Coronavirus may lead to more people working remotely, but does it work for everyone?
The Great Work-From-Home experiment is here. Not just for a couple of days, but we’re talking weeks and maybe even months. As precautionary measures are taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many people have found themselves asked to work from home, including me.
Sure, it may be routine for some, but this type of flexible working arrangement is increasingly popular. Remote working can make for a better work/life/family balance by allowing people to live further from their workplaces, and it can come in handy during periods of extreme weather when staff can stay safe at home.
But is everybody suited to working remotely? Working remote can benefit both the employee and employer, suggested career coach Adrian Marsh on Mornings. “For the employee, the number one thing that people love is the flexible schedule,” he said. “You don’t have to be tied into the 9–5. Some people love the fact that you can work from anywhere, so maybe you take yourself off for a long weekend, but you do a bit of work on Friday in that location.”
“And [some people find] working from home is nicer than working in cramped office environments.”
Employers can benefit too, adds Adrian, from a reduction in office costs, as well as improved productivity rates from happier workers and longer retention of staff.
So, how is our daily routine at the office change since we’re all in different places? Here’s how an approach to remote-working that has arisen in just the last few weeks:
1. Overcommunicate like crazy. Leaders can pick up on non-verbal clues from their people after spending a certain amount of time around them. Reach out to your team far more than you might in ordinary times when the person is in a cubicle or the next room.
2. Beware of personality surprises. People may seem to take on different personalities in a working-from-home scenario than when they’re in the office, if only because their work environments have changed dramatically.
3. Establish open circuits. Slack, Teams, Zoom, and other internal-communication platforms are easy and cheap enough that a corporate cluster should be able to enjoy constant real-time electronic communication during an enforced work-at-home scenario.
4. Make it fun. Sharing memes, hosting a virtual happy hour, and get together is just one way to make this fun while building company culture. This siple act is what makes a difference to people while being quarantined.
5. Manage the meeting. You may need to manage the agenda of a virtual meeting a bit more closely or intentionally. Unlike a meeting conducted in person in a conference room, in a remote gathering, there aren’t visual reminders of the progress of time such as a clock on the wall or people checking their watches.
6. Give ample time to recaps. Spend the last five minutes of such gatherings going over what transpired and delineating the next steps. Be clear about the next steps, all the way down to the very granular level. By doing so, this will keep things moving and team accountable.
7. Make technology work. Few things are more annoying and less productive than a phone or virtual meeting that falls apart because participants are using cheap microphones and words drop out.
8. Stay flexible and show compassion. Keep in mind that individuals might be experiencing personal hardships while they seek to give employers their very best. Check-in on them and often.
9. Above all, stay human: People process fear and anxiety in a variety of different ways. Allow plenty of room for diverse experiences and even surprising reactions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, in essence, created a forced experiment. It may not have very many positive effects, but as we are already in the midst of one of the most disruptive events in our generation, we might as well find the silver lining of being isolated at home. Adopting a healthy and active remote working strategy and committing to digital transformation by doing so, companies might find their employees more engaged, less stressed out by work, and more communicative than ever.
Companies that may have been hesitant to consider remote work have come face-to-face with a situation that now requires it. And while perhaps not their choice, this may be the future of work. Working from home will be more common after the crisis; roughly two-thirds of employees polled in all countries responded affirmatively. Most importantly, this could be the wake-up call that many businesses need to change their working practices and treat their employees with respect and independence that remote working demands.