Remote work isn’t new, our current situation is. With billions of people asked to stay home, what was before a rarity became the day-to-day. We now have to work from home; it’s the right thing to do. Because of this, we want to do it well.
UNICEF has been practising remote work for years throughout nine time zones with staff travelling half of the time. They found a way to be not only as good but more efficient than onsite workers. Proof of the concept of remote work is validated by more than half the world's companies, UNICEF among them.
We can either reject the remote concept or embrace it. If you are now ready to take advantage of the current situation, then let’s dive in!
From employees to managers, we are all in this together. This article will bring to light methods of improving efficiency. It will also explore how to maintain healthy mental wellbeing for your team as we head into uncertain times.
As a team
There are a few methods available to help keep a high level of team spirit. It is important to remember that we are all working towards a common goal. Thus, teamwork and colleague support is critical.
It is key to remember that remote workers aren’t always available. Being at home doesn’t mean you can work all the time. Nor are you and your colleagues open to answer calls and messages at all hours of the day. You can add in your calendar some “deep work” events as if you were in the office and need some privacy. When you and your teammates are busy, don’t hesitate to change your online status. For this to work, each member of the team needs to set out, act on and respect these boundaries.
The relationship between co-workers is more than just business. Regular day-to-day conversations between colleagues are crucial to maintaining a functioning office. Collaborative software, such as Slack, are great tools to allow informal conversations to happen. We all need a place to share our thoughts and speak our minds. That’s what makes us a community and a team.
Being physically isolated doesn’t imply you have to completely isolate yourself from others. You may feel alone sometimes, but everyone else is in the same boat. Remember, your colleagues want to hear from you as much as you want to hear from them. So please, reach out to coworkers, managers, partners, and clients. It takes little effort and can make an enormous difference.
As a leader
Managing a team virtually doesn’t mean you have to watch and micro-manage every minute of their life. Having them working from home doesn’t change who they are, it is key that you trust the abilities of your coworkers. Remember, you work with skilled people. By micromanaging, you may end up building little else other than resentment. Take a deep breath and let them do what they are the best.
Keep in mind that setting up a policy for remote work is important. For example, let your employee define their own schedule if that’s not in contradiction with the nature of the position. Ideally, you want your team to work at their most suitable hours and in the best conditions allowed.
It’s hard to deny that not seeing your team every day makes management a lot more challenging. But, to support them, communication becomes essential. One way to supervise the work of everyone is to request a 5-15 report (read in 5 minutes and write in 15 minutes). This report should outline priorities, accomplishments, challenges or issues and lessons learned from others. Ask for them to produce this weekly.
Remote work may be challenging, but every challenge comes with rewards. Remote work can improve wellbeing and job satisfaction for your team - when done well.
If you are not already remote-friendly, then the current situation may be the opportunity for you to experiment and take advantage of remote working. This means your next employee could be in another part of the world, your pool of applicants is now without limitation.
Last but not least, be aware of the wellbeing of your team. Due to the nature of the situation, employees may experience increased anxiety. It is important to provide support through a call for small talk, a team lunch or even a (virtual) Friday drink.
As an individual
Like many people around the world, you may be forced to work from home. From your sofa, in the kitchen, or amid a hastily thrown together home office. Regardless of whether working from home is your choice, you need to take the responsibility to make the best out of the situation given to you.
Now more than ever, your personal well being must take centre stage. The general principles of remote working may not be currently possible for you. Everyone's situation is different. This means we must be flexible and adaptive to unfamiliar circumstances.
First, the status quo is to set up a “workplace” as best you can within your home. Also, dress well. The idea behind these requirements is to draw a clear line between your work and private life. When you’re “at work,” you put yourself in a “working mindset”. If you know that you are most efficient when you are working on your sofa with your favourite sweets, and as long as it doesn’t impact your professional image, then do it. The purpose isn’t to find the perfect place; it’s to find the right state of mind.
Second, the border between your job and personal life may become blurred. This is the reason why you need to stick to a clear schedule with prioritization (try The Eisenhower Box, or other tools).
Be sure to fit some breaks in your schedule, as you would do in the office. Being home doesn’t mean you don’t need them. One of the advantages of remote work is that you’re endowed with flexibility. If it doesn’t clash with the nature of your work (and your company allows it) set up your own hours in line with the hours when you feel most efficient and productive.
Finally, take care of your well-being! Use the time you saved (from not having to travel to work) to cook something healthy, to exercise, or for your hobbies. Don’t lose yourself in the work. Taking a break to quiet your mind will massively reduce stress and anxiety.
As mentioned earlier, we are in this together. Take advantage of the ability to work from wherever with a few ground rules to stay efficient and maintain a good state of mind. Some people have to put their lives on the line to work outside for us, the least we can do is stay inside for them.