Making Locationless Working Work!
Research & surveys show that more than 60% of employees are working remotely. Also managers are now more accepting to the remote working for their employees or even hiring remote based talents. As remote working is not new, I believe the future of work will be “Locationless” Working: Remote working that is not tied to a specific work location!
I also believe locationless working is not anymore a short-term setup that will reduce when the society reopens, it is here to stay and it is something that the majority of employees will follow rather than the minority.
Remote workers are enjoying the flexibility and freedom of locationless work. In addition, productivity is increasing opposite to what some thought before the pandemic that remote working is unmanageable and less productive.
However, locationless work has its unwanted side effects such as loneliness, increased anxiety of not being heard or seen or trusted and stress (known as techno stress). In addition, some managers are trying to find a way to monitor the employee activities to feel in control of their workforce.
Therefore, as I believe we are now in the locationless working era and many of us will be “locationless” employees, I would like to share few tips for keeping up with your remote work positivity and reduce (as much as possible) the negative areas. I will touch also on the leadership actions you can take as leaders as well to help you and your team enjoy this new locationless work.
Perils of Locationless Working
The quick sudden move to full time remote working for many has its side effects. The main side effects on employees are:
Feeling lonely as the social interactions that happened at work disappeared suddenly. No coffee chats, no work dinners or meetings.
Physical separation between work and non-work lives disappeared and its way harder to separate them. Even simple commute to work which gave some time to reflect, think or even wind down has disappeared.
Overwhelming number of tools & technologies is used now by many to allow them to perform their job as they did in the office - known as Technostress
Employees are not understanding their new expectations and accountability practices.
Distractions at home due to child care, other family members or even simple setup of a office that in some cases is not easily possible due to space.
The main side effects on leaders are:
Managers don’t have the experience to understand the factors that makes remote working demanding on the employees
Managers don’t understand the “virtual” impact on communications and interpersonal communications between the team members
Managers are not trained to virtually identify emotions, stress situations or even difficult situations either through virtual calls or through written communications
Managers wants to oversee their employees productivity but either can’t or use unprofessional ways such as time reporting or software to make sure they know every minute what the employees are doing.
All of this is because both employees and leaders haven’t been supported in this transition and HR departments don’t have the experience or haven’t stepped up and understood that such a shift requires an immediate and intensive work with all levels of the Organisation if they want it to succeed.
Making Locationless Working work for you
I am not an expert here nor would assume that my suggestions are perfect, but at least I hope my suggestions offer few new thoughts and different ways to make this amazing locationless working environment as productive, exciting and fun for both the employees and leaders alike.
As an employee, here are tips to help you keep up the positivity and productivity:
1- Start your day with the Virtual Commute
At the beginning, I couldn’t resist the urge to wake up and jump directly on my phone or work computer. The break that I had in the past from the time I woke up until I arrived to the office has gone and I realized early on it has a huge impact on my mood, stress and even lost some reflection time.
As some are calling it a “fake commute”, I definitely recommend it and to try to walk your dog, listen to music, drink your coffee, do some sports or simply drop your kids to school (as I do every day), as this will help you get ready for the day more energized and with a clearer head. Also getting dressed for work will help separate your personal and working day.
Soon this will also be supported by technology as in September 2020, Microsoft confirmed adding a “virtual commute” to its Teams video conferencing product.
2- Schedule breaks in the calendar
First thing I experienced when fully switching to remote working is that my calendar got full very quickly and had no time for any breaks. Days sometimes pass with not a single break, even having lunch while on a meeting. In addition, with video turned on for better engagement, you are almost stuck to your desk in front of the camera most of the time.
So I decided to start scheduling breaks in my calendar, especially after other meetings and for lunch. This has helped me a lot to break up the day, refresh and reflect on meeting outputs and of course to take a break from the screen. So I recommend booking daily breaks, it breaks up your day and enable you to move away from your work area for a change scenery, doing something non-digital and enable you to move your body and refresh a bit and definitely increases your productivity.
