Are Teams Thriving in the Work From Home Model?
The pandemic accelerated the remote work adoption rate, but the abrupt transition hasn’t been smooth for most companies, big or small. Not only did teams have to figure out a new working process but they also had to integrate new remote work tools to help them stay connected with their colleagues even while working from different physical locations.
Succeeding at remote work can take a lot of time and patience as it comes with its own set of challenges including collaboration and communication issues, social isolation, home distractions, unplugging struggles, and lack of motivation. The fact that people have been forced to go remote in the middle of a raging pandemic doesn’t make things easier either.
More than half of employees claim that they feel disconnected from their office colleagues and 19 percent constantly struggle with loneliness.
Many companies did see a sudden spike in productivity in the initial days of lockdown when everyone was new to working from home, but for most, productivity has either plateaued or lowered. Employees might still seem like they are working at their average pace, but are they hitting maximum productivity?
To truly thrive in a work from home model, companies need to manage all the remote work challenges effectively and managers need to make sure employees have all the help they need to reach high productivity levels.
What managers can do to succeed in the work from home model
1. Have daily check-ins with the team members
Whenever possible, have one-on-one and video conversations with your team members. Phone calls, emails, and messages can only go so far.
The only way to build a productive and efficient remote team is by closing any communication gaps. If your team is still in the initial stages of working from home, you should have check-ins every day and then steadily move towards weekly check-ins as team members become more comfortable working on their own.
2. Communicate a lot
One of the biggest challenges of working from home for longer periods of time is that you start feeling isolated and lonely. This can in turn lead to burnouts and affect the quality of work.
For managers, it is necessary to always have a clear line of communication with the team. It’s also a good idea to constantly take feedback from team members to see how the remote work processes can be further optimized in order to help employees perform their best work.
3. Invest in the right technology
Technology makes it possible for remote teams to stay connected and work from home. With the right tools by your side, your remote team can thrive, collaborate seamlessly, and manage their work effectively. On the other hand, the wrong tools can severely affect your team’s capabilities, complicate their everyday work, and overwhelm them.
Instead of using over a dozen tools for different purposes, you need a dedicated tool like a digital workplace platform that can help you streamline communication, collaboration, project management, and process management. Using a single platform to access all the work-related data and communication also makes it easier for employees to quickly find important files and messages in order to streamline their work.
4. Establish rules of engagement
Remote work can only be satisfying and efficient for employees when they are able to achieve an optimum work-life balance. Establishing rules of engagement helps create clear work boundaries and ensure employees are happy with the company’s work culture.
Ideally, the rules of engagement should include information about:
- Availability hours and time zones of all the team members
- Maximum response time
- Preferred communication tools for instant messaging, emails, and video calls
- Maximum number of meetings every day
- Urgent situations where team members can contact each other outside work hours
5. Work on team bonding
When you work at the same office, it is easy to interact with your coworkers. You can have casual conversations over lunch, watercooler, or just working side by side.
But when you are working as a part of a remote team and only talk about work, it can be difficult to get to know your team members more closely which can lead to issues with team collaboration and communication.
That is why managers should create virtual water cooler spaces to encourage team members to have non-work conversations and in turn improve team bonding. It will not only help employees understand each other in a better way, but it will also make them feel like they are an integral part of the team.
What employees can do to improve productivity while working from home
1. Set your work hours
Managers are quick to assume that employees don’t work with the same efficiency when they are at home. But the truth is, people tend to work for longer hours when they work from home because it’s harder to just unplug and leave work when your office and home are both under the same roof. In fact, struggling to unplug from work is one of the top three challenges faced by remote employees.
To improve productivity, you need to protect your time by creating clear work and home boundaries. Set your office hours and log out when you would usually leave the office so that you can have enough downtime with your family and return back to work feeling refreshed.
2. Make your home office distraction-free
When you are working from home, assume that anything and everything can interrupt you and take your focus away from work. It can be anything from an impromptu family conversation about what to eat for dinner, to a delivery person at the door.
While you can’t avoid all of the distractions, you can definitely minimize them to a great extent by talking to your family members or roommates about the hours that you can’t be disturbed and setting some ground rules around the house
3. Take scheduled breaks
No matter how much work you have, you should always take regular breaks to give your body and mind some well-deserved rest. Breaking up your work hours and moving your body allows you to refresh yourself and return to work with improved productivity.
Ideally, for every hour that you work, you should take a 5-10 minutes break. You should also take 30-60 minutes of lunch breaks. Set an alarm for breaks to get up and stretch every hour or so.
4. Restrict social media during work hours
It can be tempting to check social media just for a few minutes, especially in times like these when there is breaking news almost every other day. But spending too much time scrolling through your social media feed can lead to a huge loss of productivity and time.
If self-control isn’t your forte, try using a browser extension or plugin to restrict social media websites on your laptop during office hours. You can also use apps on your phone to restrict social media access.
5. Tell your team the best time to reach you
Set separate hours for deep work and meetings, and let your team members know about it so that you are able to focus on your work without any disruptions.
- Do you prefer to work late nights and wake up late as well?
- Do you prefer team discussions in the morning?
- Do you have kids and need longer lunch breaks during the day?
The more information you can give your colleagues about the best time to reach you, the fewer misunderstandings will occur. This is particularly important if you have a team working from different time zones.
The right strategies can help you thrive in the WFH model
Remote work is the future of work, there is no doubt about that. If companies want to stay relevant, attract good talent, and improve employee engagement, they need to implement the right remote work strategies. While remote work may seem challenging at first, it’s all about making basic adjustments in work methodology and collaboration to make it easier for your team to work together.