Remote Work: Staying Connected, Positive and Productive in Times of Crisis
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Working from home is quickly becoming the new normal for many companies – even for those who did not traditionally offer telecommuting to employees.
Before the global pandemic of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, 29% of Americans could (or did) work from home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, with the need for social distancing, the number of people working from home is increasing by the thousands across the globe as the digital workplace becomes more of a requirement than a luxury.
Although traditionally, businesses may have required several weeks or even months to prepare their IT infrastructure and establish the type of team needed for remote work, time for these steps may no longer be an option. Many companies have been faced with a decision: go fully remote or close up shop entirely, which presents new challenges to a stressed out, and likely stretched-thin workforce.
The Challenges of Remote Work
Remote work presents several challenges that differ from a traditional work environment. For example, remote workers report increased issues with time management and self-management of IT troubleshooting tasks.
Even more challenging: when workers are geographically isolated, they report feeling informationally isolated as well. This may be due to a lack of access to resources they need, which can lead to compromised efficiency and increased anxiety over job performance.
Telecommuters also may experience increased stress and feelings of isolation, as well as decreased confidence, according to a recent report.
In short: morale may already be low as employees grapple with what the pandemic means for their families and work-life, and when transitioning to a remote workforce during this highly unusual time they may fall victim to some of the pitfalls of remote work more easily. Social isolation may be causing anxiety or panic in the workforce, and the move to work remote may feel like the next step into an unknown terrain.
These challenges, however, are not insurmountable and are not outweighed by the benefits of a remote work environment.
How to bring the office environment home and improve the remote work experience
Despite challenges, remote work also presents the opportunity for higher productivity, greater feelings of accomplishment and ownership of tasks, and greater work-life balance. In fact, one-third of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their satisfaction at work, according to a recent survey.
Giving employees the ability to work from home can also boost morale in the long run because of greater flexibility. Additionally, remote work contributes to the greater health initiative behind social distancing, and can help lower the spread of viruses, including COVID-19. Remote work capabilities can also help keep your team safe during other illnesses, natural disasters, or any future disruptions to your office environment.
With the right tools, such as a self-service portals for your employees, and procedures in place, switching your workforce from in-office to remote can be a positive business opportunity – even if temporarily and despite the circumstances.
Today we offer you three tips to consider in order to keep your workforce connected when working remotely or practicing social distancing.
Tip #1: Make teamwork and team collaboration a priority
One of the major benefits of an office environment is the ability to work closely and collaborate on projects or ideas. The physical environment naturally lends itself to brainstorming sessions and continual communication throughout the workday. This kind of open communication can lead to creative solutions in any project and, as a bonus, helps to improve employee confidence.
However, employees who work from home have reported greater feelings of isolation and separation from their team. To improve this, it is vital to make team collaboration and open communication a priority.
Software such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or even simply email can be useful tools to encourage sharing and teamwork. Video-chat software, such as Skype, is also a helpful tool to keep teams engaged even in remote environments.
Tip #2: Ensure that all tools and resources are available for personnel who will need them
Most companies are aware that IT infrastructure must be in place before employees can work remotely. But, knowledge management software and other tools to help easily navigate issues or projects are just as important for remote workers as IT infrastructure.
When employees can easily access the information they need to do their jobs, they will feel increased confidence in addition to increased satisfaction. However, being unable to access information can lead to feelings of frustration, disconnection, and distraction.
To help teams access information and do their job properly, it is important to have all of the tools or resources necessary in place. For example, a knowledge management system or self-service portal can empower employees working remotely to find the information they need without having to wait for replies from coworkers who are unavailable for any reason. This will keep productivity up and will lessen the opportunity for distraction.
Tip #3: Encourage teams to chat about things OTHER than work
It sounds counter-intuitive, but to increase productivity, you have to increase morale. To increase morale, you must bring the positive things about the office home. One of the benefits of working in an office setting is the comradery and the sense of community.
The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. It has caused increased anxiety in nearly all of us but ignoring the issue doesn’t make it go away. Rather than encouraging your workforce to become robotic, which is isolating, foster an environment where they can chat about things other than work. For example, they can share how they are doing or feeling about the changes going on, funny stories to take your mind off of how scary things seem. You could even have a virtual happy hour!
This can be done through the same chat methods that you already have in place, or you can set up a dedicated message board for your team to let loose.
Be patient, this will pass
Whether your team intended to be fully remote, or you were forced to become remote in an attempt to socially distance yourselves, remote work can be done smoothly and effectively. Be patient with your team in the adjustment period and look for ways to innovate and streamline your processes. Remember: this too shall pass – your team will soon work remotely with ease.
Krista Lyons is the Content Marketing Manager at EasyVista, and manages the EasyVista blog. She has a background in journalism and writing, and has contributed articles to major publications and websites. She enjoys all things tech, and loves reading about AI, robots, and automation.