Can you believe it’s been nearly one year since the pandemic closed offices and forced remote work? We’ve all had to make adjustments over the past year. There have been varied levels of success with remote work, much of it dependent on how well the organization was able to adjust and embrace employees working from their homes.
Inc.com recently listed the top five lessons learned during 2020 regarding how to make remote work better. I like that they show the positive side of a year of remote work that most of us were thrown into fairly unprepared.
1. Be Intentional – When working in an off-site office, your day has natural breaks and downtimes, such as commuting, running for coffee, going to lunch, chatting at the printer, etc. Working from home doesn’t offer those same breaks and rituals. The lesson here is to be intentional with your time. If you need that downtime you used to get during your commute, put that time into your home schedule. Maybe it’s yoga or meditation. Or maybe it’s reading with a cup of coffee. Set time for yourself. It’s also important to set intentional space for your work, such as an office or an area of another room set up only for working.
2. Improve Relationship-Building Skills – While we have all adapted to utilizing programs like Zoom or Teams to meet with colleagues and employees, we can all admit it will never replace the connection you have when face to face. In the remote world, you have to make a stronger effort to get to know your colleagues. Encourage small talk at the beginning of virtual meetings, just as you would if you were in a room with each other. People crave the personal connection they have with co-workers, and when remote it might take a little extra effort. It’s OK to call a colleague to see how their day is going, when in the past you’d likely stop by their office.
3. Express Your Trust – For some managers, it was a tough adjustment not actually seeing their employees working. But managers must learn to trust their employees. One of the benefits of remote work is that it doesn’t have to be a strict 9-5. Having key hours is beneficial, but embrace the flexibility you now have and understand that your employees are also dealing with spouses working from home, virtual schooling, etc. Focus on the outcomes – is the work getting done? If so, then you can trust your employees are working. I like how Inc.com stated it, “Don't measure success by how many hours your employees work. Instead, focus on what they are accomplishing.”
4. Maximize Your Writing Skills – Being remote has resulted in more written communications. Employees are utilizing email and chat more often, rather than stopping into someone’s office to ask a question or give a quick update. Be very careful when giving feedback in writing, because the tone perceived might not be the tone you intended. Read it back from the other person’s point of view.
5. Know Your Employees’ Individual Needs – Get to know what motivates your employees. Burnout during this time is on the rise. Everyone’s stress level is risen both at home and work. If you had layoffs, you likely have workers picking up extra slack. Check in with them. What do they need? Encourage managers to do check-ins with their employees on an individual basis. Some handle stress better than others. Find ways to keep in touch with each employee, and if you are seeing any widespread issues, address them head on. This is a great time to consider adding wellness resources for your employees or implementing no-meeting days. Encourage vacation time as well. With travel still not advised, it’s easy for employees to just keep going. But time off can still be very beneficial mentally.
What lessons have you learned over the past year? Email me at [email protected]. I received great feedback after my last blog, Soft Skills Are the Key to Success, from Richard Regensburger, former ASE Board Member, now retired:
“I appreciate your article in the issue of EverythingPeople This Week!, received today.
After hiring hundreds of people, managers or non-managers, in my 40+ years in HR, I totally concur with your list of soft skills. I am especially drawn to your definition of problem solving, and the tenet “bring me solutions, not problems.” I was taught that exact rule by my boss many years ago.
Mary, I would like to add one more factor to your list, ‘ability to apply learned hard skills.’ While there is a fine line in classifying this as either a soft or hard skill, it is often overlooked. I learned long ago that hiring a highly skilled person who lacked the ability to apply what she/he had learned, would result in that person not being effective in the assigned role. I found this a particular problem with engineers, especially ones with masters and PhD degrees; they possessed critical skills but lacked ‘street smarts’ (could not effectively apply their knowledge). This would also apply to people in leadership positions.”
Thank you for your feedback, Richard. I couldn’t agree more.