Make Remote Working Work for your Organisation
Mar 19, 2020
LSPR's Training Director, Dalal Nageh has compiled a list of action plans to facilitate the process
The situation with the Covid-19 is causing an unprecedented change globally and impacting our working lives.
Organisations have swiftly had to adapt, implementing measures for employees, as well as management, to work remotely.
As part of your crisis planning, it is advisable to put in place remote-working policies that take into account events that impact people working from an office. These plans and policies will need to remain flexible and adaptable, to take into consideration a rapidly changing landscape.
Where possible, training comes in useful to help people prepare for such scenarios. This form of preparation, however, is not always feasible. Keep in mind that during this period there are measures that can be actioned to help improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees.
In order to find solutions, identify the main challenges of remote working:
- Access to information: usually information sought from co-workers can take time. Waiting for answers even to simple question can be delayed compared to face to face interaction.
- Not having face-to-face supervision: this concern is voiced from both team members as well as managers. Managers have concerns that employees will not be working as hard, or as efficiently. Employees find it hard to cope with reduced input or access to their managers for support and solutions.
- Interpersonal misunderstandings can occur between employees: the tone of an email may be misunderstood and under the usual face to face situation, you will understand that person may be under stress. It is harder for us to read things within context when working remotely.
- The perception that distractions from home comforts take away from productivity and efficiency: the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in due to the Covid-19 outbreak means many workers with children having to factor in children being off school. These are unplanned circumstances and need to be considered. Employees will be dealing with creating work spaces and possibly shifts around childcare to accommodate fulfilling their employment obligations. Others will be considering how to share work with others at home, or wondering how they can remain motivated if working alone.
- Keeping data and information secure and having access to technical support
- The challenge of physical and social isolation: inevitably employees will miss the social interaction with colleagues. The remoteness can create a sense of isolation and loneliness.
After having covered the possible challenges, it is important to realise that there are solutions that are actionable to ensure that remote learning works for your organisation now, and in the future:
- Utilise technology to create remote connections: provide channels of communication via technological connections that is beyond emails. For example video conferencing, which will help reduce the sense of isolation amongst teams. It provides a platform for people to express themselves and discuss issues in a virtual face-to-face environment. Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams offer great features for remote meetings.
- Arrange regular one-to-one and team calls ins: make these structured, consistent and anticipated.
- Establish a framework for the frequency of the meetings and connectedness: this helps set expectations and establish rules of engagement, so all employees follow the same rules of expectations.
- Make time for virtual social chit chat and catching up with each other: this lightens the mood and helps people feel connected and less isolated. Think about it. We don't spend a standard day in the office glued to our computers. Social interaction on topics outside of work help break the day up and helps us clear our heads to maintain productivity when we do focus on our work.
- Offer emotional support: take time to listen to concerns and anxieties and emphasise with their worries and work with them to help them through any stress they may be feeling. Asking simple questions on how they are and how the remote setting is working for them will help them feel supported and nurtured. Once you have asked them the questions, listen carefully to their concerns. Allow them the time and space to express themselves to you. Listen carefully to the response, and briefly restate it back to the employee, to ensure that you understood correctly. Allow the focus to be on them and not on you. If a manager communicates stress and helplessness, this will have what Daniel Goleman calls a “trickle-down” effect on employees.
- Be an effective leader and extend the emotional support: acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also providing affirmation of their confidence in their teams, using phrases such as “we’ve got this,” or “this is tough, but I know we can handle it,” or “let’s look for ways to use our strengths during this time.” With this support, employees are more likely to take up the challenge with a sense of purpose and focus.
There are benefits to be gained during these unusual and difficult times. It takes a creative and determined mindset to overcome the obstacles, push past boundaries, find new solutions and survive this period of uncertainty
Dalal Nageh, March 19th 2020
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