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We've been into this for a few weeks now, but still, many are finding that there are challenges in working from home (by the way, there's now a hashtag for this... #WFH). For folks like me, this is nothing new... I've been working from home since 2005, but for others, this new normal is anything but.
Some of the most common challenges of remote working are:
Missing the dynamic that comes from face to face team meetings.
Let's face it, no screen can replace the "vibe" that comes from employees being together. We were meant to be in community, so not having the opportunity to shake hands, give a hug or even a pat on the back has us all collectively missing each other. Yes, there are efficiency benefits to remote meetings, but they don't outweigh the relational benefits.
The feeling of isolation.
Not to be Johnny Raincloud, but I’m in my office...alone. It doesn’t matter how many remote meetings I have during the day, as soon as I sign off, I’m by myself. In a normal world, that feeling of isolation can get to me (that’s why I got a dog years ago). Today, that feeling of isolation is accentuated, and it's being shared by all of us.
My routine is off.
For now, gone are the days of “my routine”. Leave home, hit Starbucks, get to the office, check email, have a staff meeting, etc. For some of us, the new routine has not settled in yet. Beyond that, we’re faced with the need to learn new workforce management tools, staff management techniques, and even the creation of a company work from home policy. Learning new communication expectations at work seems to be at an all time high.
Distractions at home.
Because we're stuck at home, the distractions seem endless... Kids, lagging Wi-Fi or cell signals, Amazon and UPS deliveries, neighbors doing yard work.. the list goes on. Then of course, there are the self imposed distractions: social media, texts, Candy Crush. What do we have to do to avoid getting distracted? Add this question to the plate of new things to consider.
Well, believe it or not, there is a way to transition from “what used to be” to this current reality. As someone who not only has been working from home for 15 years, but has also managed remote teams effectively, here are some practical tips for keeping things going.
Tips for Working & Managing Remotely:
Create rhythm and routine:
Nature itself shows us that rhythm and routine (sunrise, sunset, the coming and going of seasons, etc.) helps bring balance. In the same way, individuals and teams should create these same predictable patterns. For individuals, schedule out your day: when you’ll wake up, when you’ll be at your desk, when you’ll exercise, etc. For teams, implement daily and weekly check ins. Patrick Lencioni’s “Death By Meeting” is a great framework for this. It can be implemented remotely, and be a great workforce time management tool for right now and beyond.
Set “House Rules”:
Yes, it’s not you just working at home, it’s the entire family. Still, guard rails will keep the expectations in line. Develop guidelines and boundaries with the family. For example, “When Mom’s door is closed, don’t knock. It means I’m on a call”. Or, “When you have a ZOOM call with your team, give everyone else a 30 minute warning so we can prepare to be quiet”. These kinds of guidelines, developed together, can help keep the conflict down to a minimum.
Provide and TRAIN on Communication Technology:
For those of us used to video conferencing and other technology communication tools, we forget that for many working professionals, these tools are new. If you want to improve communication between staff, don’t just provide the information. Make sure to take the time to train the new adopters on how to effectively use it.
Create social interactions:
We benefit from the social side of work as much as anything else. When we went to work, we’d enjoy breaks, lunches, birthday celebrations, etc. So, work to create those social contact scenarios via remote tools. Your team will benefit from being able to socially interact with each other. Set up virtual coffee breaks, happy hours, or even game times. I recently conducted a virtual scavenger hunt that was a smash. Or try skribbl.io, an online pictionary type game. These fun times of staff interaction will be of tremendous help in the days to come.
We don’t know how long this will last. What we do know is that we need each other to get through it. In times like these, sometimes it helps just to have an objective source to go to, someone who will listen, ask questions, and help give proper perspective.
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