The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.
The holidays are around the corner. Are you one of the few people going to be fortunate enough to be off work with no demands on your time?
The idea of no dress code, ad hoc meetings and the liberty of walking into the kitchen to fix a snack whenever the need arose seemed like a dream.
The reality, though, is a bit starker. Say you work from home and the usual interruption come knocking. A phone call from a family member – they have an emergency and need help.
Or a friend has a crisis at work and needs a listening ear and shoulder to cry on. If you’re working from the office, it is very easy to say no, albeit apologetically.
When working from home though, it is much harder because you, in reality, could drop what you’re working on and help. But the question is, should you?
Set work hours
Block up a chunk of time to focus on your work. A time that doesn’t allow for other activities.
Grace Saunders, a time management coach says blurring the lines between your work time and personal time is a dangerous precedent. Other research shows that the way the human brain is wired is that if you have work related tasks that need to be completed, especially those that have deadlines, they will be constantly taking up space in your consciousness.
Structure your day for success. First, avoid meetings or conference calls during your most productive hours.Most of us know when our most high energy levels are. Use these to work on reports, do analysis and respond to the very important emails.
Disable the notification that comes with your emails and chat messages for this period of time. Become deliberate about what time you sit to work, when you take breaks and when you have lunch.
Be clear that you’re not simply at home but that you have a task list and need to get work done by the time you knock off.
Stay out of sight for the whole time you are working so it is understood that you’re not game for a quick chat or to play, especially if you have kids.
Working from home may be seen as shirking work-related responsibility.
For this reason, you will need to be available for the conference calls or meetings you have committed to, as well as on email or for important phone calls.
If you do not, the out of sight out of mind adage may apply and lead to you being seen as a less than effective team player.
Distributed teams are difficult to manage – especially with employees in different time zones. Also, collaborative projects and team-building exercises are tougher to accomplish with remote workers.
Even so, success is possible with teams distributed across the country, or globe. Here are three steps to achieve it.
1. Overcome a lack of trust
When you’re not able to physically see employees working, it’s easy to assume they’re slacking off. When you don’t get immediate responses to questions, you can’t tell if the message was received.
Overcome this challenge by encouraging brief but frequent check-ins throughout the day. These can be as simple as a brief status update. Even notice of snack breaks and the like will let you know that the employee is online and connected.
Investing in the right project management software can also help you overcome any trust issues. This software allows workers to see their own tasks and how their personal work factors into the overall project completion. Many platforms also allow you to leave notes and questions to promote frequent communication with employees.
2. Place a priority on communication
Beyond work conversation, it’s important to help remote workers feel connected on a personal level. Don’t overlook the importance of small talk. Online chat platforms allow employees to post thoughts and funny photos, and also notify fellow team members about brief interruptions (lunch breaks, dog walks).
While immediate feedback isn’t always possible with distributed teams, you can still schedule one-on-one project update sessions at least once a month. Connecting in this way creates a greater sense of belonging and loyalty.
3. Be creative with team-building opportunities
It’s difficult to get a distributed team in the same place at the same time. However, that doesn’t mean team building has to suffer. You just have to be creative to keep remote workers connected.
For instance, schedule virtual holiday functions or social video chats. It’s important for employees to see each other and interact on a personal level, rather than an atmosphere of strictly business all the time.
Other fun ways to stay connected include shared music channels and innovative challenges or games. This prompts conversation about preferences and encourages workers to let their guards down.
It’s possible to embrace the growing trend of remote work while still making productivity and inclusion priorities in your company. Through frequent communication and creating an atmosphere of camaraderie, your distributed workforce will feel connected to each other as if they were all in the same office.
A quick checklist of things you’ll need before you see if you’re cut out for it.
1. Great Internet – When it comes to that all important video conference with the CEO on your first day working from home, you need your upload speed just as much as your download speed so pay attention to this. It’s worth paying that little extra for FTTC+ rather than scrimping on ADSL and hoping nobody ever calls you or needs you to do anything. You’re not hiding away; you’re boosting your productivity.
2. Space – Prepare yourself a comfortable workspace. This doesn’t have to be an office – though it could be. The dining table is not in use during the day or even your bedroom dressing table could be turned into your workspace with the right amount of tweaking.
3. Collaborative Tools – Something to keep you in touch with the people in the office effectively. This could be anything from Skype to Slack to WhatsApp. Your business needs to or already has made a decision to what they use for communications, this just needs to be extended outside of the office.
