Covid-19 has confronted businesses and employees with the acute challenges of remote work, underscoring the need to provide the right tools, planning, and support to ensure people stay healthy, connected, and productive. Managers are focused on working with employees to ensure the right infrastructure is in place, not just in technology but also in the way they set up expectations, processes, and priorities.
Of course, if remote workers lack the right tools or access to information, they’ll feel disconnected, disorganized, and disengaged. So it’s been vital to put in place the right tools, from computers, microphones, and cameras to the right software and apps. To create a productive ecosystem, employees also need easy access to group and shared drives and a plan for setting up team goals, deliverables, and timelines. Sharing schedules and documenting team members’ preferred working hours are also important.
But working from home is the new reality for many people. It’s not just equipment and process that are needed; employees are confronting new issues around feeling disconnected from the office while facing new pressures at home. So leaders need to think about new ways of helping workers manage expectations around both office and family.
This means managers must be realistic about the challenges. Working at home may mean more multitasking. Some employees may be less productive, so encourage employees to set achievable daily tasks and goals. If those go well, gradually make the goals more ambitious. Get employees to agree on workloads, projects, and priorities with their manager and communicate them to the team.
Keeping the whole team connected is crucial. Get the communication wrong and team collaboration grinds to a halt, customer focus could fail, and innovation could be stifled. So it’s important for each team member to be aware of others’ projects, timelines, and goals. Syncing responsibilities and deadlines with teammates helps manage projects, maximizes efficiency, and ensures that everyone’s work gets done. Online meetings should have clear goals, agendas, and outcomes, so send pre-reads sufficiently in advance.
Connectivity is only one solution for enabling remote working. Failure to provide remote workers with the right support can affect their motivation, productivity, and work-life balance. Isolation fatigue could easily set in, so encourage employees to think about these steps:
Set Expectations With the Family
Encourage employees to agree with partners and children about schedules, quiet spaces, homework time, and when it’s okay to interrupt. Make sure they take time to get fresh air or have some fun. It’s important to be flexible and to keep checking that these expectations work for everyone.
Set Boundaries With a Workspace
Urge employees to carve out a space, zone, or approach to work that’s separate from family members when they need privacy or are on a call. Wearing headphones or placing a sign on the back of their chair or monitor works as a clear signal to others.
Build a Routine, And Practice Good Self-Care
Encourage a routine that helps get work done efficiently and effectively. For some people, this means rebuilding their home office environment. For others, it’s about establishing a new routine. It’s important to set reasonable boundaries so workers don’t feel that they’re “always on” when working remotely. Breaks need to be prioritized to avoid burnout. And routines need to include staying connected with social communities, including business resource groups and work support groups on platforms like Workplace, Facebook, and Instagram.
Stick to Meeting Schedules
Working remotely doesn’t mean working reactively. Give employees the freedom to push back on last-minute conversations and spontaneous meetings—particularly those unrelated to their priorities.
Socialize With Colleagues
Isolation is a common problem for remote workers, so it’s more important than ever to come together. Try creating and participating in chat threads where team members can talk about common interests. Video calls are better to connect with colleagues, even just for an end-of-day watercooler chat. They also help introverts—who’d rather not socialize—periodically connect with team members.
Communicate with Clarity and Positivity
Working remotely makes it vital for communications, especially by email or chat, to be clear and positive, or they may be viewed as cold or indifferent. Happy emojis, fun photos, and generous compliments all are tools to maintain morale and build rapport.