environment. However, this adds an additional layer of security.
How do I go paperless to allow employees to work successfully from anywhere in the world? Hire temp(s) to scan, save and organize all your historical documents (from whatever time frame is beneficial to you). Work with your suppliers and clients to ensure that all documents are sent electronically if they currently use snail mail. If they are not set up to do so, use a scanner (Fujitsu iX500 is portable and amazing!) to scan anything that comes through the mail. Or better yet hire a mail service that will receive your mail, sort, and scan it to anywhere you specify. Get Adobe Pro and learn how to use it. You can write all over it, just like you would a paper copy of something, you can bookmark it for easy reference and you can add excel and word documents to your Adobe files. Stay organized! Develop an organization tool, just like you would with a paper filing cabinet, and ensure that people follow that process. Naming conventions on files are particularly important. Searching through an electronic file can be just as difficult as searching through a physical filing cabinet if you are not organized and you are not using consistent naming conventions.
Finally, with regards to technology, Stay Curious. Technology is constantly evolving and growing, and we also need to evolve and grow too. I never used G Drive before I came to GDX Studios and was an avid Microsoft fan, but know I use the G Drive daily. This may not be easy and there is a lot of upfront work, but the payoff is worth it and will create a healthier, happier work environment for your employees.
I hope this article has given you several examples of how working remotely can be a positive experience for both the employer and employee. It can help create a deeper, more meaningful relationship as well for your Company. It can help employees live their best life, meet the needs in their personal life and meet the Company’s goals as well.