3- Safeguard your Precious Time
While booking time for breaks is great, what is more important is to set time for concentrated work (no conferences or meetings) as well as time to “start” and “log-off” work. This allows you to know your work day’s start and finishes, which time is free for conferences, usually booked by others, and which time is precious for your to use for your concentrated work.
4- Create Your Office Setup
To keep my effectiveness, having the ability to go to a desk and know is my office in the house has helped a lot to switch off when its needed and the family know when I am working and when not. The habit in having dedicated desk, room or area in the house allows you to relate work to that area, you can go away from it at the end of the day and also your family members understand easily when you are at work or not. Its a simple way to separate work and personal lives.
5- Create Virtual Coffee Breaks
One of the benefits of the office is to see your colleagues, go for a coffee or water cooler breaks and catchup on things. This built also cross team engagements which were nice and very emotionally helpful for all employees. Create “virtual” breaks - Coffee or water cooler ones with others and based on experience, this helps enormously to simply have the opportunity to talk about anything rather than just work. Easy, simple but very effective.
6- Train yourself on your Technology tools
One thing is clear in the virtual world, you rely on technology to engage with everything and everyone. The better you are with the tools, the more productive and less stressed you will be. I definitely recommend you take whatever trainings offered within your organization on IT tools but also take advantage of the vast information and training available on the web.
Making Locationless Working work for your Team/Organisation
Locationless working has huge advantages and will be an attractive edge for companies and organisations to draw and keep global locationless talent. As a leader, here are tips to help you keep your team engaged, connected and emotionally satisfied:
1- Create a virtual open door
Most important thing for a leader in the virtual world is to be remotely accessible. As mentioned before, with calendars being booked super quickly in remote working, setting up a “virtual” open door (virtual meeting sessions) helps a lot to make your teams to know you are available for them at certain times during the day/week and they can simply join a video conferencing call where you will always be available at those times. Certain tools like Microsoft teams allow you to setup a lobby so you can let the employee in when the other one leaves and the employee knows someone else is with you.
2- Have the 1–2-1s
I had 1-2-1s before the remote working took the world by storm as I had team members across the world. However, I realized that the frequency needs to change when everyone is fully remote as these 1-2-1s are not only for catching up on work activities but also are now check-ins on your team to discuss both their physical and emotional safety in the world of a pandemic and full time work at home. I suggest you sense the priority per employee member and set the frequency accordingly.
3- Setup regular Standups
Check-ins with your team is not only important on an individual basis but also as a team to keep the trust within the team members and feel of belonging as a team working on the same goal. As a great tool for engagement and communications, team stand-ups/check ins are important to keep conversations and alignments going within the team and with you. Important also is to encourage other check-ins within the team members themselves and social checks ins amongst them without your involvement. In all these, video sharing is a must to make it more engaging!
4- Setup Social Events
Social events have always been rated the most rewarding within any employee engagement surveys and this is also true in virtual world. Setting work anniversary virtual events, Christmas virtual events, end of year events, and others definitely keeps the engagement and positivity within the team and allows them to engage with you and others in a non-formal way, which is very much needed. Tools like menti.com can help you run quizzes and games and make it interactive and fun.
5- Define your expectations and what they expect from you
Expectations changed in the remote world and this is something I needed to re-iterate and also hear from the team and my managers. Responsiveness, accessibility and trust is expected in general but it is important to pay attention to what the team overall might need in the new normal and what each member might require from support on activities or emotionally. For example, small things worked for me like I opened my calendar to the team for full transparency and accessibility as they felt this can help them book time if and when they needed it.
6- Offer Encouragement & emotional support
Sudden full remote work wasn’t neither taught or prepared for by any employee and therefore every leader has to understand and acknowledge that employees have different levels of stress, concerns and some struggles in working away from the office and at home with all its challenges. Key area is to regularly offer encouragement on the good work done, either in 1-2-1s or even in wider context as praise. In addition, emotional support can be powerful and most effective way I experienced is simply being a good listener to your employees and asking how they feel and really give them the time to share.
I hope this blog offered a good insight on the locationless working, its challenges and provided some beneficial suggestions you can implement easily. Please do share any additional suggestions you have as the locationless working is here to stay and all ideas are welcome to help you, me and others as employees and as a leaders alike!