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The Benefits and Challenges of Implementing OKRs in a Remote Work Environment



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I’ve been working remotely for a few years now and I believe that remote working is becoming the new trend that can bring a new definition of happiness and motivation at work to every employee. And with this trend, there is another management method that is also evolving, I’m talking about OKR. Back to 2018, when John Doerr launched his new book: Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs, OKRs became the legendary management method and the bible for many entrepreneurs and managers. Many organisations are turning to objectives and key results (OKRs) to keep their teams aligned and productive. In this essay, we’ll explore the benefits and challenges of implementing OKRs in a remote working environment.

What is OKR?

What is OKR? – (Mint, 2020)

Before we delve into the benefits and challenges of implementing OKRs in a remote work environment, let’s first define what OKR is. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results, a performance management framework that helps organizations set and achieve their goals. It was originally developed by Intel in the 1970s and later popularized by Google in the early 2000s.

An OKR consists of two parts: the objective and the key results. The objective is a clear and specific goal that the team wants to achieve. The key results are specific, measurable, and time-bound metrics that help to track progress towards the objective. The key results should be challenging, but attainable and should align with the overall objective.

Why Working Remotely is Becoming the Big Trend

Over the past few years, remote work has become increasingly popular, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend even further. Many companies have realized that remote work can be just as productive as traditional office work, and it offers many benefits to both employees and employers.

One of the main reasons why remote work is becoming the big trend is that it offers greater flexibility and work-life balance. Employees no longer have to commute to work, which can save them time and money, and they can work from the comfort of their own homes. This can lead to greater job satisfaction and reduced stress levels (2022).

I couldn’t have got this picture without working remotely

Remote work can also help to reduce costs for employers. Without the need for a physical office space, companies can save on rent, utilities, and other expenses. Additionally, remote work can open up new talent pools for employers, as they are no longer limited by geographic location (Farrer, 2018).

Another reason why remote work is becoming popular is that advances in technology have made it easier than ever to work remotely. Video conferencing tools, project management software, and other technologies have made it possible for remote teams to collaborate and communicate effectively, regardless of where they are located (Castrillon, 2022).

Benefits of Implementing OKRs in a Remote Work Environment

  1. Improved Communication and Collaboration

Remote work can make communication and collaboration challenging, but OKRs can help to alleviate these issues. By setting clear objectives and key results, teams can stay aligned and work together towards a common goal. This can improve communication and collaboration, even when team members are physically dispersed (Doerr, 2018).

What do I need to do today? ⇒ This is a question I often ask myself when I first start working remotely. And I know I have a team, but without clear objectives and key results, it’s easy to lose focus on the day-to-day because we don’t know what to talk about, OKR really help for this case, especially for new members joining the team.

  1. Increased Accountability

A few years ago, when I work as a software engineer I had a situation where I was overloaded with work, but I wasn’t making much of an impact on the company. And after I sat down with my line manager to analyse the problem, I realised that even though I was doing a lot of work and could be working more than 10 hours a day, it was all separatedfragmented and not complementing each other to achieve a particular big goal, like I was working as an admin rather than a software engineer.

OKRs can help to increase accountability in a remote work environment. By setting specific and measurable objectives and key results, team members can track their progress and hold themselves accountable for achieving their goals. This can lead to increased motivation and productivity, as team members are more focused on achieving their objectives (Wodtke, 2016).

  1. Flexibility and Adaptability

Have you ever been in a situation where you set a goal at the beginning of the month, only to find out 2 weeks later that the goal is no longer feasible, there are other options that are more effective and take less time, but the rigidity of character in your own work, your boss or colleagues still want to achieve the original goal at all costs?

Remote work requires flexibility and adaptability, and OKRs can help to facilitate this. By setting objectives and key results that are flexible and adaptable, teams can respond to changing circumstances and priorities. This can help to ensure that the team remains productive and focused, even when faced with unexpected challenges (Doerr, 2018).

Challenges of Implementing OKRs in a Remote Work Environment

I used to spent so much time working in the office, and much more time working remotely, these are the problems that I have been facing for many years working remotely, challenging, but interesting.

