If you read our last blog, you will know we touched on working remotely and how businesses are likely going to have to include remote working as part of the ‘resilience’ business model going forward. It might be a short-term measure for global crises but it also might be that your company decides to incorporate more home working as the norm. Remote working is not new – area managers, sales reps, freelancers etc have all been handling remote working for years now and the increase in freelance work (pre-pandemic) is testament to the fact that it can work.
The biggest benefit from remote working is undoubtedly the improved ‘wellness’ of being at home. Even in the beautiful Cayman Islands, where the crystal blue waters smile are you with a glimmer of sunshine everyday, the short commute takes crucial time out of your day. Time is so important to the busy professional. Ironically, it seems that we spend much of our time working out how to balance our time. Instead of spending 30 minutes in a car each morning, you can go for a run, have a cup of coffee and talk to your kids, rather than shouting ‘get your shoes on’ repeatedly, or start work earlier and potentially reduce down the hours in your working day. This is quite liberating! Perhaps the new working model will see a balance between remote working and office working, going in for important meetings or project discussions but remaining at home on some days. Now is a good time for both professionals and businesses to assess the many positives that have come from remote working and how we can keep them where possible.
Setting up working from home takes some discipline however. Firstly, it is essential that both the homeworker and the employer talk about the reality of turning the home into an office and what is needed to make this happen. The remote working infrastructure is quite simple but absolutely essential. Without a good internet service, access to secure file management systems and all the basics like a printer, scanner, laptop or PC, plus any specialized equipment that you don’t have lying around at home, working from home can quickly become inefficient. When Covid-19 resulted in lock-down and parents began working from home, as well as school children joining remote schooling/classes, the number of laptops in the house and your bandwidth strength suddenly becomes more important. Many of these barriers are simple to overcome but ideally become part of a pro-active management plan rather than a reactive one.
Remote working takes a certain amount of self-discipline too. There are many potential distractions from working from home too and learning to be more efficient is key… yes, the oven is now perfectly clean and sparkly but you didn’t write the report you needed to complete and got carried away doing other less important things. Some people become adept at managing themselves in this situation but others might need some support or some routine to keep motivated and focused. It is also very easy to just keep working, or sit down before breakfast and not move until your partner reminds you that you are still wearing your pajamas (at 5pm) and your coffee is cold. Switching off when you work from home is really important and managers have a responsibility to make sure everyone is maintaining a work life balance when working from home.
Also, for all of us, learning how to interact with your team remotely poses a huge challenge (whether you realize it or not). We all have different needs when it comes to interaction and recognition too. You might respond well to a smile and a thank you which can get lost on a call, or you might be someone who can’t express your frustration and the lack of eye contact and conversation means your fury bubbles away rather than being dispelled with interaction or a simple question prompted by body language. Remote working throws a whole new set of interactions into the boiling pot. From a company perspective, you need to establish some protocols and checks for your team, helping them to become better managers from afar. On a personal level, understanding how you feel, how others feel and what motivates people remotely is really important. There is a lot to be said for direct eye contact and this has been largely lost during lock-down. Learning how to navigate work relationships remotely is like feeling something with gloves on. It can be done but it takes some practice!
Now is the perfect time to weigh up how remote working has worked for you and your company, taking heed of the cons but also including the many positives that have popped up unexpectedly.