While the global pandemic has stopped us from stepping out, we used advancements in technology to continue working from our homes. To function, remote work is now a necessity for companies all over the world. Barring essential industries and services, everyone has begun to adjust to the new reality of working from home.
Any change brings with it some challenges, and remote work is no different. This shift has revealed a slew of problems, especially in terms of remote communication. Accessibility remains one of the biggest obstacles in establishing work-from-home (WFH) routines around the globe. The accessibility to private workspaces, the right technology, and stable internet connections are basic needs for successful remote working. Thankfully, remote communication problems can be easily overcome with adjustments.
WFH: What does it mean?
Let’s take a moment to see what remote working can mean for the employee. For some, it means getting to spend more time with their families and saving time on traveling to work. For others, remote working can be stressful if going into the office plays a role in increasing productivity. But for everyone, it means not seeing colleagues every day. For those living alone, it can also lead to feelings of loneliness or missing human contact. No doubt, it is difficult to build or sustain relationships when you are only speaking to colleagues on video calls. In this scenario, communication becomes the largest hurdle in maintaining a happy workforce for the company. Let’s look at breaking down the communication problems remote working can bring.
Remote working is largely a solitary activity. While calls are scheduled during the day, the work is done mostly alone. Typically, this is not a great foundation for work. For instance, this makes it difficult for new hires to get to know the team, let alone work with them well. In fact, even colleagues who might have had a good working relationship before the pandemic hit us might have realized a new dynamic due to WFH.
The burden, therefore, lies on the company to ensure that enough measures are taken to make teamwork possible. Team calls where work isn’t discussed, group activities, or virtual workshops where the team gets together can initiate good relationships. Additionally, scheduled brainstorming calls with different mixes of teammates can increase productivity and creativity. While virtual brainstorming might not bear the same fruit as before, there are many things you can do to improve your online brainstorming sessions, including facilitating icebreakers and using digital whiteboards.
When your workforce has limited communication building trust within teams and between teams is challenging. Try virtual team-building exercises (maybe play a multiplayer game on Friday afternoons) and increase communication between the workforce. As a manager, it is important to make yourself as accessible as possible in this regard.
Tough task management
In an office environment, it is easier to manage the tasks a team is assigned. You can approach employees in person and understand what task can be given to whom, as well as easily check in them for updates. On the other hand, calling people every hour to ask for updates can be exhausting for both parties and can create unnecessary stress. An easy way to manage work today is by using project management software or tools. Monday.com, Asana, Trello, and Zoho Projects are some examples of tools you can use.
With the help of these tools, you can assign tasks to people with details and timelines, so no follow-ups are necessary. Using project management software can also show you if any one person has too much on their plate and if their workload can be decreased by assigning some of it to another person.
Difficulties in tracking company assets
When all of your company’s computers are in the same place, it is easy to account for all the assets being created, take regular backups, and secure the assets. But when your employees are scattered in different locations and often using their own devices, it is vital to take cognizance of your assets as a company. Document management must become a priority so that even though your employees work in different places, your data can remain in one. One thing to remember is to initiate regular backups on the cloud or online drives so as to not lose or misplace assets and data. Secondly, when a remote employee leaves your organization, any new data must be scraped from their device before they depart from the company.
Different Time Zones
One of the main problems that arise from remote working is people working from different time zones. How do you manage a workforce that is available at different times? One solution is to create a calendar where every team member’s availability is clearly stated for everyone to view. Even if team members are working on different schedules, ensure that each members’ schedule is fairly regular. Be flexible to accommodate personal choice of work hours but try to maintain a cohesive routine for the most part. If you know when a certain person is working daily, they become more approachable.
Challenges in remote leadership
Leadership in itself is no easy job and when it comes to WFH, the burden on the leader only increases. Leadership is not just about your work but about allowing each member to feel they have an equal stake in the project. However, handling teams virtually can be a different ball game altogether. Some ways to be an effective virtual leader include focusing heavily on organization and checking up on your employees often. This is a good way to make sure they are both physically and mentally okay. Finally, it is good practice to invest in finding ways to build their skills virtually. After all, your employees are your most valued assets.
So how much communication is necessary?
There is no fixed answer to this question but in most scenarios, the more you communicate the better it is. Conversations can often be strained digitally, so free-flowing communication should be a goal for every company. It is not enough to just get people to communicate, it is more important to ensure they keep communicating in the long term. Communication leads to clarity in work, better collaboration, and the building of trust between employees. With this in mind, it’s important to communicate as much as possible to make the transition to remote working easier.