The advancement of technology has caused remote work to become a more common reality for the 21st century employee. According to Fast Company, “from 2005-2017 the United States has experienced a 159% increase in remote work,” so why there is still a stigma behind remote work?
Employers may feel their employees are not productive when they aren’t working from their desk, and employees may feel they need to over work or be constantly available to prove their value from afar. But when the world is hit with a global pandemic and social distancing requires a remote workforce, managers and their team need to pivot their operations and their mindset.
Don’t be fooled; working remotely does come with challenges (especially during a pandemic), but it offers a unique opportunity to utilize technology in new ways to effectively communicate with team members and colleagues. To evolve our thinking around working remotely, there are a few best practices we can follow for effective remote working.
First, we need to dismantle the idea that remote employees aren’t productive. We have created this perception that if you can’t see someone physically working at a desk or office space then the work must not be getting done. Regardless of location any employee can miss deadlines, skirt responsibilities, and essentially slack off if their manager doesn’t clearly outline and communicate expectations and roles. Whether an employee is in their home office or across the country, they can effectively drive results when responsibilities and deadlines are clearly communicated and proactively managed.
Tip: Email is not always the best way to communicate. To keep up to date with roles and responsibilities, managers can setup weekly one on one virtual meetings. This can replicate the feel of an in-person meeting, and help managers effectively communicate while also allowing for their team members to provide updates and highlight areas where support is needed. For quick questions and conversations, managers and their teams can also utilize instant chat applications such as Teams, Skype, and Slack.
The second misconception of remote work is employees must prove to their co-workers and boss that they are indeed working. Whether it’s consistently being available via instant message or email to demonstrate visibility or working after hours to show dedication, this mindset is putting unnecessary anxiety on employees which can inhibit their efficiency.
Tip: Keep your calendar up-to-date with everything from meetings to personal time (e.g. dentist/doctor appointments, time away, etc.), and make sure it is visible to your team. This will help co-workers know when it’s a good time to call or set up a meeting and when it’s not. You can also sync your calendar to your company’s instant messaging platform so your status will update as your day progresses from available or in a meeting to offline. In addition to keeping your calendar updated and your chat status current, remember to take time for yourself! Give yourself a real lunch break, take a fifteen-minute walk, and unplug for a moment. And when the work-day is over do your best to exit your workspace and start settling into homelife. Work-life separation is important and still possible even when your office is in your home.
Finally, the third misconception is remote work causes company culture to suffer. It is true that remote work does eliminate those hallway interactions and watercooler chats, but with some planning amongst co-workers these interactions can be included in a remote company culture.
Tip: Video features are essential to cultivate a strong company culture with meaningful connection. Ensure that your team is utilizing the video functions of applications such as Zoom or Teams during meetings to build rapport with co-workers. You can also make those watercooler conversations virtual! Setup meetings for a quick 15 minute break to chat with your colleagues about non-work related topics, set time for a virtual coffee break or happy hour at the end of the day. There are so many options with current technology to make remote work interactive and team oriented.
COVID-19 has changed the world in so many ways and the workforce continues to adapt and adjust. Forcing companies to move their employees from cubicles to kitchen tables has allowed us to restructure our thinking around remote work. In fact, companies may start reducing their carbon footprint by allowing employees to limit their commute to a few days a week, or applicants from across the world could apply for positions that aren’t even in their home country. By following these tips, employees and managers alike can maintain a positive, productive remote working experience even after the pandemic ends.