The global coronavirus has jolted the entire world. From this pandemic, new realities shape work:
- Social distancing,
- online (virtual) work,
- essential businesses, etc.
These concepts reinvent where and how to work by exploring and requiring working remotely. A few years ago, the home office was a unique place to work. Now, it is a dominant reality for nearly every organisation.
Four challenges and solutions to working at home
How do I manage my time at work vs. time with family? How do I connect with others? How do I build trust and relationships? How do I make sure my work gets noticed? From this work, leaders should pay attention to four challenges with remote workers.
- Finding the right work-life balance
Working at home removes traditional boundaries of going to and from work, creates pressures of doing work while managing children (especially when children face school closings), and requires discipline to avoid other distractions (e.g., television, internet, food, and family matters).
Leaders encourage working at home employees to set work norms and routines (e.g., respond to calls within a time frame, find private space to work) and to prioritize tasks that have to be done.
- Overcoming workplace isolation
Social isolation is a leading cause of mortality and working at home often distances employees from each other. Leaders can promote interactions among team members with frequent contacts (email, video calls), provide coaching and mentoring by personal “check-ins” on how employees are doing, and encourage employees to connect.
- Compensating for the lack of face-to-face communication
Cognitive and emotional trust often comes from face-to-face interactions. And those are more difficult when working at home. To compensate, leaders can do video contacts. Employees can show their personalities by wearing hats, setting backgrounds, or sharing personal moments.
- 4. Compensating for lack of visibility
Employees want to know how they are doing and to have their contributions recognized. These celebration moments often occur through casual and straightforward comments in the office. Leaders can be conscious of celebrating success in remote settings by sharing success stories, offering personal comments to remote employees, sharing best practices, and giving credit to employees who deliver results. Positive performance conversations can occur remotely and frequently to help employees feel visible.
When leaders recognize and deal with these four challenges, remote workers feel less isolated, experience more connection, and increase productivity and wellbeing.
Three critical success factors for finding opportunity in working at home:
- believe (meaning),
- become (learning and growing),
- and belong (feeling part of a community).
Coordination focuses on specific tasks. By breaking down an overall project into specific tasks, a remote worker can focus on a unique task. Then combine that task into the whole project to feel more connected. We have called this work task planning that evolves workforce planning. Coordination also comes when sub-teams are assigned a job and work together to report to a larger group. Leaders can consistently probe, “how are we doing at making sure we work together as a team?”
Without a doubt, leaders need to communicate even more. This means developing protocols to stay in touch with remote employees, have virtual meetings at times that work for remote employees, share even more information, and engage in formal and informal communications. Leaders can continually ask remote employees, “how well do you know what is happening to the organization and how you fit in with it?”
We have defined the “right” culture as the firm’s identity is key to customers’ minds. This means that culture defines an organization’s brand, identity, or reputation with key customers. For remote workers, making sure that customer promises (e.g., for innovation, service, relationships) show how remote workers are treated. Leaders can monitor how the external commitments show up in internal working relationships by asking, “how well are we modeling what we promise our customers?”
Companies that thrive have a holistic approach to working at home. Through attending to coordination, communication, and culture, employees find more belief (meaning and purpose), becoming (learning and growing), and belonging (feeling part of the community).
Written by Dave Ulrich and Julio Zelaya