A lot of businesses are rapidly realising the advantages and cost-savings of remote work, yet the jury is still out on whether in a post-pandemic world we will see more people working remotely permanently. Are we going to rush back to offices, coffee machines, water coolers and conference rooms or settle on something in between?
The advantages and disadvantages of working remotely have been extolled repeatedly: For some, no commute might mean more quality time at home, having time to work out, better eating and sleeping habits or an improved work-life balance. Many companies have reported an increased productivity with people working remotely.
However, are we seeing exhaustion? This is because working remotely is always at your fingertips, it can be accessible for some to get wrapped up in working at all times and deviating from the typical eight-hour workday, which can potentially lead to fatigue and burnout. The feeling of missing in-person, human interaction is especially noticeable in the workplace in both formal meetings and “water cooler” chats.
Businesses need to continue to adapt to the dynamics of a remote workforce as the workplace might not shift back to the office for many for the predictable future. A lot of companies have embraced the practice of a daily company-wide or department-wide check-in so that everyone maintains that sense of connection to workmate. In these new normal times, companies and leaders must think of the more fundamental ideas of organizational health.
People who have established trusting relationships with their co-workers will likely thrive because those foundations have already been created. However, consider newer hires or those who joined the company after working remotely began. How can leaders and teammates help to foster trusting relationships with these people? There needs to be awareness and participation. The concepts around doing so are quite similar in the online world to the in-person world. We have shared few suggestions for building trust in the workplace, wherever that workplace may be:
Tips on working remotely to stay connected on your team
• Share a bit about yourself.
When a person opens about their situation and interests outside of work, people learn more about who you absolutely are. Sparking quick “non-work related” conversations over video can have surprising results. The chances for conversations of a more intimate nature do exist, especially in one-on-one meetings. It is important to maintain interest, curiosity and focus so the exchanges are genuine and without distraction.
• Understand your team’s individual needs.
It can be hard to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, however there are a many ways to proactively inquire about what’s most important to your team. A couple of suggestions for better understanding your teams’ needs include taking a behavioural assessment or encouraging colleagues to look at their seven human needs and communicating their top needs to you. The key point to remember is that it’s not about us, the leaders; it’s about them, your team.
• Practicing active listening.
Admit it: You’ve likely been into a MS team’s or Zoom call with your email or working with something else on the same screen. It might look easy to get away with these distractions during a video call, but the truth is that people will notice. It is easy to miss some signals such as facial expressions or body language on video, that is why we need to try harder, be attentive, actively listen and avoid getting distracted. Missing the last two sentences of what your colleague just said because you were busy replying to a message can quickly erase trust.
• Respect the messaging hierarchy.
With a lot of alternative ways of connecting with the team and the distinction between home and work continuously blurring, it is important to pay attention to how you convey messages to your team. You might think the most important communications warrant a phone call, while less urgent information can be shared via text message or email. But you may need to consider the time of the day. While you are enjoying your morning coffee, your team might be racing around their homes trying to get breakfast for their children and set up their virtual class online.
We suggest you simply send a simple one-line email as a heads-up and propose a time to reconnect that is not right now if necessary. A word to the wise: It is not recommended to cold call someone over a video platform. You should also be clear about your expectations around responses to messages sent out of business hours.
• Be proactive about connecting.
Consider sprinkling in some 15-minute check-in calls across your calendar. These calls do not necessarily need an agenda but can help the team feel less isolated and more in touch, as they give the opportunity to connect in the same way you might if you asked someone to join you on a coffee run. These types of calls do not require to only happen between manager and employee. Reach out to your peers or colleagues in other parts of the company. Keep connections fresh and consistently growing. For some this can be a feel-good moment and a real lifeline for others.
• Cut some slack.
Many people are affected adversely by the changing world. This ranges from those who are getting through these circumstances without skipping a beat, to those who feel anxious and are challenged to find their motivation. Practicing your empathy skills becomes essential, especially if you are preoccupied with your own needs now. Taking that step back and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes will help you both.
The bottom line is it is important to create flexibility, consider individual needs and be willing to adapt. Connecting more proactively might be highly appropriate for some colleagues, while others might need lesser touchpoints. Everyone is unique. Learning to adapt your own behaviour and meet people where they need you most can help you all to stay connected.
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