  1. Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction

From my perspective, this can be the most difficult issue at the beginning, especially for those who are working remotely for the first time, and if you’ve just joined a new company and it’s your first time working remotely, this is the COMBO that could make it your first and possibly last time working remotely. Because at this point, everyone in the company doesn’t know you except for the hiring manager and maybe some team members who have been through your interview process before, so when I say that people’s confidence in you is zero, there’s nothing wrong with that. And you know, one of the most effective ways to earn that trust at this stage is through face-to-face interaction.

Remote work can lead to a lack of face-to-face interaction, which can make it challenging to implement OKRs effectively. Without regular in-person meetings, it can be difficult to ensure that team members are aligned and working towards the same objectives. This can be mitigated through the use of video conferencing tools and regular check-ins (Doerr, 2018).

The good news is, this is not the long term problem, when everyone can trust each other, then this challenge will go away. But be aware, working remotely is quite difficult to earn trust, however easy it is to lose it, just a few times you break a promise or don’t complete the task on time and the trust you’ve earned will slip away very easily.

  1. Time Zone Differences

The timetable of remote and in-office workers are completely different. Things like getting up at 3am to work and going to bed at 1pm are normal for those who work remotely.

Remote work often means that team members are in different time zones, which can make it challenging to coordinate and collaborate effectively. This can lead to delays and miscommunication, which can impact the achievement of OKRs. To mitigate this, teams can establish clear communication protocols and set expectations for response times (Doerr, 2018).

My normal weekly timetable, would be changed depend on the workload (own)

Based on my experience, setting an allowable response time will be very effective to eliminate this challenge, but can create a push and micro-manage mentality, I do not recommend this. Instead, learn to use a calendar and agree on a certain time that everyone can set up online meetings, which will be much more effective. Because when working remotely, the most important thing is to focus on getting the job done, not waiting for the kick of answering an email or chat.

Tips: Pomodoro is a very effective method to help people focus on work for a certain amount of time

  1. Difficulty in Tracking Progress

Tracking progress towards OKRs can be challenging in a remote work environment. Without regular in-person check-ins, it can be difficult to get a sense of how team members are progressing towards their objectives. This can be mitigated through the use of project management tools and regular status updates (Wodtke, 2016).

Kanban board is very effective for tracking OKR progress (own)

Conclusion

Implementing OKRs in a remote work environment can be challenging, but the benefits can outweigh the challenges. By improving communication and collaboration, increasing accountability, and facilitating flexibility and adaptability, OKRs can help to ensure that remote teams remain productive and focused on achieving their objectives. To overcome the challenges of remote work, teams can establish clear communication protocols, use video conferencing tools, set expectations for response times, and use project management tools to track progress.

References:

Castrillon, C. (2022). Why The Digital Nomad Lifestyle Is On The Rise. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2022/07/17/why-the-digital-nomad-lifestyle-is-on-the-rise

Doerr, J. (2018). Measure what matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation rock the world with OKRs. Penguin.

Farrer, L. (2020). 5 Proven Benefits Of Remote Work For Companies. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurelfarrer/2020/02/12/top-5-benefits-of-remote-work-for-companies/

Mint. (2020). What Is the OKR Framework? How It All Started [Image]. MintLife Blog. Retrieved from https://blog.mint.com/goals/what-is-the-okr-framework-how-it-all-started-1013/

Wodtke, C. (2016). Radical focus: Achieving your most important goals with objectives and key results. Cucina Media.

Martin, L., Hauret, L., & Fuhrer, C. (2022). Digitally transformed home office impacts on job satisfaction, job stress and job productivity. COVID-19 findings. PloS One17(3), e0265131–e0265131. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0265131

 

This post was originally posted in https://www.atruedev.com/blog/okr-in-remote-work

I am passionate about agile methodologies and have experience as a Scrum Master, guiding development teams to deliver high-quality products. In my free time, I keep myself updated with the latest industry developments and participate in online communities and forums. I am always open to networking and connecting with like-minded individuals in the industry.

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