Working with Remote Workers Efficiently in a Global Medical, Economic Crisis
With the current pandemic’s hands over our necks, for many businesses, big and small alike, there are no other options but to shutter the offices and start mobilizing employees with remote work arrangements.
For many, this could be the first time encountering this unexpected situation. It was never an option in the first place, especially for some traditionally-run and service-based businesses.
I’ve heard of employers installing spy cams and spyware into employee laptops to keep tabs on their workers’ working hours and to micro-manage their employees. I, personally, don’t think we have to go that far.
Trust, especially when you already have a team of reliable, loyal staff, is what we need despite the unexpected aberration from the norm.
How do I know this? I’ve been doing it for 2 decades and trust is one of the things that will keep your employees with you when all of this blows over.
On top of keeping your customers/clients up-to-date with the latest happenings in your company, there are so many ways to help your employees get things done during this lockdown.
In fact, at the end of all this, you are going to realize that remote working is actually VERY POSSIBLE and highly EFFECTIVE.
A snapshot of this article:
- Technological advances allow for constant connection, transparency, and timely reporting
- Discovering teamwork styles that work
- Predicate to communication arrangements and working hours
- Staying sane by connecting with other remote workers online
- Discipline and determination is non-negotiable for remote workers
- Logging off for the sake of your productivity and emotional health
- Embrace but don’t abuse the flexibility and perks of remote work
1 — Technological Advances Allow for Constant Connection
One of the key things needed to keep the engine chugging on is to instill discipline, constant communication, and to set up regular schedules and online meetings/calls.
With emails, Whatsapp, Trello, Slack, Zoom, Skype, , actiTime, HiveDesk, and even the recent Workplace by Facebook (I’ve never tried this one but give it a shot and let me know what you think about it), it’s absolutely possible to get your ducks in a row.
Screen shares, screenshots, online presentations, video conference calls, and real-time reporting can be done easily, with minimal training required. They’re all pretty neat and comes with a flurry of tools to help you get work done.
These nifty tools can even be used for small business entrepreneurs who work with both on-site staff and freelancers to share creative ideas, find solutions, exchange ideas, implement strategies, and gather feedback.
If your customers/clients have ever wondered how you’re dealing with the lockdown (or after it), these questions can be answered via email, WhatsApp, Skype, Slack, Zoom, Zoho Assist, or Aeroadmin.
Covid-19 will blow over, if not now, soon. And when it does, you will realize that this lockdown has shown you whole different ways businesses can thrive and function despite geographical/physical challenges.
2 — Determining your Work Style
When I started out freelancing back in 2000, I was relentless in my pursuit. At that point, nobody believed that remote work was possible even though the use of the internet was already mushrooming.
Oh, the pain I took to explain and the smug responses I got.
I guess I had a head start because I was employed by early-day dotcoms and knew the kind of power the Great World Wide Web had in store for us in the future.
I distinctly remember the first time I had a conference call with people in Europe, the United States, and Australia. I was mind-blown. It’s the kind of epiphany you can never erase from your memory’s movie reel.
So, I ended up working all hours of the days, even on my bed, in my pajamas, at the dining table, while watching TV, while breastfeeding my then-baby, and even when I was video conferencing, and also while vacuuming the floor. (Not recommended, highly unprofessional)
This is what I’ve learned — don’t. Instead…
- Figure out your work style
- Set out a schedule
- Keep to meetings professionally
- Don’t work from the bed
- Have your me-time
- Log off when you have to
- Respect your colleague’s/boss’ schedules
Working in your pajamas is not recommended because it blurs the line between work and your personal life. Even when you’re remote working while traveling, you need to set your time for meetings. More importantly, decide on an environment that brings out the best in you.
Some people prefer working from a Starbucks or a co-working space. Others, like me, are perfectly fine with a table in the living room (headphones on).
Long-time remote workers know this, and we don’t veer very far off when it comes to work ethics because we understand that without focus, getting things done is pretty much impossible or futile.
Another thing to consider is your most productive time. Mine are the mornings and in the dead of the night; yours can be completely different, though. Some are more creative and motivated after their evening run, while others perform better after a meeting with their team.
I find myself in a better position to make decisions and pound down the keyboard after a short break, therefore, I always give myself 20-minute breaks after sitting down and concentrating for long periods.
Seriously, if you pin down your best working hours and schedule it around efficiently, my bet is that you’re going to be surprised by how productive you can be.
3 — Over-Communicate to Keep Every Team Member Updated
Unlike being in an office, remote workers don’t have the benefit of being around the corner from their colleagues. You can’t shout across the office to ask a colleague for help.
If you’re not already using Cloud services like Google Drive or other forms of online team project management software/app to keep your projects together, you’re going to be unsure and anxious about whether things are done or not.
Therefore, the team members who over-communicate are the most desirable remote workers in the world.
Letting your boss or team members know what are the latest developments, the decisions, solutions, strategies, and what the resolutions are to their questions will ease their discomfort and hesitancy (and anxiety).
In fact, if you get the chance to (especially when the time zone is not a problem), organize a brain dump session to strategize and keep things together, and allow for an online 15-minute water cooler talk.
Managers should make time to connect one-on-one with every team member for a quick catch-up, and then a team meeting once you see the overall picture. This is especially true if the team/company goals have changed or if there are updates from the higher-ups that your subordinates should be aware of.
I strongly recommend daily catch ups (or calls) and then weekly or twice-a-week team meetings. These should be non-negotiable. For employees, this is a time for you to remind your boss or superior about your achievements, problems, and goals.