4. Cloud Storage – It’s no good being accessible if all your hard, collaborative work ends up stored on your laptop where nobody else can see it. Onedrive, Sharepoint, Dropbox and the likes provide the rest of your organisation access to work on the document you just slaved over all day and gives your boss a clear view of the amount of work you’re doing.
5. Breaks – Go out for lunch if you want to, pop to the gym, walk the dog. It’s just as important to balance your work / rest when you’re in your home workspace as it is when you’re in the office to avoid burnout.
6. Reliable Equipment – Finding the correct office headphones is one of the most significant things that every proficient businessman will need. Selecting the right headsets for desk phones that deliver clear audio and can be used lively is exceptionally essential if you want to uphold high standards and look professional. Selecting a headset for desk phone may appear like a straight forward procedure but with a number of varieties obtainable it can simply become an intimidating task.
7. Dog – Right, maybe not a dog but you will need something to keep you sane. There will be days where you don’t hear from anybody and are fully focused on completing that project with the tight deadline. This could be a really good Spotify playlist, the radio, your secret knitting hobby.
8. Cookery Skills – If you don’t want to be buying food when you’re working at home and know you’ll get fed up with beans on toast everyday then work on your cooking skills.
9. Windows – Imagine looking around in distraction as you remove your eyes from the screen and seeing nothing but walls, notepads and coffee cups. Fresh air and a little scenery go a long way.
10. The Right Company – The company you work for needs to trust that you can be left to your own devices (literally) and help you on that journey. The company you keep in your workstation is crucial. If the thought of making conversation with your parents all day is mind numbing then working at your parents’ house is not for you. Perhaps having your friend over from another company would get you through the day – you’ll find the perfect fit eventually.
In order to avoid this problem, managers should take steps to actively discourage the development of workaholic tendencies among remote employees.
Here are a few suggestions to help discourage workaholism among your employees:
Set clear and reasonable expectations.
Talk to your remote employees about their goals and the company’s plans. Assign tasks and projects that will let them grow, develop, and stretch themselves, but that won’t require them to ignore their personal lives and focus only on work.
Establish regular working hours.
This may be tricky, since remote workers sometimes put in time outside of the normal 9-to-5. It can also be complicated if your virtual team is scattered across different time zones across the country or around the world. Despite the challenges, make the effort to clarify when you expect them to be “on” and available.
Communicate effectively and frequently.
Schedule regular one-on-one meetings via video conference, so you can both see and hear each other while you talk. Be available via email, instant messaging, and online portals, as well. Figure out how they prefer to communicate, and use that method most frequently.
You must be in close contact with them if you want to make sure they’re succeeding, but not tipping over into workaholism.
Build a support system.
Create online chat areas for your team and encourage office personnel to engage their remote coworkers in conversations. It may also help to bring those remote employees into the office for a week or two now and then, to further strengthen those bonds. Not only should this help virtual team members engage with others, but it also could give them friends who will help them fight against workaholic tendencies.
Encourage both short and long breaks from work.
With no external influences nearby, your remote workers may get so engrossed in a project that they work for hours without taking a break. Or, even worse, they may work for weeks and months without escaping for a few days of vacation. Again, this might seem good from a productivity standpoint, but the reality is that people need both short and long breaks from work to relax and recharge.
Offer wellness programs.
Make sure your remote employees can get equivalent benefits, whether that means membership to a local gym or counseling sessions with therapists near them. When you meet with your virtual team members, check that they know how to take advantage of those benefits, and encourage them to do so. Physical and emotional health will help them stave off workaholism.
Pay attention to warning signs.
Do your remote workers seem to be frustrated more frequently? Are they quick to anger, when they were always calm in the past? During your conversations, can you sense they are becoming disconnected from family or friends? Are they starting to turn in sloppy work or miss deadlines? Do they look tired when you’re communicating via video? If you notice any of these things, investigate. Ask about their work habits, and make sure they’re not overdoing it.
Remember that one of your responsibilities as a manager is to make sure all of your employees have the tools and assistance they need to be as productive and successful as possible. While you may think a short-term boost in productivity as the result of sliding into workaholic behaviors is a positive thing, it won’t last. By following these suggestions, you can help your remote workers avoid that problem and build healthy behaviors that will keep them engaged and effective over the long haul.