Remote work is the new normal for many industries. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many people who are used to working in a school, library, office, coffee shop, car dealership, or any other “in-person” business are finding themselves having to adjust to working from home.
That is definitely NOT NEWS. But what IS news is the notion that the work-from-home and employment social distancing measures everyone hoped would be temporary may be here to stay for a lot longer than anyone expected.
Remote Work Requires Scheduling
This is a “personal experience” post, and at the time of this writing in my household, there are two people (I am one of them) working from home. I have worked from home for more than 15 years, but my partner has not. And the adjustment period was trying for my partner for reasons that have little to do with the usual personal habits you have to cultivate while working from home.
Yes, surviving the work-from-home scenario requires you to establish a solid work routine, avoid overwork by scheduling breaks and downtime, and to get everyone in the home on board with respecting your work time. But those issues aren’t what we’re talking about here.
Employers And Employees Need To Speak Up
Employers not used to remote work situations often make management mistakes while trying to lead a team of remote employees who have been forced to stay at home. What do employers AND employees need to do in order to facilitate the most productive remote work strategies?
My partner learned some of these lessons firsthand–their team had to sort out a regular schedule of meetings and check-ins as baseline expectation management for work-from-home requirements. The early weeks prior to that were more chaotic. After the routines were established, far less so.
The first thing you can do as an employee OR a manager in this situation is to establish regular, daily communication with the entire team. Predictability is the key to remote work. If you are an employee, asking for this regular communication in a tactful way is a very good first step.
“I think for myself personally, it would help a LOT to have a regularly scheduled team meeting to coordinate the week’s efforts” is a great way to open that conversation. If you are a manager, the key to solid remote work meetings is to have an agenda for the meeting that includes a quick “around the table” check-in for all teammates.
What is your team doing today, this week, next week? Have your team individually tell you what they are up to even if you already know. The accountability factor here is an important one.
Excessive Monitoring Is Counter-Productive
Remote work involves trust. Establishing that trust is a two-way street. Employees should keep the team lead informed but not bombarded with too many emails, details, etc. Some things can be saved for the regular meeting discussed above; others are urgent and must be dealt with. Prioritizing is key.
For managers and team leads, resist the temptation to check in with every member of your team too often–let the remote workers have the breathing room they naturally expect with a decentralized office but don’t give the impression that you are too laissez-faire. Striking the balance is key.
Setting Boundaries For Work Routines
Setting boundaries and expectations are very important for remote work. As the employee in remote office situations, I have encountered management styles that assume you are available 24/7. Some jobs require this, but if it is not necessary, the 24/7 availability issue is something to be carefully re-evaluated. Remote workers and managers alike have to establish work-life boundaries.
Don’t expect your remote workers to be on the clock at all times unless that is the expectation they accepted the job with. Respect the boundaries of work-life balance.