With over one-third of the global population in a lockdown, COVID-19 pandemic has turned into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. And India is no exception to this. With the 21-day lockdown still on and the uncertainty of how long this could go on, companies are left with no choice but to switch to remote work or shut their operations down.
While there’s no denying that remote working is the need of the hour to control the spread of Coronavirus and to support the economy, it is no cakewalk. Most companies, managers and employees are new to the remote culture, leading to a rather rocky transition.
Challenges of Working Remotely
Some of the major challenges that companies are facing right now are:
Reduced Sense of Belonging
Working miles apart, where there are no shared coffee or tea breaks, no shared jokes, and no random conversations, can lead to a disconnect between the team. As is the case with 58% of remote workers. This translates directly to a reduced sense of belonging to the company and detachment from the team as well as the work. Over time, this can lead to the employee wishing to switch ships.
As an offshoot of the first challenge, isolation creeps in when employees work remotely for too long. An average person spends a large portion of their day at work. So, technically, they spend the maximum time in a week with their colleagues and one-third of their life at work. However, while working remotely, these dynamics change. And this can lead to employees feeling lonely, one of the leading causes of depression.
Communication becomes one of the biggest challenges in geographically dispersed teams. What team members don’t realise is that remote work requires them to sometime state the obvious and overcommunicate because there’s not much that the entire team mutually knows of. And this leads to negative views amongst one another. Research says that the lack of “mutual knowledge” among remote workers translates to a lower willingness to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt in difficult situations.
So, what can be done?
Tips to combat the challenges of Remote Work
As a leader or manager, you too may be facing the aforementioned challenges while dealing with your remote team. But they can be overcome, with certain focussed efforts. Here’s are some tips to boost your team’s more morale and engagement, so that the remote culture doesn’t affect your team’s productivity or efficiency:
Communication Over-communication is the Key
Dispersed team members often get caught inside their own shells, with no connection with their teammates. The best way is to keep the communication going, especially face-to-face. Encourage video conferencing for brainstorming, discussing tasks and catch-up calls. These help in building relationships, strategizing and vision-casting and resolving complex problems or conflicts. When team members work in isolation, it is your duty as a manager or leader to share individual goals and map them to team goals and company goals. Lest a sense of disorientation sets in amongst the employees. Connect individual tasks to bigger functions make employees feel valued and also make them aware of each other’s contribution to the team. So, setting up an efficient video conferencing channel is essential.
At the same time, keep the conversation going on your designation communication and task management channels. For instance, if you use Slack, request for updates, check-up on employees from time to time and initiate conversations.
#Tip 2: Connect beyond work
Once you have your communication channels sorted, don’t limit conversations to professional topics only. Rather, extend them to conduct random conversations, and boost morale. For instance, GitLab pairs its employees for randomised video calls and conducts virtual coffee breaks to keep the communication flowing. Similar, customer support service, Help Scout, does “troop talks” where team members do make a tour of their workspaces.
Schedule time for activities beyond work, like online quizzes and video games, a strategy effectively used by 100% remote company Clevertech. Not just for gaming, teams can connect for sessions that around their health and well-being, team-building and motivation. You can even seek professional help for conducting these.
#Tip 3: Be there for your employees
A casual pat-on-the-back and “good job” that you give your employees act as positive reinforcement, motivating them to continue their efforts. However, this encouragement and motivation go missing in a remote culture. Tools or practices that encourage peer-to-peer appreciation, manager feedback systems and remote rewards can boost employee morale drastically. Not just that, it motivates employees to do better.
Apart from this, the employees must know that their managers and leaders are there for them. Schedule one-on-one meetings with employees on a regular basis focussed not only on progress but also well-being, especially now. It is crucial that their listen anxieties and concerns are heard and their struggles are empathised with. External help, in-house counsellors should also be made available for them, if required.
#Tip 4: Promote Well-being and Routine
Remote culture allows employees to manage their time and work as per their convenience, to an extent. Unlike the popular misconception that people slack off due to this, what actually ends up happening is that employees get out of routine and discipline. This leads to them finding it difficult to unplug and balance their personal and professional life, the greatest challenge of remote work listed by employees according to Buffer. People tend to work late-nights, mess up their sleep schedules adversely impacting their health.
As the leader, your key role is to specify expectation, official working hours and schedules. Encourage a culture of strict adherence to work hours and don’t reward people for pulling all-nighters! (unlike the popular culture). Apart from that, encourage employees to focus on health and fitness, workout and even try meditation and Yoga. The discipline that they learn to follow from these activities inevitably translates to their professional space too. To further promote this, you can even schedule home-work out sessions for the entire team to take part in, conducted by experts.
We can help!
We understand that these are trying times and the elongated work-from-home situation can be challenging for your business. And we are here to help. We’ve created a special remote-program called, Managing Remote Teams during Uncertain Times. This program is led by our expert trainers, nutritionists and mental well-being professionals where we conduct 45-minute long sessions that broadly cover:
- Managing Wellness at Home – Physical, Mental & Emotional
- Maintaining healthy habits
- Engaging team members remotely
If you think your team can benefit from these, let us know that you are interested, by filling out this form and we’ll take it from there.
Hope we are able to help you sail through these tough times and come out a better, stronger team!