Organizations worldwide are asking their employees to work from home using remote measures during this deadly outbreak of coronavirus. For employees who have never worked remotely—this is quite a challenge.
There exist some of the categories an employee might belong to. First, working from home is a chance to be more productive and focused. Second category employees can work efficiently in a remote setting, although, first of all, they have to bring their house in order. And the third category of people is those for whom remote working is entirely a chaotic experience.
Now here comes the good news. Even if you belong to the third group of people, there are still many ways to get yourself swung into action. There are many tools, tips, and resources, enabling you to adapt to this new normal soon.
The purpose of writing this article is to share some tips and tricks on how to work from home effectively. I have incorporated some of the best advice and practices from my partners and members as well. I will also provide a rundown of some of the best software tools enabling you to become focused and productive in your team’s alignment.
Establishing Proper Processes
Sometimes employees falsely believe that just by getting connected to their team through remote tools, work productivity would remain the same as the in-office setting. Sadly, this is not the case. To remain aligned with your team and contribute in a meaningful way, you need to embrace properly defined work processes.
It becomes the duty of a remote-team manager to define the rules of engagement and workflow procedures for his team well in advance. Team members should not hesitate to ask the manager even the trivial questions like—whom to report in your absence, what to do if there is any dependency, what to do with an existing workflow if new urgent work is assigned, and so.
Managers must realize that only by empowering their team members will they feel confident in a remote setting. Establishing proper processes in a remote environment ensures that work does not get hampered in the absence of leadership.
Process building includes defining the structure and direction of the workflow. It enhances collaboration, brings transparency, gives a push to efficiency.
The manager might start by recognizing the redundancies and risk-zones in the workflow. In collaboration with his team, a manager is expected to define the worst-case and best-case scenarios.
Implementation of key performance indicators is also crucial as it helps identify errors, bottlenecks, and critical dependencies. Tasks can be automated by using powerful software utilities such as JIRA or Monday.
Clearly defined workflows bring satisfaction and loyalty among remote workers. The team remains on the same page, and there is a reduction in the chances of risks.
Schedule Regular Individual and Team Meetings
Good communication is the bedrock of collaboration. The main challenge in a remote setting is to communicate across the geographic locations and sometimes even across the time-zones. Keeping team members aligned on the project is relatively easier to preach than to follow.
Often remote teams are composed of members located in various time-zones. It becomes the manager’s duty to find a ‘time window’ where everyone can meet virtually through video conferencing tools. Team meetings can be organized on a weekly, monthly, or daily basis, depending upon the project’s significance. However, a regular pattern has to be followed zealously.
Video conferencing team meetings act as a platform where teams can share achievements and challenges. Moreover, team members feel accountable and transparent. By having regular team meetings—a manager can keep a tab on the challenges before the team and collaboratively bring solutions the moment any challenge arrives.
Several video conferencing tools exist that have become quite popular in the times of coronavirus. Skype is one such powerful video conferencing utility that has been with us for a long time. It enables one-on-one and team video conferencing features. Users can also share files, codes, etc.
Google, too has come up with its videoconferencing tool known as Google Meet. It is available to be utilized right from Gmail. The mobile app also exists for Google Meet.
Another video conferencing utility that has gained immense popularity is Zoom. You can get these tried according to the specific business requirements of your organization.
While having team meetings, make sure that the brief of the conference is maintained painstakingly. These brief pointers are vital because the delegation of personal responsibilities can be done through them.
The manager should avoid the cancellation of meetings. Those meetings that were planned well in advance must never be canceled, postponed, or rescheduled—except in extreme conditions. If managers start becoming lethargic on this point, it will make other team members feel neglected and trivial.
Sometimes personal one-to-one meetings should also be held to discuss the challenges and problems of individual team members. Some of the employees might feel hesitant in front of all other employees. They might speak up their mind in one-on-one meetings.
The manager should maintain his brief after each of the meeting sessions and ask himself:
- Are teammates happy with their work?
- Do they feel inspired to do what they are assigned to do?
- Am I able to solve my team members’ challenges?
If a manager pays sufficient attention to his remote team, then he can avoid small problems to become bigger mess-ups in the future. One way to make sure that your employees are engaged and having fun at work is by conducting virtual team building activities.
Taking Care Of Yourself
The above two tips were regarding how to conduct oneself professionally in a remote team. This pointer is related to self-care.
While working from home, an employee might feel unmotivated, anxious, frustrated, stressed, isolated, lonely, or a combination of all these traits. At times he might feel productive, energized, relaxed, and relieved. One must understand that it is normal to feel this ‘sinusoidal’ graph of feelings. This sudden transition from in-office work setting to work-from-home—induced by coronavirus outbreak, is hard to come to terms with. Yet, it would help if you keep on trying. So, do not feel bad about yourself and be comfortable.
It is essential to take regular and scheduled breaks while working from home. You can achieve this by setting hourly alarms. Never work at a stretch and keep on taking small breaks for drinking water, walking around a little, etc.
While you are taking a break, keep away from your laptop and mobile phone as well. Taking meals at a regular time is a good practice for remote employees and people from all walks of life. If you feel like connecting with a friend, then do not stop yourself and unwind. By taking regular breaks, your productivity will increase when you return to your work.
Some managers might try to overcompensate the absence of physical supervision by micromanaging everything. They do so unconsciously as a way to relieve their anxiety of not being in full control of the team. Managers must keep in mind that micromanagement never bears good results. For keeping innovation alive within the team, employees must be given a certain level of autonomy. By micromanaging, you can frustrate your employees, resulting in lesser productivity and never-ending cycles of revision.
Managers also feel anxious if the employees are working or doing their home chores. According to multiple studies, the reality is that people tend to work more from their homes because it is complicated to ‘leave’ work in a remote setting. Why? Because there is no demarketing boundary between work hours and off-hours.
My advice to such employees is to treat work from home as they are working from the office. Separately mark out the office hours in which they should not distract themselves with home chores. You may set some ground rules with your family members to not disturb you within office hours. Try to avoid as much disruption as possible during office hours.
It is also imperative to pay attention to the ergonomics. Invest in quality furniture having good back support. Get a high bandwidth internet connection and avoid messy wires on your worktable using wireless mice, keyboards, and headphones.
There is no doubt that remote working offers many advantages to the employees. They feel empowered and motivated to experiment, which results in greater productivity and innovative solutions. This is particularly true for the software industry.
Remote work, which used to be a ‘once in a while’ work setting, has become a new normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hence, organizations are left with no choice but to embrace new working conditions fully. Only adaptation can help them survive in the deadly business environment right now.
Employees, too, must understand that things are not going to be normal soon, even if we discover the vaccine. They must prepare themselves for this remote work setting to last longer.
By following these suggestions and incorporating these technological tools within the workflow—an employee can contribute more productivity to his organization. Earlier the adaptation, the better it would be.
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