Many businesses around the world are now shifting from the traditional workplace to remote working primarily due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. Although many of us are now rejoicing because we finally get to spend time at home, decades of telecommuting research tells us that the real challenge is just starting.
Difficulty in transitioning from office work to remote working is perfectly normal. Many companies and teams have had to redefine how they function. How teams tackle challenges have a big impact on their productivity. Here are some challenges teams will change and some recommendations on how to tackle them.
New Communication Norms
In the normal office setting, sharing information personally is normal. Going to your teammate’s cubicle to discuss a project or just chatting with them is perfectly normal. Getting advice, asking for clarifications or conversations are done face-to-face. According to research, these types of interactions helps employees understand their teams and prevents members from feeling isolated.
Teams that are now working from home need to form new communication norms that can easily accommodate their needs. Some teams use video conferencing apps like Zoom for video conferencing and messaging services in order to constantly keep in touch.
At first calling teammates via cellphone will feel weird because it is not normally practiced in the office. However, working-at-home will be the new normal until infection rates subside so calling or texting a teammate during office hours is perfectly acceptable. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate even if it feels wrong at first.
Finding a communication norm for a company or team takes trial and error. Don’t be afraid to try something new and to leave room for experimentation.
Managing Work-Life Confects
During the pre-Covid-19 days, managing work and home was very easy. Employees can keep their professional and private lives separate because they are in the office during working hours and at home during rest which helps to limit conflict between the two. However, the shift from office work to remote working has blurred the lines and erased the boundaries of our responsibilities.
People who work from home with kids will find it harder than those without to manage remote working. It is normal for young children to think that you are “off” since you’re at home all the time. In order to limit conflict between personal and professional life, remote workers need to negotiate with supervisors and managers for flexibility in terms of working hours. It is essential to find a schedule that balances both responsibilities: work and family.
Once the schedule is set, employees should communicate with managers how and when they can be reached for work matters.
To make it easier to work remotely, employees should avoid working in areas of the home used for relaxation. This is especially important for those without home offices. Furthermore, getting the family involved by telling them your work-at-home schedule can help prevent interruptions and set boundaries with your housemates.
New Kind of Supervision
When employees work from home, it is normal for supervisors and managers to think that they are not pulling their weight. This is because it is hard to monitor remote workers. Even though there are jobs are quantifiable based on output, there are those that don’t. For instance, project managers can issue a project that covers several days or weeks. This kind of deliverable makes limits the opportunity for monitoring.
A common mistake among managers is to closely monitor remote workers in order to compensate for lack of direct observation. This can backfire because managers don’t know what’s going on in the lives of remote employees. For instance an employee might not be able to work efficiently because they have to take care of a sick child and is planning to compensate by working on the weekend.
Instead of focusing on how employees work, managers should explain why their work is important. During this uncertain times, employees might forget what their work means especially since the context has changed.
Studies show that workers who are focused on the “why” are more likely to explore creative possibilities in their work. Therefore, shifting from traditional office work to working remotely impacts how teams function fundamentally.
The challenges above will take time to resolve. Misunderstanding and miscommunication should be expected. For this reason, it is important to be understanding and flexible with one another during this transition period. Teams should also focus on building new effective work norms for the new normal.