Remote work is a working style that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully. COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people around the world. Travel restrictions and new rules on large public gatherings have changed the daily routines of millions. Over the past few weeks, many of my colleagues and customers have approached me to ask: What can we do to help? Hopefully, this has given you a much more realistic view of working online if you’ve never done it before, or some things to consider if you’re an employer who’s still on the fence about implementing a telecommuting policy. More and more people are working from home these days — or at least from a local coffee shop or coworking space. Between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work, according to a recent report by Global Workplace Analytics.
Depending on the gig, expectations for how much you should be getting done may vary. However, it’s essential that everyone is on the same page in terms of expectations. Just because you don’t have a morning commute anymore, does that mean you should be spending that time working? Similarly, just because you don’t have any (human) coworkers to bother you, it’s unrealistic to assume you’ll be able to work all day, every day, with no interruptions.
Networking is MUCH Harder for Remote Workers Think about the last time you heard about a juicy new job opportunity. Did you find the listing on LinkedIn or another job site? Or did you hear about it from a colleague?
What I’ve learned from remote work
While our team here is accustomed to working remotely, these past few weeks have clarified what successful and sustainable remote work requires. Here are my top three lessons.
This move to remote work is all about protecting our physical health by minimizing contact with the virus. That everyone understands. What is less obvious is that working where you live can create its kind of stress. Taking time to exercise, eat well, and enjoy real downtime away from screens are all essential to maintaining mental well-being while working from home.
I am an introvert’s introvert. I loathe small talk, have difficulty maintaining eye contact without feeling intensely uncomfortable, and would much instead be left alone to my own devices than socializing with even close friends.
Go all in.
It can be tempting to put things off while working remotely. But teams that thrive remotely find ways to do just about everything online. If you’ve scheduled one-on-ones, keep them. If you’ve planned big meetings, hold them. If you’re ready to brainstorm an upcoming presentation, jump on that video call. Transitioning from a full-time in-house environment to working remotely can be a significant shift for some people. Fortunately, being productive as a remote worker is a skill that can be learned like any other. It just takes time to settle in, just like it does during those first few weeks at a new gig. If time management isn’t your strongest suit, there are plenty of apps that can help you stay focused. If working in your kitchen isn’t working out, try working from a coffee shop or your local library. If you work more productively at night than during the day, then work at night. However, you choose to do it, think of your newfound professional freedom as a skill to be mastered.
Support your teammates.
I’ve also learned from this experience that supporting others is the best way to stay positive and energized. We use our online tools for more than just work, sharing photos of family and pets, and checking in with each other throughout the day. Cheering each other up is not only useful for maintaining morale, but it also helps keep our team together when we work apart.
Immediately open the lines of communication.
When your employees are working remotely, it’s more important than ever to ensure everyone stays briefed on the business. One of our customers, a sizeable Asia-based insurance company, started broadcasting video messages to their staff to make sure everyone had access to the latest information. With everyone balancing working from home with childcare and other challenges, recorded videos allow people to catch up when they can’t make a live meeting or briefing. Working remotely forces you to become a more skillful communicator. It also forces you to be more resourceful, especially if you’re working from an area with limited connectivity or cell coverage. Computer problems? You’re the IT guy now. Miss a deadline because you couldn’t find anywhere with Wi-Fi? It’s on you to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Keep it moving.
While it can be tempting to postpone plans until everyone can get together, companies here are finding ways to keep things moving forward. With the government’s encouragement, many schools have been able to start their terms on time by moving everything online. They’ve been supporting their students by creating precise schedules, hosting morale events like cooking challenges, and carefully communicating assignments and other information, so students aren’t overwhelmed. "Not having an office routine can mean that it's constantly snack o'clock, and you need to resist the temptation to have multiple versions of lunch," so great exercise to keep yourself in shape is crucial.
Even big meetings can be moved online.
Many of us are accustomed to quick calls or video chats with a few teammates, but large and formal meetings can also be successfully held online. With so many employees opting to work remotely, hospitals here have been gathering their staff remotely. One hospital in Dalian, for instance, has been holding large staff meetings via Teams. Keys to successful online meetings include setting a clear agenda, practicing inclusion by resolving any audio issues at the start of the session, and taking clear notes to share as follow-ups later. Remember, too, that if your organization permits it, you can record meetings for those who can’t attend.
It’s not even just about finding a new full-time job. Telecommuters may find it more difficult to even learn of new opportunities at growing companies in their field, or which firms are worth keeping an eye on. Also, if you follow news in your industry religiously, it’s all too easy to miss updates and announcements that could lead to profitable relationships in the future.
Couple important tips about online meetings. Take steps to make your meetings inclusive for remote attendees, such as:
- Turn on video so attendees can interact face to face (you can blur your background to conceal your surroundings).
- Pause to make sure all remote attendees have a chance to speak.
- Monitor the meeting chat for comments and questions.
- Remind attendees to mute when they aren’t speaking to reduce background noise and distractions.
In terms of Corona Virus or any other interruptions forcing the remote work in the challenging times:
Daily updates: The National Health Commission announces the epidemic situation every day and holds regular press conferences to respond to emerging issues. The government also frequently invites experts to share scientific knowledge on COVID-19 and to address public concerns.
Psychological care: This is provided to patients and the public. Governments at all levels, NGOs, and all sectors of society developed guidelines for emergency psychological crisis intervention and guidelines for public psychological self-support and counseling. A hotline for mental health services has been established for the public.
Things to know
If your internet provider is experiencing bandwidth issues (for example, because many people in your neighborhood are working from home), Teams will scale back features to reduce its bandwidth needs. Your video may turn off, or you may not be able to participate in screen sharing so that there is enough bandwidth to maintain audio. If your internet provider is experiencing bandwidth issues (for example, because many people in your neighborhood are working from home), Teams will scale back features to reduce its bandwidth needs. Your video may turn off, or you may not be able to participate in screen sharing so that there is enough bandwidth to maintain audio.
IT platform: China has capitalized on the use of technology, big data, and AI for COVID-19 preparedness, readiness, and response. Authoritative and reliable information, medical guidance, access to online services, provision of educational tools, and remote work tools have been developed in and used across China. These services have increased accessibility to health services, reduced misinformation, and minimized the impact of fake news.
For me, and many people across the world, this isn’t the way we imagined the kick-off to a new year. Firstly, you might not have to do anything about it beyond talking to your manager. If your company has skill development programs in place, you might not have to do much more than say you’d like to take a class, then take the course. But we’ve learned a lot. And Teams has been an incredibly powerful tool for helping us manage through the challenges. Many people are not aware, but Teams are already available for free. I hope these tips prove helpful, and I wish you and your families all the best!