This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
The last few weeks spent in self-isolation and therefore in the home office have been more than challenging for all of us.
In the first phase of orientation, the situation was not yet tangible for many, the fact that you can be with your family all day was motivating and beautiful.
In the second phase, which has now become the standard, new themes crystallize, which require a certain amount of self-control, flexibility and a spirit of discovery.
In the time before Corona, companies that were exclusively and from day 1 of their founding geared towards working in the home office were the rarity. Companies such as Slack or Todoist, which do not have a physical office either, were used to working in a decentralized manner and to mastering challenges such as bridging different time zones.
For teams that have always been used to working exclusively in one office, however, there is a real challenge, despite these difficult times, of how to steer their working methods in a forward-looking direction and make use of the advantages that Remote Work can offer.
- Higher satisfaction
Remote Work offers each individual the opportunity to determine the time and place for working on their tasks themselves and to adapt to their personal biorhythm. The most productive time of day, personal preference or organisational background (e.g. children who need to be taken to school) – more freedom in planning one’s own working time results in more satisfied and productive employees in the long term.
- Reducing costs
In addition to office and building management costs, which are eliminated for remote teams, the cost of gasoline or public transport is also reduced. This in turn enables a more active participation in environmental protection.
- Fewer interruptions and more autonomy
A decentralized organization means that employees are more inhibited about short-term disruptions. There is no need to call out quickly over the desk and status messages such as “Do not disturb” are ironically tolerated more in chats than in the office.
These are just a few of the key benefits of the current corona crisis. But for remote work to really succeed, clear rules must be established for everyone:
- What are the communication channels used?
In most organisations, standard communication tools already exist, e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, e-mails etc. These channels should also be favoured for remote work and the following points should be taken into account:
- When are mails sent and when do you communicate via chat?
- How can you separate unimportant topics from important ones in chats so that team communication does not degenerate?
- Communication via video chat can help to increase the lack of social proximity. At the same time you “read” your partner’s facial expressions and gestures, which can often prevent miscommunication
- Discuss expectations of availability
Discuss with your team members that not all of them need to be available during the office hours that were set at the time. Your support team may have less flexibility in choosing flexible working hours, but you should definitely offer these options to other groups. Address this openly and transparently throughout the team, so that there is no unnecessary disagreement among them.
- Make results measurable
At the beginning of the week, discuss with your team the tasks that lie ahead and need to be solved and assign them to people. Many task management programs, e.g. Asana, ClickUp, Trello etc., allow corrective processing of tasks. At the same time you can show the workload of the individual team members in a dashboard.
- Use the advantages of the “Premium” version
Often the cost of tools discourages us and we are content with the free version. Nevertheless, you should consider whether the expenses are not relativized if you can work more productively and efficiently with the “full version” and thus avoid unnecessary work-arounds.
Until recently, the home office was only the 2nd choice in companies. Now that it has become clear that working from home works, the question arises whether a rethink can take place and remote work becomes the new mainstream.
Maybe you are even in the position yourself that you have to lead a team. To ensure that your team remains powerful and works well remotely, consider the following options:
- Can you create conditions that allow your team to stay in the workflow individually and collectively and maximize time (regardless of where your team is working)?
This is basically a different way of thinking about the role of a leader. But if everyone knows who is responsible for what by when, you as a team leader have fulfilled your mission.
- Try to break projects into smaller pieces and give everyone in your team responsibility for carrying out their assigned tasks. Convince your team that this agile technique is only beneficial for everyone.
- If existing infrastructure and team tools have gaps, introduce them. Talk to other team leaders where their problems lie. Form working groups so that you can describe all the requirements for a program and approach your supervisors. Management is more than grateful for any thoughtful employee and initiative can pay off.
- Once people get used to the software taking care of task status updates, and physical on-site exchanges are no longer necessary, you can start reducing the number (and duration) of your meetings. This, in turn, frees up time for other topics that make more money than sitting in meetings.
Finally, I would like to give you a few tips on how to organize yourself in your new office at home so that work via remote is successful:
- Create a clear separation between your working and living areas. Since you tend to work more when you are in the home office, this measure is important to maintain your work-life balance. Also try not to let boundaries blur too much. Pay your bills after hours and use your time to do business.
- Avoid eating at work. You will find that your senses are much more responsive when you are fully engaged.
- Create breaks. Go out more often and get some fresh air to get away from work. A few minutes are often enough to get you back into a focused work environment.
- Buy the right equipment to be more productive, e.g. wireless headset, ergonomic office chair and a good desk, higher bandwidth of your internet connection etc. Do not wait for lengthy concepts that may be planned in your company. You may be waiting in vain.
- Plan free space for yourself and your family in your calendar and use this time with your loved ones
The coming weeks and months will show the extent to which the COVID-19 situation will affect us, the economy and our working methods. Look forward to this time positively, use the opportunity that might arise and stay healthy…