Most of us have never seen such global disruption as we have over the last few years. Every aspect of our daily routine was flipped on its head in 2020, at one point only having us venture out for only the most urgent needs. Non-essential businesses shut down and millions unemployed while children were out of school and parents (who still have a job) juggle work and family from home. It was scary and strange wrapped together.
During this time, we looked to leaders to inform and guide us through the uncertainty. Much of the situation was beyond our direct control and we quickly learned to adapt to the “new normal”, which largely involved companies allowing employees to work remotely.
Flash forward and much of the normalcy before the pandemic has returned, but we know the landscape has forever changed. The pandemic pushed our readiness and ability to truly conduct business as a virtual team.
How has your organization been confronting working remotely while driving new innovations and managing and growing teams? Leveraging the best of virtual teams and avoiding the pitfalls, we’ve built a proven practice of team collaboration, project governance, and reliable delivery whether team members are in the office or distributed far-and-wide.
This article is the first in a three part series that will cover the challenges, best practices, and benefits to working remotely. You’ll learn future-proofing strategies to manage risk, build collaboration, and develop upcoming leaders to thrive in remote work environments. As many businesses try to navigate this evolving work environment we hope you find these articles useful.
To overcome challenges of remote working, consider the sections of in-office work. By doing so, you can start to create a more collaborative, organized remote workplace.
This workspace is where we make some of the biggest contributions and value to the team. Oftentimes, deep thinking and focused attention on the task is required in order to push through the workload of the day. This space needs to be organized and equipped with the tools and technologies needed to perform our job and contribute.
Think of the Individual Workspace as a base camp to plan the daily climb. We must be able to work effectively, manage distractions, and meet the goals presented.
Working alongside team members in an office setting provides convenience and the ability to keep us in check. Although we might not always like how accessible colleagues are, when urgent help is needed we are thankful for the convenience- whether it is for a quick chat on an urgent problem or ad-hoc conversation about a project.
Being in the office assures our team of our presence and attention to share responsibilities. When working remotely, a large concern is losing the built-in benefits of physically being together. To compensate, remote workspaces need to provide a presence that our office-mates can interact with.
Leaders in the organization play a pivotal role in our day-to-day work. Whether a supervisor, mentor, or manager they provide us with instruction and direction to ensure our work contributes to a larger cause. A Leader Workspace is where priorities are determined, disputes resolved, and plans developed to further move the organization forward.
In office, leaders benefit from constant visibility of their teams. It is easy to see at a glance if someone is focused, tired, or distracted. Just by passing, conversations can be had that show support and problem solve on the fly. A leader's presence alone makes a difference.
Leaders often face the greatest challenges when teams transition from in-office to remote working conditions. Without the physical spaces to walk around to hold impromptu conversations, leaders have to more intentionally engage and interact in virtual workspaces.
“Don't go in like the new sheriff in town, but go in like a real person and talk about who you are, what you've done… just having the chance to connect with people, not trying to go in right away and just be all business. I think that does help.” -Tim Aaron, Director at Blackboard and long-time remote team leader interviewed for this Insight
Teams need spaces to gather as a group and discuss their common mission. Although we work individually to contribute to a team's mission, we also require time and space for members to hear updates and contribute to group discussion.
Teams need to be able to work together even when they are apart, with all members having the opportunity to participate and benefit from conversation.
It can be a challenge to engage a virtual audience with compelling presentations and information that excites both visual and auditory attention is important. With your screen as your platform you need to be able to seamlessly switch from presentation to camera in order to express emotion and rapport.
Every workplace has social space where people can go to congregate, take a break, and connect with friends for a bit. This is healthy and allows us to thrive in our work. People require human connection to achieve team fellowship and social interactions help facilitate that.
Workers also find unexpected solutions to work problems in these spaces. Ad-hoc brainstorming sessions break out in the break room! Social spaces change up the scenery and offer casual conversation, taking us away momentarily from today’s stresses. This can prove challenging in a remote setting.
All team members should work to be intentional about creating a social workspace. From building rapport in team phone calls or using positive emojis in chats, this can all build morale. When taking work breaks, consider connecting with fellow co-workers over a cup of coffee and chat. These video or phone calls provide often unknowingly emotional support we all need.
By focusing on each section of in-office workspaces you can work towards creating a greater overall remote workplace environment. In doing so, you will not only attract and retain talent, but boost productivity and innovation. This is not just a “nice to have” in today’s market, but a strategic competitive advantage.
Working together while working apart has become commonplace and will continue to be more important than ever for companies to thrive. The next article in our Remote Workplace Series will dive into best practices for the four workspaces (Individual, Leader, Team, Social) when working remotely.