As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the globe and with further social-distancing measures being imposed many of us are now working from home. This massive unprecedented shift to distance working may have long-term benefits as we learn new habits and introduce apps and software to enable effective remote working.
Developing remote teams might be the key to a truly inclusive workforce allowing organisations to diversify by hiring outside of the typical employee profile. Remote working opens the workforce to talented people who are unable to commute or be in the office during normal business hours, possibly due to caring commitments or a disability. Jobs advertised with the possibility of home working will result in a wider talent pool inclusive of more groups who are generally underrepresented in the workforce.
We have listed below some useful strategies and tips for individuals and companies to assist in managing remote working.
1. Working from home can be a big transition. You might feel any combination of lonely, isolated, stressed, frustrated, anxious, unmotivated, or — on the other hand — relieved, relaxed, energized, or productive. It’s all OK and normal. Any transition takes time to get used to, so try to be easy on yourself.
2. Take scheduled breaks. Try setting an alarm to get up and stretch every hour or so. (Standing desks, which at home may mean perching your laptop on top of a bookshelf, also pay large dividends for overall health.) Walk around your home while chatting on the phone with a friend. Move to a separate area — away from your email — to eat lunch for 30 minutes.
3. Protect your workspace. Talk to family members about the hours you are working from home and the ground rules during those hours.
4. Turn on a white noise machine or app. This really helps to reduce noise distractions around your work area.
5. Pay attention to ergonomics. Use the most comfortable chair you can with back support. Also consider investing in a hands-free headset. At the very least, pop in your earphones for long phone calls.
1. Over communicate. This is even more important when you are working remotely.
2. Know your remote work policies. Your HR department probably has a handbook or some guidelines on working during a crisis, including remote work policies, procedures, and expectations. Now would be a really good time to read this.
3. Managers – tell your team how they can reach you. If you manage people, be clear with them about any new or different communication and productivity expectations you have now that your team is working remotely. Most important is telling your team specifically how you want them to communicate with you now that they can’t pop into your office or run into you in the halls. Should they call, email, text, IM, Skype, Slack, Zoom, WebEx? Don’t assume they know.
4. Tell your team when they can reach you. Do you want people to check in with you first thing in the morning? Send a daily or weekly update on what they’ve been working on? The more guidance and boundaries you provide, the fewer misunderstandings will occur and the more smoothly work can stay on track.
5. Make sure to clarify expectations for your team. Connect with key colleagues around communication, work priorities, and success metrics. Will everyone be expected to work the same hours? Will all of the same projects and plans be moving forward? Don’t let people make assumptions about anything that’s unclear — answer those questions.
6. Note your project progress. Remote workers need to be especially proactive and alert colleagues to progress on longer-term goals. For instance, you might send a daily email with a list of projects that have advanced that day.
7. Resolve issues quickly with a phone call. Be quick to pick up the phone to resolve issues.
8. Promptly return emails, calls, and voice mails. Keep in mind that people tend to be more aware of time when working remotely. Fair or not, a colleague might find a four-hour response time to an email much too delayed when he or she is picturing you sitting at your desk at home all day.
9. Keep up more casual communication habits. If you normally catch up with colleagues in person before a big meeting, do the same before dialing in to a group conference call when everyone is remote. Even when at home, you should confirm receipt of messages and check in with people when you start your day and end your day. Try to follow the same rituals and habits to maintain relationships and a sense of normality.
10. Create your video studio. Video conferences are commonplace for remote workers. Make sure to have a professional or plain background behind you and dress and groom professionally (at least the parts of you that others will see onscreen). Check that you have adequate lighting and a decent microphone (most earphones work well).
11. Create a system for sharing documents. If you don’t already, now would be a good time to consider Google Docs, Box, or Dropbox to share files. Don’t scatter team files across email, Google Docs, and your personal hard drive. Consolidate.
1. Do whatever you can to keep things aligned with your existing company culture. Even though working remotely does drastically change interactions since you’re no longer together in person, you can still make sure that the little things you did in the office continue. This might include sending funny, work-appropriate GIFs over Slack, text, or email; chatting about sports or your family or anything else you would normally do by the water cooler; and volunteering together through an online charity project instead of an in-person event. These little things help reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety.
2. Take time for “water cooler” chat. Working from home, since you won’t be bumping into your colleagues you won’t have the same opportunity for chitchat and human connection, but it is so important to retain. Make time every day to text with colleagues, check in personally, share stories, ask how people are doing. If your company is using an instant messaging system, consider adding a “water cooler” channel to help encourage this element of communication across the team.
3. Dress and groom professionally. Your morning prep routine plays a large role in determining your mindset for the day. You’ll find you’re more productive when you dress for the day and brush your teeth.
4. Use video, even if it’s uncomfortable for you. To avoid feeling isolated, use video technology to connect with your team and colleagues in a more intentional, human way. When you’re speaking, look up at the camera on your computer — not at the screen — so people can see your eyes.
5. Emphasize one-on-one check-ins. Don’t cancel your one-on-ones just because they can’t be held in person. Even a two-minute IM chat, video call, or text message chain can make employees feel more connected.
6. Ask for feedback on your remote situation. Finally, and especially if you are new to working remotely, ask your colleagues for regular feedback on how the situation is working out.