Working remotely can be invigorating but there’s a reason why we don’t do it permanently.
If we’re forced to work remotely for a long period, how do we overcome the effects of isolation?
Working together in an office has many social benefits. You participate in office banter and enjoy your office culture. Whether you mentor someone or are being mentored, the ability to develop and learn together is strained when those casual interactions disappear.
Managing a Team Remotely is More Challenging
If you manage staff who have responsibilities, how do you know they are being achieved? How do you have a ‘gentle’ conversation? Written emails struggle to convey humor and can be open to misinterpretation.
Meetings can be even more difficult if it looks like someone is distracted by what’s around them - tv, kids playing, dog running around, etc. - or by a loved one also at home.
If you are working from home, you need to get your work done and meet your obligations. You still want to be paid as normal, even though the organization will be limping along in these uncertain times. We must find new ways to get our jobs done, together, as a team.
Charles IT Tips for Remote Work
Banter and noise. You learn so much from hearing what’s going on, whether at your desk or the coffee machine. We recommend an office banter channel in Teams or Yammer (in our office it’s just called ‘Everyone/General’ and we have a Yammer group called ‘Just for Fun’) – Make sure people know its okay to be informal. Encourage conversations.
Jokes. They can be hard to judge in email or Teams, be careful with them. It needs to be obviously funny to avoid accidentally offending someone.
Respect colleagues’ times. Even with the green/orange/red indicators in Teams, it’s harder to see if someone is busy or available. Start a message with ‘Hi, are you free for a moment?’ or my favorite check ‘On Screen?’ Don’t expect an immediate answer. When you get into a conversation with a colleague, reply to that person quickly. Rather than trying to multi-task, act as you would if you were talking in-person. Many times in the office these chats can go unanswered because subconsciously if it’s important they can walk over. Chats remove the need to up for an answer.
Try to use video where possible. 55% of communication remains expressive with body language and tone. A video call and a smile go a long way! If you are planning to work remotely for some time, that connection will be important.
Reread your message. Especially if you are expressing frustration. This is a danger zone for remote work. Keep in mind, this might not be the right medium to share feedback. Emails have a horrible habit of being forwarded (you shouldn't – there is a breach of trust if you forward on emails clearly only meant for you to read). Sometimes those emails are also best left for a while, reviewed and re-written.
Ask. If someone sends you a message you don’t understand, ask them what they mean. Call them if you need to - this is just like walking over to them if you had been in the office.
Use an Agenda. If you have a few things to talk about with a colleague, send them an agenda so you can both work through matters efficiently. Teams meetings or calls work great here.
Mute yourself. Do this when you are on conference calls if you aren’t speaking. No one else needs to hear your dog barking or your neighbor mowing their lawn.
If You are Managing a Remote Team...
Support them to understand their accountabilities and objectives. When they are done, help them to unplug and revert to their normal home life.
You can’t see them, so check on them electronically. Make sure they are ok, especially at the start of each day and as they sign-off. The simple ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ ritual is just basic etiquette! Set aside time in your day to check in regularly with your team. Make sure you keep them focused and be aware of the impact of isolation. Let them know they aren’t alone. A little small talk goes a long way! (You’ll be thankful for the rapport and human connection during long work remote stints)
Help them navigate distractions. The danger is people getting distracted with chores around the house or supporting family members. Make sure the chores aren’t done in work time, but you will need to be flexible to family members. We recommend an outcomes-based approach. It’s important that all team members feel they are carrying the load and responsibility fairly rather than it falling unevenly because one or two colleagues aren’t playing their part.
Don’t forget your regular one-to-ones or team meetings. You must keep your regimes running.
The good thing about working remotely is that you don’t have to worry about traffic on the way to work! It’s not all bad!
Let us help you get this right. Take our Readiness Assessment to see how ready you are!