The COVID-19 outbreak is predicted to drastically change the fundamental operations of a lot of businesses for the foreseeable future. As governments from all over the world are imposing lockdowns to promote social distancing, it cannot be denied that remote work is now the “new normal” for employees.
Corporate leaders, managers, and individual workers are scrambling to keep up with this sudden shift. The truth is, not a lot of companies have the right infrastructure to make the abrupt shift to remote work.
However, regardless of the firm’s readiness, working from home is now becoming an integral fabric of an employee’s working life, whether they like it or not. Thus, organizations need to find ways to embrace remote work and make it better for their employees during this trying time.
The sudden transition to remote work
Whenever remote work gets mentioned, people usually conjure up all kinds of notions, such as people working in their pajamas or employees slacking off at home.
Even in this day and age, traditional organizations still subscribe to the notion that employees need to sit in an office cubicle from nine to five in order to get things done. These are the kinds of organizations that are expected to have a difficult time transitioning to a work from home setup.
The first step to achieve a smooth transition to a remote work setup is to dispel the wrong assumptions and inherent bias that the organization has about remote work.
Remote work is getting a bad reputation even though it’s actually the uncompromising organizational policies that are causing the disruption to the transition.
Keep in mind that a productive remote work policy starts at the top management. Executives need to learn how to straighten non-remote friendly behaviors and start institutionalizing inclusive remote work processes.
The effects of the new policies will eventually trickle down to make the work from home setup a success for every employee.
Busting the Myths of Remote Work
Trello, a web-based Kanban-style productivity application, came up with a comprehensive guide on remote work and identified the “myths” surrounding remote work:
MYTH 1: Remote workers are slackers.
People have a perception that if they don’t physically see someone at their own cubicle doing their work, then they are not actually getting things done. Or even worse, they are slacking off while on the job.
It’s important to note that employees tend to slack off regardless of whether they are at home or in the office if their managers have not properly communicated expectations and deadlines to the team.
Employees need to understand the work they are responsible for (goals) from the get-go and when these things need to be done (deadlines). It is only until then that they will work accordingly. They also need to check-in with regular status updates on their projects so they would not be deemed as “slackers” no matter where they are.
COVID-19 REMOTE WORK GUIDELINE:
Besides using a chat tool for work like Microsoft Teams, Googles Hangouts, or Slack, managers can also have a weekly video call check-in with their team. Weekly check-in meetings with the whole team can help foster camaraderie even while employees are social distancing at home.
It also helps managers answer questions that employees may have and learn if any setbacks may hinder an employee’s productivity during the quarantine.
MYTH 2: It is up to the remote worker to continually prove they are working.
A lot of the “new” remote workers today may feel like they need to be constantly online and be visible to prove to their superiors that they are working.
These employees may feel that they need to be part of every work chat discussions. They may also feel overly concerned when their work notifications were left unanswered for more than a few minutes.
The pressure to fulfill these arbitrary rules only adds unnecessary anxiety to the new remote workers. Instead of just concentrating on their work, they are now continually worrying about how their work ethic is perceived.
COVID-19 REMOTE WORK GUIDELINE:
Anxieties like these are amended once the concept of remote work is normalized in the organization. Companies must understand that remote workers do not need to be glued to their laptops just so they can attest that they are doing their jobs.
Employees should be given some time alone to concentrate on their work. They can even use a status update in their chat tool to indicate their availability.
MYTH 3: Remote work means company culture suffers.
Companies are wary of remote work because they may feel that company culture may suffer due to the lack of social interaction among employees. Thus, team camaraderie may not be established. While it’s true that there are no casual pantry or hallway interactions for remote teams, organizations can come up with other ways to foster social interactions with remote workers.
COVID-19 REMOTE WORK GUIDELINE:
Non-verbal cues are one of the essential elements of face-to-face interactions. This is why video calls are necessary to build relationships among co-workers. Managers can set up virtual coffee breaks with their remote work employees at home and take a break from discussing anything work-related. This is a great way to catch up with co-workers and give updates on each other’s lives while on quarantine.
MYTH 4: Remote workers are available at all times of the day.
