The world of work has changed significantly in recent years to say the least, and the old routine of the consultant has been disrupted. It wasn’t long ago that the standard was for consultants to spend Mondays through Thursdays on-site at their clients’ offices and then Fridays at their own headquarters.
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Nowadays, more consultants want to work remotely, and it makes more sense as many of their clients are working from home themselves. According to a survey from BCG, 89% of workers have a preference to telecommute at least occasionally. Coworking spaces have also seen a huge surge in demand. It’s predicted the coworking space market will grow by $13.3bn by 2025.
Managers have been forced to adapt to the new normal and still bring out the best from their teams. It’s been a tough problem for many as they had their ways of working set and felt they managed well in person. Here are five tips to help consulting firms set the right tone and adjust to managing remote consultants as needed.
Manage by Results
There seemed to be a split in people’s reactions when the world was forced to go remote. Many workers rejoiced, while managers were concerned about the effect it would have on their teams’ productivity. In fact, some 38% of managers believe that remote workers perform poorer than those in the office.
This is primarily a trust issue, as it comes down to whether employees can be depended on to manage their time effectively and not squander paid hours. Managers might imagine their consultants sitting in front of the TV or playing games rather than doing the work they consider to be crucial.
Unless a manager implements draconian standards, they can never know exactly what their team is doing. The catch is if those standards are introduced, there won’t be a team to manage anyway. What this instead requires is a mindset shift. What really matters for managers is results – not how those results are achieved.
If your consulting service firm’s customers are happy and performance is good, then it shouldn’t be important if each consultant on the team spends their whole day working from bed if that’s what they prefer. Of course, if the results are not up to standard, then that’s a different story, but until then, you should give your team the benefit of the doubt.
Sync Everyone’s Schedules
A great challenge of working remotely is understanding the schedules of different team members.
In an office, you can simply walk up and have a quick conversation with people to understand their workload when trying to make decisions about who to staff on what project. You can have an open conversation with people in the same vicinity so people can raise any objections.
Especially when you’re dealing with distributed teams, you need to rely on software solutions, and in this sense, vcita can make a big difference. It has a function called multi-staff online scheduling that allows clients to book sessions with specific team members, and all of the appointments aggregate to a central calendar for all of your consultants to see. The scheduling system also syncs with a built-in CRM and automated billing engine.
This works well to remove team leaders from otherwise labor-intensive processes, and at the same time, it ensures clients have access to your team as much as they need. It allows you to manually override depending on what you see as the highest priority clients and projects, reassigning as called for.
Video Is Better Than Text
One of the biggest losses from working remotely is how much more difficult it is to explain how to do something through text rather than through demonstration. It can end up being a long email chain of back and forth questions or even worse, instructions could be misunderstood and the work has to be written off.
Whenever something complex needs to be explained, you should use a program like Loom. It allows you to record your screen and audio to show someone how the task should be done and leave far less room for misinterpretation.
What’s especially useful is that the video is hosted on the Loom site and can be sent out multiple times.
This is great for onboarding new employees remotely too and avoids bottlenecks of needing a key employee’s time to explain the same concept over and over again.
Allow Consultants to Self-manage Non-urgent Tasks
This next tip can make your life significantly easier if you can let go of some control. It’s common for there to be downtime between client work for consultants, and the natural thing for many of them will be to contact their manager and ask them what they should do.
This is especially true of junior employees who are eager to impress.
This can make you the crunch point, and it’s difficult to ensure you are assigning tasks to the right people to keep everyone motivated. What you can do instead is make use of a team Trello board, where there are different cards containing tasks with no set deadline but are still important in the long-term.
Your team can then pick these up when they have time and progress them without needing to disrupt your workflow. They can pick the tasks they are best motivated for, and they’ll never be stuck not knowing what to do next.
Establish Communication Rules
Sometimes the problem isn’t finding a tool that can do what you want – sometimes the challenge is that so many of the tools you have share the same functionality.
Let’s say you want to convey a message to someone on your team. Your options could be Slack, Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, email, and so forth. It’s unreasonable to expect people to check all of these platforms in a timely manner, and this can mean urgent communication gets lost in the shuffle.
It’s important to set ground rules for when each platform should be used and make it clear to everyone so they are all on the same page. For example, Whatsapp could be reserved for only the most urgent communication, whereas Slack could be anything social and non-business urgent.
Remote work is the future, but this makes it more difficult for a manager to keep their consulting team on the right track. With the right solutions in place and enough trust, your consultants will be able to accomplish as much as, if not more than, they would achieve working together in person.