There’s no denying the fact that the last few years have witnessed a profound and nearly unprecedented disruption in the work world. For many of us, the transition happened nearly overnight, as employees in companies across industries and sectors went from working in offices and established places of business to working remotely from their homes.
Of course, the pandemic helped accelerate the remote working trend, but the truth is that it’s been gaining acceptance for years as innovations in technology have empowered companies and their teams to pivot towards remote work as an option and achieve business goals from wherever they are around the globe. All types of companies, from lean startups to multinational behemoths, are continually advancing new innovations in the work-from-home space. In addition, businesses are reaping the benefits as they get more done while keeping infrastructure costs low, and employees are being given greater work flexibility than ever before—a real win-win for many.
That said, with many of us working at home or on altered schedules and everyone uncertain about what work will look like moving forward, it can be tricky for businesses and employees alike to establish fair and equitable ground rules that benefit everyone. If you’re finding yourself in this situation, then consider adopting the following rules for healthy, productive, and mutually beneficial remote working.
Set realistic targets
As the pandemic struck, many of us went from our normal work routines to remote working in the blink of an eye. Adjusting to this change hasn’t been the same for everyone. For some, this switch was relatively uneventful—in fact, many companies were starting to embrace the notion of telecommuting before the pandemic even struck. For others, it’s been more of a challenge. The truth is, each of us has a different set of life circumstances, arrangements, and distractions that affect how easy or challenging it can be to work effectively from home. A good approach is for businesses to work closely with each employee to set realistic performance targets that take their unique situation into account, and to work in tandem to make sure they remain consistently productive and valuable members of the team.
A significant challenge when working remotely is maintaining an appropriate level of connection with colleagues. Simply put, the absence of a shared physical workspace can lead to feelings of “out of sight, out of mind,” which could directly or indirectly affect your emotional and mental health and work performance. Work teams should develop mutually agreed-upon plans for staying connected with each other, using available tools at their disposal—including video conferences, phone calls, and email and text exchanges. Maintaining connections with co-workers on a regular basis will help employees stay engaged, feel supported, keep productive, and achieve target performance milestones.
The truth is, not every employee has adjusted to working remotely equally. Some of us are more social creatures than others and crave the camaraderie and in-person interaction with our colleagues—and really feel its absence, despite the prevalence of available video conferencing tools. Many of us prefer having a clearer division between our professional and personal lives, and working from home has blurred that distinction to say the least. All of this has led some folks to start wondering if they’re experiencing burnout. If you’re among this group, it’s more than okay—in fact, it’s completely normal. Forward-thinking businesses will not only acknowledge this reality but also have strategies for encouraging employees not to overdo it and to maintain a healthy work/life balance, along with having supportive resources in place to help employees cope effectively.
Avoid the avoidable distractions
The truth is, employees are a lot like fingerprints—no two of us are exactly the same, and this includes our lives, commitments, and responsibilities. While working remotely, we each have to contend with a mix of potential distractions that threaten to chip away at our work productivity—some of which are routine, predictable, and inescapable while others are more avoidable if we choose to put in the effort to do so. As a rule, take a careful look at the things that tend to diminish your productivity on any given day and make an effort to avoid the avoidable distractions, which should help you maximize your productivity with minimal effort—and without having to make significant life changes.
Retool as needed
The difference between a good plan and a great one is the ability to update and revise it as needed. For many of us, working remotely is a relatively new concept and will likely require some trial and error to get things right. As businesses and employees devise strategies and implement plans for working remotely, both sides should pay careful attention to the results and adjust things as needed. When it comes to remote working, don’t waste the opportunity to learn from your experiences, including your successes and failures, to help plan a successful path forward.
In a time of extreme uncertainty in the work world, one thing that’s clear is that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. As we navigate through this new terrain, it’s helpful for businesses and employees alike to try and establish some ground rules—like those mentioned here—for making this transition successful.