Editor’s Note: ‘Why We Might Be Doing Remote Work All Wrong‘ was first uploaded on 1 Dec 2018 and last updated on 5 Jun 2021.
Companies have struggled to find the benefits in remote work, long before the pandemic. In fact, favour for remote work actually took a hit in 2018 when tech giant (and remote-work pioneer) IBM called thousands of employees back to the office. In explaining the move, chief marketing officer Michelle Peluso said that the business was hoping to find success in the right combination of talent, tools, and “really creative and inspiring locations”.
Now, in light of a global crisis that necessitates less human contact, there is a renewed emphasis on remote work on a global scale. We rush remote work with the new restrictions in place and in a hurried bid to settle in a remote work environment, we get a couple of basic remote work practices wrong. If left unchecked, these unhealthy habits will eventually hurt employees’ welfare and the company’s growth.
That is why it is extremely important to understand why we might be doing remote work all wrong. So, what mistakes might we have made?
1) We allow communication to run cold
Remember a time when we could just walk over to a colleague’s desk to chat? We exchange hellos with colleagues, chat about our weekends, and swap stories at the pantry. We use to joke about dreading small talk. But truth be told, in this unprecedented time, many of us miss small talk and for good reason. It does a lot in helping us feel emotionally connected by building rapport and deepening trust. It also helps us boost collaboration and creativity.
Unfortunately, many of us are guilty of dismissing the importance of casual conversations. And this dismissal is further exacerbated by remote work in the age of COVID-19. Take for instance Zoom etiquette, which usually calls for meetings to get underway shortly after the relevant participants have signed on. It’s communication blocks like this that are slowly taking a toll on our engagement and morale.
Just because we might be working remotely doesn’t mean that casual conversations are no longer important. In fact, they may be more important than ever to help us seize daily opportunities to connect across the virtual divide.
So, what can we do about it?
The leaders and business owners at our workplace will need to encourage more human interaction and design remote work processes that facilitate stronger interpersonal relationships between employees.
At Talenox, we consistently run weekly/fortnightly meetings and casual lunch video calls to help everyone get comfortable and familiar with each other. On days when we can spare more time to hang out virtually, we get ultra-competitive with draw-and-guess game sessions and other virtual party games available on Jackbox.
Other interactive activities can include creating “virtual lounges” in Slack to cater to different interest groups. Why not hold regular virtual coffee catch-up for the coffee addicts and virtual UNO sessions for the board game enthusiasts? We can even arrange online book clubs for the bookworms, and happy hours for the happy-go-lucky.
Still not convinced that your company needs to facilitate virtual gatherings? You might want to pay attention to a recent INSEAD study‘s findings. The study discovered that thriving remote teams formally schedule social gatherings, which were definitely awkward at first but worth warming up to. That’s because the teams that didn’t engage in such rituals reportedly struggled to adapt to the new normal and felt less connected.
2) We neglect the benefits of online tools
Unfortunately, companies and the people that make them are often averse to change. One of the main concerns with going digital is our unfamiliarity with the digitisation process; we prefer familiar processes because they feel safe. The current state of flux has exacerbated this trait in a lot of us.
Many businesses are understandably reluctant to loosen the purse strings in the current environment of uncertainty. However, to live in fear is to not live at all.
Whether we’re an SME or a big organisation, we need to stop letting uncertainty put digital transformation plans on hold. Past recessions show that controlling cashflow by improving operational efficiency through digitisation is more effective in sustaining businesses through financial turbulence than traditional cost-cutting measures like workforce cuts.
Furthermore, with mandated shutdowns and restricted activity in place, operating digitally is the only way to stay in business. In other words, it’s go digital or go dark.
So, what can we do about it?
Let’s say you’re still manually processing payroll with the use of spreadsheets. You are aware of the benefits of a digitised payroll process; however, you’re just not sure what’s the best way to go about automating your payroll process. Thankfully, research can help to eliminate these uncertainties.
Start researching on the myriad of technology tools that serve to automate payroll, like Talenox! Aside from the main website, you may want to check the following in your research for a suitable payroll software:
1. Product Demonstration
When researching on a software to potentially adopt for corporate use, always check their product video walk-throughs; they can be found on their YouTube channel and/or other social media platforms. You can even book a live product demonstration meeting for a more personalised introduction to the software. This will help you better understand how the software works and whether it’s suited for your company’s use.
2. In-depth Article Guides
On top of product demonstrations, software instruction manuals help a lot in providing clarity on how the software works. From first-time user guides to educational articles on complex features, check that these resources are available. They will come in handy for when you decide to navigate the software during the free trial period!
3. Authentic User Reviews
Product descriptions aren’t always accurate, especially when they’re written by the very company that wants you to buy its software. That is why you’ll want to check out the user reviews available on the software company’s Google Listing! User reviews generally provide a more accurate depiction of a product or software’s efficacy.
3) We lost track of the company’s goals and vision
Many of us have been working alone for long periods of time. With regular or long-term distance between team members, it’s easy to retreat into one’s shell and lose sight of the bigger picture.
As a result, many of us feel out of the loop on a personal level. On a company level, this can result in unaligned goals and differing levels in the quality of work produced. It is a dangerous predicament to be in as the miscommunication that arises will frustrate and cause friction between colleagues.
So, what can we do about it?
While there is no such thing as the perfect synergy in a team of people, it would be lackadaisical not to at least revisit the company’s raison d’être from time to time. After all, it helps to reinforce clear workflow and processes! This ensures that everyone’s efforts go into fulfilling shared goals. It also helps individual team members obtain a clearer idea of the ever-evolving roles they play in the company.
At Talenox, we run Talenox Sharing meetings fortnightly. They exist to help everyone remember the company’s vision (i.e. to augment an ecosystem towards endless human capital development).
It also helps each team – from product engineering to marketing – shine a brighter light on the different ongoing and upcoming projects they’re taking on to fulfil the company’s vision!
4) We forgot to nurture trust in tandem with accountability
This cannot be overstated. Of the many gambles that teams take when they adopt a remote work policy, the biggest would be the threat of disappearing acts—that one colleague who misses deadline after deadline, or is nowhere to be found when a work update is required.
Ultimately, this is a matter of culture-fit in the workplace. Different people work and interact with others in different ways. But one of the trade-offs of having the flexibility and autonomy to work remotely is complete accountability and professionalism. Conversely, micromanaging team members and asking for an inappropriate amount of check-ins and updates will stifle the team and drain the energy out of it. So finding the right balance is key here.
So, what can we do about it?
The success of a remote work policy varies from company to company, and one should take into consideration team size and nature of work, among other factors.
However, as more businesses adopt this style of work, regardless of whether the team is big or small, or whatever the nature of the work is, we suspect they will have to go down the same route of self-discovery that we did. Which is to find the most ideal combination of hardware (tools, workflow, processes) and heartware (people). And when they do, as we did, they’ll find it was worth it in the end.
Remote work is a conversation that needs to be explored in-depth, practised over time, and embraced by each individual within your company. In our future of work, remote work can present an opportunity for all of us to think about what it truly means to collaborate and how it can improve our organisations.
Make no mistake, there will be no “return to normal”.
The coronavirus is permanently reshaping the way we live and work. Some of the behaviours developed in crisis, including wide-scale digital adoption, will outlast the pandemic well after restrictions are lifted. To stay competitive, we must respond continue to evolve and grow with digitisation.
Got your own remote work success (or horror) story? We’d like to hear it! Tell us in the comments section below.