9th April 2020
5 Minutes Read
3 Common Challenges of Remote Working (and How to Overcome Them)
In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of organisations are now following government advice to have some or all of their workforce working from home. While some of these organisations already have measures in place for regular home working, for many this may be uncharted territory – particularly for those businesses that require a significant amount of face-to-face interaction with clients and stakeholders.
With some of our own team now working remotely, we’ve compiled this post to share some of the most practical tips from our own experience – and to give you some much-needed reassurance during these times of unexpected challenge.
(Don’t worry. We’re sure you know already to get yourself dressed in the morning and not to succumb to domestic distractions such as the urgent need to clean the windows – we’re here to offer advice more practical than that.)
Challenge 1: “How Can I Ensure People Still Work Collaboratively?”
The benefits of team working cannot be understated. One study, carried out by Stanford University, revealed that working as a team can significantly boost performance. During the study, it was observed that the participants who were primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64% longer than their solitary peers. In addition to this, they also reported higher levels of engagement, lower fatigue and a higher success rate. These effects lasted for several weeks.
Remote working and self-isolation mean there are likely to be colleagues whose only co-workers may have four legs and a tail, so a disintegration of the team dynamic is a valid concern. How do you ensure your employees are supported to continue their collaborative efforts and don’t feel cut off from the organisation as a whole?
Much of this comes down to communication. This means you will need to equip people with the right tools to support collaborative working in a digital environment. We suggest not doing this via email as messages can quickly accumulate and get lost, plus it’s all too easy to miss a recipient out of the replies or accidentally hit ‘reply all’ where not required. It’s a sure-fire way to stagnate any workflow.
Instead, consider different workplace scenarios and look for tools to implement for each of these. Does everyone have remote access to the workplace domain or intranet? Make sure everything is installed and ready to go before remote work is assigned. Also, make sure everybody has access to what they need, whenever they need it – this will save hours of time spent searching for lost or inaccessible files. We suggest using Google Drive to share and work collaboratively on different documents. Whether it’s a shared calendar, word document, spreadsheet or presentation, access can be granted to multiple people to give them instant access to the most up-to-date version of any file.
What if you just have a quick question you need answered? For faster-paced conversations and group discussions, we use the Slack tool. This is great if you have multiple people working on the same project, as it allows people to update on any developments as and when they occur. This is useful when team members are no longer able to tap a colleague’s shoulder to ask a question – instead, it’s easy to pick or create a relevant Slack channel, ask a question and have someone answer within seconds. With the ability to quickly send and receive files, run polls and make calls, we can ensure projects continue to run smoothly.
Challenge 2: “How Can I Track Productivity?”
If this is the organisation’s first experience of predominantly remote working, it’s natural to feel apprehensive about productivity levels. How can you keep track of productivity? Are people aware of who is line managing and delegating tasks? If so, are these tasks being completed in a timely manner?
Again, the solution is built upon good communication. Here’s what we suggest.
We start our mornings with a virtual ‘stand up’ where everybody summarises their list of tasks for the day. This means everyone is aware of what’s going on across the team and when. It creates a sense of shared responsibility, makes work easier to assign, and allows people to plan ahead. A shared calendar is also great for a broader overview of tasks and priorities on a daily and weekly basis across the team, helping you to delegate and prioritise workloads.
Remember also that many colleagues will be working from home with children about and distractions will naturally occur – sometimes even during meetings. Normalise this and take it in your stride (we’re human after all!), and encourage finding ways to balance both home and work commitments. An example of this happening in our own team can be seen with some of our colleagues completing home PE lessons or doing crafts with their children on their breaks and sharing their experiences. Not only does this add a sense of normality, but it’s also a real boost to see regular pictures and updates on normal family life! Remember, this is a unique situation and everyone is doing the best they can to get things done given the circumstances.
At times like this, you’ll likely find that colleagues are more willing than ever to deliver on tasks, update on progress and pull together as a team. In order to overcome these monumental hurdles imposed by COVID-19, we rely upon collective effort, communication and understanding.
Challenge 3: “How Can I Help Prevent Loneliness During Remote Work?”
We all know that the lack of social contact during lockdown can be tough. The absence of workplace interaction, shared lunch breaks, social events and even the simple ‘watercooler chat’ can trigger feelings of isolation during prolonged periods working from home.
Without the usual team building events and social opportunities, how can you ensure you’re not leaving your remote workers feeling isolated in this respect?
A normal day at the office will always contain some level of interaction beyond work talk, and you should seek to accommodate this in your remote working plan. We have set up a regular ‘positive news’ colleague newsletter to update people on what’s going on with the rest of the organisation. We’ve also used this to encourage video lunch clubs and social events, and to provide a bit of light relief with pet photos and personal milestones. It’s a simple measure to take, but the resounding feedback from our staff is that it really does raise a smile.
Where you can, hold virtual meetings with the camera on; just seeing a familiar face can make all the difference. With options such as Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts, it’s easy to get set up. Use these tools for social events too, whether that’s a virtual lunch club, a quick chat, or even streaming an online exercise session. To use one of our own examples, we’ve got colleagues taking part in online workouts together as an alternative to their regular gym sessions. It’s the perfect way to stay in touch with others while keeping in good health.
We hope these tips help you to overcome these very real challenges in what’s proving to be a testing time for everybody at the moment.
Check in on your colleagues, keep communicating and don’t forget the simple things that make working at your organisation such a positive experience. Encourage people to share what they’re up to on weekends and evenings; whether that’s learning something new, taking some great photos or sharing positive personal news. It’s the difference between making people feel part of a work team and a work family.
Despite the distance, we’ve found that we’re part of a stronger team than ever before.
If you’re looking for the right technology to help you adapt to the challenges of remote working, we’ve got the tools and expertise to help you succeed. Request a demo of Thinqi to arrange to speak to one of our experts.
We’re going to be exploring more about working and learning in a digital environment, so keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when these insights are published:
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