It’s easy to assume that while employees are all under lockdown at home, they are available at everyone’s beck and call at all times. This is unmistakably false. Companies with standard guidelines for remote work will often set strict working hours, similar to a typical office setup.
Employees are encouraged to communicate with their co-workers only during their available working hours. They are also encouraged to take proper lunch breaks and set up an official workspace at home while on community quarantine.
COVID-19 REMOTE WORK GUIDELINE:
Create a team bulletin board that tracks an employee’s workday availability. Employees can also use this board to track deadlines, project updates, and relay important information. This will make it easier for remote workers to find out whether someone is currently available.
Here’s a list of work from home tips from seasoned remote workers who are living a successful and effective work from home setup:
TIP 1: “Going” to work symbolically.
Remote work will often blur the boundaries between an employee’s personal and professional life. Starting an employee’s workday involves more than getting out of bed. Remote workers also need to have a work mode mindset.
A dedicated workspace will help employees get into the habit of working from home. It will also help them stay focused. Working in a chaotic house with kids and housemates up and about will only distract remote workers from doing their job at home.
If employees can’t set aside a physical space to work from home, they can at least do so mentally. Use a pair of good headphones to shut out the outside world or impose a strict “do not disturb” policy and treat a portion of your home as a “real” office space.
TIP 2: Setting your own pace: sprint or marathon.
To be a successful remote worker, employees need to know what kind of work pacing will keep them productive and identify whether they are a sprinter or marathoner.
A sprinter will usually do the following:
- Work in small and intense periods, thereby getting work done in significant chunks.
- Need little breaks every so often to be refreshed throughout the workday.
While a marathoner will usually:
- Stay focus for a more extended period before taking a break.
- Work best for a long and uninterrupted period to get into the zone and concentrate.
However, other remote workers are a mix of the two. Some will work for a long time in the morning while they take long breaks in the afternoon. It should be noted that there’s no wrong approach to staying productive. Employees should work based on their natural pace.
TIP 3: Bending the rules by being flexible enough with the needs of employees.
During the lockdown period on the COVID-19 outbreak, remote workers tend to be glued to their work stations all day. Some even stay there even while they are taking their breaks. This kind of setup is not sustainable and may lead to burnout.
Employees need to learn how to be flexible enough and take care of other pursuits besides their work. They can block out their lunch breaks and take some time off to start a new hobby while in self-isolation.
TIP 4: Staying focused even while you’re away from your desk.
Remote workers need to find a way to stay focused even while they step away from their work areas. Even while they are trapped at home, employees still need to mix up their schedules a little to avoid cabin fever. They can do several chores at home and be ready to get back in the zone to work after a much-deserved break.
TIP 5: Ditching multitasking.
Multitasking has long been a buzzword for work productivity gurus. Aside from exceptional individuals, multitasking is clearly not for everyone. Research shows that doing more than one task at a time will actually take a toll on productivity. To concentrate on their job more, some remote workers often only check incoming emails once every hour, instead of looking at every email once it arrives.
TIP 6: Communicating whenever possible.
Communication is the key to productive work from home setup. Make sure that managers have arranged weekly video call meetings with their team. Project updates also need to be done regularly. Keeping open lines of communication will help the team be more productive and effective even if there’s only minimal supervision.
TIP 7: Setting output-based KPIs.
Companies that positively reward outputs with excellent results from their employees will surely attract and train people to be productive anywhere. Keep in mind that a proper transition to remote work means that expectations about work productivity also need to be changed.
Ultimately, a productive remote worker needs to be self-disciplined. Setting output-based KPIs will ensure that employees are still getting their work done, but they can do so under minimal supervision.
Content Hacker is here to help your firm navigate the complexities of working and marketing amidst a global health crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak.
It’s essential for the organization to still remain fully functional despite the sudden transition to a work from home setup. As seasoned remote workers, we can provide expert advice for small firms on how to work remotely, and at the same time, we can also help your firm market and sell in times of crisis.
Schedule a free consultation and get in touch now!
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How to Embrace Remote Work. (2020). Info.trello.com. Retrieved 18 April 2020, from https://bre.is/qrQerT5n
Neely, T. (2020). 15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 18 April 2020, from https://hbr.org/2020/03/15-questions-about-remote-work-answere