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5 Tips for Overcoming Remote Work Challenges

As businesses across the world have quickly shifted to virtual workforces in order to reduce risks associated with COVID-19, we recognize and empathize with the challenges you may be experiencing. We’ve compiled the below list (also offered as a PDF here) to help you navigate remote work:

1. Set yourself up for success.

Create an organized, ergonomic workspace that is free of distractions. For most of us, this is not slouched on the couch in our PJs with the TV on in the background. For others, it’s also not sitting in clear view of the dishes or laundry that will remind us of all the things on our weekly to-do list.

Consider creating a “to-don’t” list in order to be diligent and set aside certain things for later.

Set clear start and stop times, taking breaks to infuse energy and keep your mind clear and body flexible. You might find it particularly hard to focus right now, so consider setting time for 30 minutes of deep, focused work followed by a break.

Inserting a 15-minute walk into your morning and afternoon routines can increase oxygen to the brain and improve productivity. Getting outside for some fresh air and natural light will leave you feeling refreshed and re-energized.

Consider “eating the frog,” AKA starting with the meatiest project. This can help you be more productive and positive the remainder of the day. You might also find use in apps like RescueTime, which help you identify what times of day you are most productive so you can reserve those hours for important tasks.

Also, minimize multi-tasking (e.g., answering emails or handling other tasks when on group calls) in order to be fully present and reduce misunderstandings.

Take advantage of “Away” messages in various technologies to set aside quiet time as needed. In the office, your bowed head and ear buds signal that you’re busy. You can send the same message virtually to allow for fewer disturbances.

2. Stay connected.

Whereas you may be used to bumping into your boss and/or colleagues in the hallway or dropping by their desks, working remotely requires you to be more proactive and intentional.

Schedule 1-on-1s ahead of time in order to touch base. Allow time during those meetings for chit chat that would normally happen during in-person encounters.

Share calendars so that everyone is on the same page as to who is available and when.

Have ongoing conversations via instant messenger and/or text.

Keep your manager and others informed of your work contributions—whether through collaborative technologies, virtual stand-up meetings or a simple email update at the beginning or end of each week.

3. Confirm work-from-home operating norms.

What hours is everyone expected to be online? Do all emails need to be responded to within 24 hours? What communication channel (e.g., email, calls or text) should be used for urgent matters? What times are calls acceptable versus not (with the exception of emergencies)?

Getting clarity on these points will relieve uncertainties and ensure you know when you can “log off”. Remote work has its perks in that it often allows us to work when we’re most productive. That said, it also comes with its challenges in that work/life distinctions become more blurred.

In addition, extend—and ask for—grace as everyone figures out their new norm. Some of your colleagues may struggle to figure out childcare, while others may not have the ideal wifi connection or proper technology. Your boss may be managing a remote workforce for the first time in his/her career. It will take a while for everyone to get back in the groove, and that’s OK. The important thing is that you’re all in this together, and you’ll figure it out together.

4. Take advantage of technology.

Research shows that 93% of message meaning comes from non-verbal communication. In other words, our tone, inflection, facial expressions, eye contact and posture are essential elements of effective communication. When we stick to just email or even phone calls, we remove many of these elements and increase the risk of miscommunication.

Use the video technology that is available to you (e.g., Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) to stay engaged and ensure effective communication.

Also, take advantage of collaboration tools like SharePoint or Google Docs. You may not be able to sit side-by-side, but you can use these tools to create the next best scenario.

If your company has an internal social networking service like Yammer, take the opportunity to post updates, give kudos and share tips & tricks.

5. Build team comradery.

Physical distance can quickly turn into emotional distance. Do your part to keep your team connected, motivated and engaged.

Find extra ways to connect on a personal level to remind your team that you’re all in this together. This could include ice breaker questions like “What was your very first job?” or “What was your weirdest dream ever?”, as well as other virtual non-work-related games and activities (e.g., tours of your remote workspaces à la MTV Cribs, posting pictures of your pets, team coffee and lunch breaks, virtual “Lunch n’ Learns,” etc.).

If offered, take the opportunity to come together virtually for more formal team building and/or training as a way to build community and navigate your new norm together.

We’re happy to help.



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