From one day to another workplaces had to change
It’s difficult to predict whether working remote due to social distancing will be more common in times to come. We will defray ourselves from going down that speculative path. However, a couple of weeks into the corona outbreak, there are some clear lessons to be drawn.
Back in mid-March when most people suddenly had to work from home, it seemed like there was an immediate focus on finding the best technologies for doing so too. It seemed obvious to pay a lot of attention to this, but it is questionable whether better solutions will lead to greater success in working remotely. Upholding the company community and solidarity definitely will.
“We are all missing those small talks we previously carried out by the coffee-machine or across our desk. With all communication moved to conference calls, they tend to disappear and with them the room for loading off frustrations”, says Søren Nielsen, co-founder of Whyyy.
For the same reason, he suggests managers make sure there is an opportunity for soft topics in video meetings, and that you invite employees to go to lunch together.
“Don’t cancel your Friday bar, move it online. Provide your employees with as little ground for missing the office as possible. At some point - it might be months - we are going back to the offices. And then it's essential everybody can then do it with a good feeling, motivated for teamwork. If you don't have a focus on the human aspects as well right now, you are in the risk of losing something valuable”, Søren Nielsen says.
He has collected some advice on how to keep scattered employees together.
4 pieces of advice
"At the office information and instructions tend to be flowing quite freely - they are quickly spread to everyone. But with many people sitting at home, this is no longer the case. For this reason, we should pay extra attention to making sure everybody gets the information they need", he says.
With all communication taking place online, it's so easy to miss things - and people are easily misaligned if they aren't appropriately informed. A misinformed team member can quickly feel cut off, which leads to poor collaboration. At the office, this could lead to some bickering, which is easily handled in the team. But if a team member is working remotely, this quickly leads to confusion and frustration, which is really destructive.
"I try to have more frequent one-on-one meetings with all team members individually. It helps in sensing how everyone is doing, andi t secures that everyone is well-informed while promoting collaboration and good energy in the team. This is more important now than ever", Søren Nielsen says.
When working remote, it's not easy for employees to figure out how exactly they are expected to carry out their job. They have no direct sparring, and most of the time, they are left for themselves.
“As a leader, you should pay extra attention to aligning expectations with all employees working remote. It will help them uphold a direction and thus their motivation”, Søren Nielsen says.
Uphold meeting cultures
Those online meetings have quickly become a big part of our everyday schedule. But they are not necessarily relevant for everyone to join. Many will do so just because they were invited, which is both pointless and could potentially lead to confusion, miscommunication, bad relations, etc.
“I believe everyone should be urged to be honest and upfront about that. As a leader, you have to show the way. I frequently find myself asking: ‘Am I truly needed here?’ and ‘will there be anything for me to contribute with?’ If you can introduce such standards, you avoid having colleagues sitting at home – alone – feeling they don't contribute with anything valuable. If we continuously do pointless things, it will just make us sad. Online meetings definitely shouldn't be the cause of that”, Søren Nielsen says.
Grab the phone whenever you have the chance
At the office, you can always politely interrupt colleagues if you have a question - or a joke for that matter. But when working from home that's a bit more difficult, and we can quickly get a bid distanced. Many will be prone to just write a message - since calling people on the phone might feel a bit more intruding than glancing over the screens to get eye contact.
“I suggest we all put that felling away. It’s a matter of knowing which question to ask, not hesitating taking contact, get the information you need and then say ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’. Just like we under normal circumstances would ask people face to face, we should now have no hesitation grabbing the phone and call. There is no need to feel afraid. If people actually don't want to be disturbed, they won't pick it up, and cold-calls will only enhance social dynamics in these outdistanced times”, says Søren Nielsen.