Remote work is becoming a new normal for organizations across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. And remote work is not a natural transition for everyone.
For many employees, shifting away from the office setting for work can be difficult. As employees shift to more consistent remote working environments, it’s important to keep them engaged.
In this post, we’ll share our tips for working remotely from expert work from homers, including:
There’s a certain energy that comes with being in a physical office space. It can be driven by morning routines, familiar conversations, Matt K. brewing coffee every morning, Greg singing in his office, and Amber K. bringing homemade desserts every Thursday.
That energy can be difficult to describe when you consistently work in the office. Taking a one- or two-day break from the office to work from home, you might not feel that energy being gone. But when you begin working remotely on a consistent basis, you’ll gradually feel the absence of that workplace energy.
Organizations should be helping employees prepare for these shifts. More and more employees are now working remotely – for personal reasons, as well as situational reasons out of their control.
A study showed that most U.S. employees believe having the option of working remotely will positively affect their engagement. This is great news! However, organizations should expect optional, periodic remote work to be different from when employees shift to a consistent work-from-home routine on a longer-term basis.
Helping employees adjust to working remotely on a consistent basis requires more than just some resources and technology. It takes a different way of operating at the company level, an adjustment in how teams interact, and a shift in mindset for individuals.
For organizations who have workers beginning to shift to more consistent remote working situations, consider some of the following ideas, tips, and tactics.
Providing necessary additional hardware (e.g., webcam, monitors, etc.), as well as consistent internet access for key employee groups is part of the foundation for success. Access to videoconferencing tools is also a big part of this.
Continually keeping tabs on what tech is available in the marketplace to make work better for remote employees is a good way for organizations to gain an edge.
Having senior leaders email major announcements is basic, at best. Consider videoconferencing, recorded interviews, or having leaders join department or team-level meetings to make it more personal.
As a rule of thumb: the more emotionally charged a message is likely to be, the more personal and frequent the messaging around it should be.
Part of preparing for an increased remote workforce will require clarity around how all teams fit into the grand scheme of things. Ensure communications and feedback protocols between groups are known. Issues need to get resolved in a timely manner.
Having a remote workforce will require going above and beyond to nullify any gaps. This includes having and sharing a plan for those who are not working remotely.
Assess resource distribution by reviewing your inventories. Also, be sure to keep an eye on employee sentiment. For example, slice engagement survey results by remote workers in different types of roles. Keep in mind that as things evolve, it will be important to track progress and support go-forward decisions around your remote workforce with actionable data.
Many social activities, for example, water cooler discussion, that happen in the office won’t occur by chance with remote workers.
Teams should be intentional about creating opportunities for social exchange. Virtual lunches where everyone joins a video conference while breaking bread can be a good way to keep up. Also consider baking in 5-10 minutes of banter to begin team meetings prior to diving into business.
Ensuring that the team is consistently moving in the right direction is difficult even when interacting on a daily basis. With the added variables that come with working remotely, teams should be more diligent about exchanging feedback. Managers asking for feedback can help the team stay focused on top priorities.
Expect team dynamics to shift as your employees transition into remote work. Some individuals will adjust quicker than their teammates. For some, it will take time to find their rhythm. Either way, everyone should expect growing pains as they adjust to new communication styles, schedules, expectations, and other variables that come with transitioning to remote work. If it feels like an easy transition early on, keep an eye on things as new challenges are likely to arise as time goes on.
Encourage individuals to find ways of holding themselves accountable. Pairing teammates on a videoconference to complete work tasks simultaneously can be a useful tactic. However, managers should be cautious not to appear as though they’re keeping tabs on people. Remote workers can feel pressure to prove to others they’re working. This can cause distrust and add to burnout risk because they’re “always on” trying to put up a façade of productivity.
Employees should have a physical space specifically set aside where they can work consistently. While not all employees will be able to have an ideal setup, things to consider when trying to optimize the space include privacy, noise, Wi-Fi connection strength, natural light, and a temperature-controlled area. The kitchen table will do in a pinch, but employees might want to think more strategically if they’re setting up for longer stretches of time.
Most employees will have kids, roommates, or significant others vying for attention and space in the same area. It’s important to have conversations with those people about where work boundaries exist. This might include having the designated workspace space be off-limits during certain times of the day. Keep in mind, those same people have needs too. Any ask on the employee’s part should expect reciprocation of the favor – especially when it comes to kids and spouses.
Remote worker burnout is a serious concern. Come up with a plan and stick to it consistently. Some workers might find adhering to an 8-5 schedule will work for them. Another way to assess whether employees put a full day’s work in is to set daily and weekly goals. When those goals are accomplished, they should shut it down. If the goals end up requiring too much time, they should adjust accordingly to find balance.
Those extra flights of stairs and long walk from the parking lot were a built-in way of keeping employees moving. Of course, it’d be optimal if employees get 30 minutes of gym time each day. If that’s not an option, consider more creative options. Having a one-on-one each day with a manger while walking is one option. Or employees can replace “commute” time with a jaunt around the block or up and down their stairs.
Employees should treat the beginning of their day as if it were any other day. Shower. Hair. Makeup. Breakfast. Whatever signals that sense of normalcy should be leveraged to create that daily queue. From there, have time set aside for daily tasks, team meetings, and even breaks throughout the day. The routine for a remote employee’s week can act as a guardrail for keeping their energy moving throughout.
Here are some parting thoughts from a few of our regular remote workers at Quantum Workplace.
"It's important to hop on a video call and just say hello—no different from walking past a desk and stopping by to just chat!"
Scott Schoenbrun | Account Executive
"Get up and move. If you keep forgetting, use a Slack reminder or calendar event to make sure you do. Without the coffee maker and break room, it's easy to zone in on a task and then realize that you haven't moved in 3 hours."
Sean Erickson | Senior Software Developer
"Make sure to take time for lunch and don't have lunch at your desk or at the computer. Take the time to re-energize with the lunch break. It’s really easy for me to just work through lunch and then have a snack so I constantly remind myself to do this."
Jason McEvoy | Senior Software Developer
"Take a walk, even just around the block. Also, work from a different location a morning or two a week. I even mean moving locations in your house, not necessarily a coffee shop."
Jarah Banks | Customer Experience Director
"On the "kids" note... We set up a "virtual recess" for my 4th grader and 4 of her friends from school. Basically, it's a Zoom meeting where they can talk about whatever it is they talk about for 30 minutes or so each week. For those of you who don't have kids in the house, virtual happy hour!"
Spencer Goracke | Account Executive
"Don't forget to walk away from your screen and take intentional breaks to move your body. That has been so critical to me!"
Alee George | Customer Success Manager Lead
"Having a designated space and going through the process of getting dressed like I was going to work is very important. I added a ton of orange accessories to my office when I started at Quantum Workplace to help remind me I was a part of something bigger!"
Stephanie Woodard | Controller
"Have a morning routine! Sometimes it’s hard to separate the day into work and family time. If you can get up and do what you would do if you were headed to an office, it gives you a good start to the ‘work’ day."
Matt Alaniz | Account Executive
Transitioning an entire organization to work remotely is a huge undertaking. And making sure you have the right resources to set your employees up for success is another burden to take on. We want to help you make this transition seamlessly and stress-free.
Download our free guide for Learning to Work Remotely to better manage, support, and engage your (unexpectedly) dispersed workforce.