Working remotely can be invigorating from time to time, but there’s a reason why we don’t do it permanently.
If we’re forced to work remotely for a long period, how do we overcome isolation effects?
Working together in an office has a number of social benefits. You participate in office banter which can be fun, and enjoy your office culture. Colleagues can share problems with you, and you can share with them. Whether you mentor someone, or are a mentee, the ability to develop and learn together is strained when those casual interactions disappear.
Managing people remotely is more challenging
If you manage staff and they have accountabilities, how do you know they are being achieved? How do you have a ‘gentle’ conversation. Written emails struggle to convey humour and can be open to misinterpretation.
Meetings can be difficult if it looks like someone is distracted by what’s around them (we banned email from most meetings in the office, but that’s hard to manage when you work remotely). Thinking about distractions, there are much more distractions at home – from kids and family to pets, and the small jobs you just ‘need’ to do.
But remember, if you are working from home, then you need to get your work done and meet your obligations. You still want to be paid as normal, even though the organisation will be limping along in these uncertain times. So, we must find new ways to get our jobs done, together, as a team.
Kinetics Tips for Remote Work
- Banter and noise – you learn so much from hearing what’s going on, whether at your desk or the coffee machine. We recommend an office banter channel in Teams (in our office it’s just called ‘Everyone/General’) – Make sure people know its ok to be informal. Encourage the conversations.
- Jokes – because the jokes can be hard to judge in email or Teams, be careful with them. It needs to be obviously funny to avoid accidently offending someone. Have someone with the right judgement moderate the channel.
- Respect colleagues’ times. Even with the green/orange/red indicators in Teams, its harder to see if someone is busy or available. Start a message with ‘Hi – are you free for a moment?’ and don’t expect immediate answers. When you do get into a conversation with a colleague, reply to that person quickly (rather than try to multi-task – act as you would if you were talking in-person?
- Try to use video where possible – most communication remains expressive with body-language – a video call and a smile go a long way!
- Read your message twice, and sometimes if it’s a long email (especially if you are expressing a frustration) just think about whether this is the right medium to share. Emails have a horrible habit of being forwarded on (don’t do it yourself – think about the breach of trust of if you forward on emails clearly only meant for you to read). Sometimes those emails are also best left for a while, reviewed and re-written.
- Ask – if someone sends you a message you don’t understand, ask them what they mean. Call them, in the same way you would have walked over to them had you been in the same office
- Use an Agenda– If you have a few things to talk about with a colleague, send them an agenda so you can both work through matters efficiently.
- Mute yourself when you are on conference calls if you aren’t actually speaking. No one else needs to hear your dog barking or your neighbour mowing their lawn.
If you are managing people working remotely…
- Support them to understand their accountabilities and objectives, and when they are done, help them to unplug and revert to their normal home life.
- You can’t see them, so check on them electronically and make sure they are ok, especially at the start of each day and as they sign-off at the end. The simple ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’ ritual is just a basic etiquette! Set aside time in your diary to check in regularly during the day with your team – make sure you keep them focussed and be aware of the impact of isolation. Let them know they aren’t alone. A little small talk goes a long way! (And you;ll be thankful for the rapport)
- Help them navigate distractions. The danger is people getting distracted with chores around the house or supporting family members. Make sure the chores aren’t done in work time, but you will need to be flexible to family members. We recommend an outcomes-based approach. Its important that all team members feel they are carrying the load and responsibility fairly rather than it falling unevenly because one or two colleagues aren’t playing their part
- Finally, don’t forget your regular one-to-ones and team meeting times. Keep your regimes running
Our Change Management team are busy creating eLearning modules and setting up webinars to help you develop your colleagues.
The good thing about remote working from home is that you don’t have to worry about traffic on the way to work! It’s not all bad!