The COVID-19 outbreak leads to a new trend of work practice- Work from home(WFH), a new, occasionally, and sometimes frustrating experience for Hongkongers who are used to the hustle and bustle rhythm of office life. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Apple experienced a big shakeup on the working policy from office to home, some periodically and some permanently. WFH seems to be the future state of work, a new global normal, which has its pros and cons.
How WFH benefits your business?
1. It saves travel time
It saves time from a long commute. Not to mention more face to face meetings are now moved to be video conference based, it saves tons of travel time. Remote working conveniently removes geographic limitations, ensuring that employees can work anywhere, anytime. This means that companies are able to hire qualified talents regardless of their location.
2. It grows the team in a scalable way
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3. It leads to more loyal employees
WFH gives greater flexibility and autonomy for employees to manage their time achieving a better work-life balance, which eventually makes the employees feel happier and more satisfied with work. In Slack's survey, 47% of the employees have a higher sense of belonging when they work from home compared to work in the office. WFH can lower the turnover rate in the company.
4. Enhance work efficiency and productivity
Refer to Owllab 2019, 79% of remote workers supported that WFH boosts their productivity. In fact, research shows that work from home staff works at a higher productivity rate compared to on-site workers.
Of Course, WFH also has its challenges
1. It has more distractions
This is even more challenging for new remote workers. WFH will challenge employees with lower self-discipline, who tend to slack off and find it difficult to stay focused.
2. It leads to social loneliness
WFH makes it hard to achieve in-depth social interactions with colleagues and supervisors. According to researchers at the BI Norwegian Business School, employees who WFH sometimes feel helpless during work since they receive less mentoring and proactive feedback from their employers. In a HubSpot report, near 30% of them also feel a lack of social connection. The reduction in social interactions between colleagues and employees would cause a substantial lack of belonging and team spirit.
3. It requires higher time management skills
Employees might find it hard to stick with a schedule and tend to postpone the work till later because of distractions or poor prioritization. Unlike working in the office, the line between office-time and off-work becomes unclear. 22% of staff working remotely struggled to work efficiently as a result of inadequate time management.
To embrace the new normal, here are a few tips for companies to better manage the remote-work to make the WFH experience more productive and less stressful.
Practical tips for WFH:
1. Set up a working routine
To uphold team productivity, setting up a standard for working hours is an effective way. Suggested by Harvard Business Review, for example, from 10 am to 7 pm, as a WFH guideline to all employees, but employers still need to maintain autonomy for employees to manage priorities on hand, either family or personal needs. As WFH blurred the boundaries between work and life, a standard working routine gives all employees the same expectation on working time, separating their personal life from work.
2. Establish a daily meeting check-in
- Ensure works on-going as scheduled
- To effectively manage remote employees, managers can establish structured daily check-ins with a virtual conference call. For example, daily standup meetings at 10 am for everyone to exchange information and align their work progress. The calls should be regular and predictable, allowing all employees to share the same set of expectations for better communication. By giving expectations for frequency, means, and provides an ideal timing for communication within teams, helping employees to become more efficient at work.
- Build connections with teammates
- To build connections and avoid workers’ social loneliness, supervisors can intentionally create more chances for more social interactions during the calls. For example, recognising employees’ contributions and celebrating their success during the weekly meeting, which is an effective approach to improve the staff’s sense of morale.
3. Adopt digital communication and marketing tools
- Strengthen team communication and collaboration
- Make good use of technologies like Zoom, Trello, Slack, and also some popular instant messaging tools that would make the communication much easier. Direct virtual calls with screen sharing are essential to avoid misunderstanding and reduce the time messaging back-and-forth.
- Use the all-in-one platform to avoid working in silos
- When the company has multiple departments and functions working remotely, the data/information silos are a big blocker for decision making. Choosing an all-in-one solution/platform is a great way to keep the teams aligned. And of course, it requires a collaborative company culture to make it much easier for employees to want to share data with people outside of their teams.
Remote work is one of the key ingredients to building a high-performing and scalable company. The COVID-19 crisis unexpectedly shines a light on the 'future' of work practice, allowing us to experience it now. Remote working gives employees higher autonomy, and at the same time requires higher discipline and better communication skills. It also requires the management to set clearer expectations, to be more open-minded -allowing flexibility to support staff’s career, and to help the staff feel more connected, leading with trust.
Undoubtedly, man is by nature a social animal. We love the coffee break and the lunch hour with our colleagues! Face-to-face social interaction and bonding with teammates are irreplaceable to build deep bonding. If achievable, a well-balance of remote and work in office practice could be the solution to achieve both.