The last couple of months have seen a massive shift in employees worldwide working remotely. While there are many industries in which this was already the norm, an unprecedented amount of staff traditionally office-bound have adjusted to working in a completely different environment.
To say that many were unprepared for such a swift change would be an understatement. I’d make the case that this shift has been not only dramatic but problematic as well. Anytime provisions are made on the fly, mistakes are made, proper communication is put on hold, and employees are left confused.
What we are experiencing today isn’t the norm for remote work: work/life balance is thrown out the window with staff stuck at home with bored kids, energetic pets, and the stress of a worldwide pandemic on top of it all.
As a business leader, it can be challenging to decipher how best to navigate the ‘new normal.’
Let’s review some things to consider.
Perhaps the most critical aspect of any organization is the ability to communicate effectively from within. When staff is offsite, this is even more so the case, especially because the in-person communication staff is used to didn’t prepare them for working from other locations. It is for this reason that leaders need to accommodate and offer simple and effective ways to converse, for example, video conferencing and instant messaging. While these technologies are beneficial, it should be noted that there will no doubt be lapses in communication thanks to the new mode of working and added stress.
While it is difficult to replace the effectiveness of in-person conversations, the use of regular activities like team check-ins and weekly meetings will help ensure everyone is on the same page and productive. Of course, as we know, back to back meetings can be draining, so try to limit the number and the overall time so as not to overwhelm participants.
The truth of the matter is everyone is pretty stressed right now. No matter the exact reason for that stress, leaders need to be understanding and wary of this fact. Also, consider that some employees may be overwhelmed with work, others may have very little to do remotely, and some may be struggling to focus altogether. We simply cannot expect someone who usually works in an office setting to suddenly work those same hours from home while balancing their mental and physical health, as well as the health of their family members. Consider giving employees a bit more freedom when it comes to what they feel they can and cannot accomplish and what time of the day they can be most productive. While having structure is helpful, in this case, leaders need to trust that their staff will accomplish what they need to when they can.
One thing that should never be overlooked in a remote work situation is security. Just like at the office, implement firewalls, utilize strong passwords, and protect networks. Cybercriminals are on the prowl with COVID-19 themed phishing schemes, convincing people to ‘donate’ money or download malware. It is for this reason, email security and employee training must be enhanced. Chances are, staff will be distracted and less likely to spot a phishing email – remind them what to look for and share current examples that are likely to hit their inboxes.
The past couple of months have been traumatic and not exactly easy, but once everything returns to some semblance of normalcy, I think we’ll see many staying home regardless. If we can overcome the challenges associated with remote work now, it will only make it easier for the future.