4 — Join a Community of Freelancers and Remote Workers
Working alone in your home can bring one to the breaking point of loneliness and boredom. You can’t share a joke across the desk or cubicle anymore. There’s no one to drag out to lunch with. And if you have problems with a project, you’re alone with it if no one is answering you or responding to your questions.
With the internet and technological strides we’ve made, this is almost a myth now.
Join an online community, a collective or work from a co-working space (if your country is not experiencing a lockdown right now) and you’ll be surrounded by people who are just like you!
These people are amazing, and they’re full of ideas or solutions you may not be aware of.
Remote workers, you’ll soon find out, are even more inspired than your regular employees. Every second, minute, and hour is precious to them. Apart from the necessary short breaks they take (as one would in a normal working environment), their focus and determination are stronger than a regular staff member.
Professional remote workers are not intimidated by the distance. They’re motivated to bridge the divide, find ways to connect with project managers, come up with solutions quickly because they don’t have as many time-wasting in-person meetings, and embrace their flexibility and ability to perform.
When you join such communities and ask questions, you’ll be surprised how innovative and creative these people can get. They are so curious that they are often the very people at the forefront of new technological advances and discoveries.
5 — Discipline and Determination is Non-Negotiable
Slacking off and taking longer-than-necessary time off during the day is something we all fight against when working remotely.
If you’re a remote worker, put yourself in the shoes of your managers, bosses, or subordinates. Imagine yourself swamped with a bunch of questions and having to deal with your uncertain working hours.
After committing to your working hours, it’s time to help your kids, family members, and friends understand and respect your working hours. There’s no chance of you helping them pick up the laundry as a personal favor during that time frame.
People who don’t work remotely don’t understand the concept because they believe that you’re ‘the one with all the free time in the world’.
All I can say is…Oh, God help me….
Put your foot down and stick with your schedule unless an emergency or something of utmost importance pops up. And when they do pop up, don’t forget to let your team know that you’d be out of commission for a while. This way, they won’t be anxious about your missing profile picture on that Google Drive document or Zoom meeting.
6 — Log Off Even When You Don’t Want To
There are two types of risks when it comes to working remotely from home:
- Working too little
- Working too much
Working too much, little would one have suspected, is a very common problem with freelance remote workers, whether you’re a copywriter, digital marketer, manager of a team, or warehouse supervisor.
I was once the proud owner of the tagline ‘The Freelancer Who Never Sleeps’. If you’re a freelancer or remote worker, you know it’s total BS. It’s either a marketing ploy or came from someone who believed she was superhuman. I was the latter.
My advice is to draw a very strict, clear, bright neon red line between work and personal life before you arrive at the doorsteps of a panic disorder or breakdown.
There are no benefits to being stuck in front of your computer 24/7 just for the sake of being there. Self-care is crucial for optimal delivery. Continue to make time for that usual run, meditation, sitcom-runs, cooking, yoga session, and of course, make time for your family and friends who have been patiently waiting for you to log off work.
The me-time is your refuel sessions, ones you will be desperately in need of. A better state of mind will supercharge you and help you tackle the game more rigorously and efficiently.
Think of your schedule as blocks of time. When you have empty blocks, fill them up with things YOU need to either recharge yourself or for other life’s important stuff….you know, a doctor’s visit, your kids’ recital, your parents?
The good thing is that apart from the non-negotiable work times when you’re on a conference call or have to keep to a tight deadline, blocks of time for non-time-sensitive work can be moved around to, say, after dinner or when the kids are already in bed.
That’s the wonder of work flexibility that you can take advantage of without compromising the quality of your work, responsiveness, or reporting. Believe me, in order to be productive, taking time for life’s important moments is a big deal.
“Remote work isn’t always as Instagram-worthy as it may seem. In fact, many remote workers struggle with unplugging from their work, loneliness and communicating.”
7 — Embrace but Don’t Abuse the Perks of Remote Work
Transparency, responsiveness, open reporting, honest discussions, and sharing of problems and solutions are keys to competent remote work arrangements.
While there are downsides to working from home — not being able to call out to your colleague on the other end of the office just by raising your voice — there are really nice perks to remote work if you’re professional and serious about it.
Embrace but don’t abuse it.
The same way a regional office has to report to the HQ, you have to think of it the same way. Accountability, connectedness, responsiveness, and discipline will take you onto a journey of successful remote working!
In a world where we are connected all the time, it makes perfect sense to be there for your colleagues and team members when the time is set.
And then log off when you say you’re going to. Make it transparent and predictable.
Let them know the time when you’re most active and not. Your employers and bosses will feel more at ease when they can predict the best time to get you on the phone or talk to you about a new strategy.
So, be there when you say you will and DON’T be there when they know you shouldn’t be.
“Knowing when to log off, especially for beginners, is one of the biggest challenges faced by the remote workers’ community. But so is being irresponsible and unresponsive.”
If I told you 99% of respondents who were asked if they would like to work remotely said yes, would you believe it? Well, it’s true.
This is the trajectory for the world now. If not now, we’re approaching it, what with the current Covid-19 pandemic and companies struggling to keep their workforce together. When this pandemic sweeps over and die down, many companies are going to realize how possible it is for their staff to work remotely from their homes efficiently.
Some training and guidelines need to be laid out, of course, but at the end of the day, this is where we’re headed.
Back when I started working remotely, it wasn’t even a trend. It was a suicide mission.
Ten years later, it was trendy to do remote work while traveling. And now, we’re sliding into a different phase where things might be more productive when people are allowed to work remotely from their homes.
I think companies that are more prepared for this new reality are going to march on ahead of others in the future.
This article was first published on www.MarshaMetta.com here.