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Jobseekers Remote Work

How to Avoid the #1 Struggle of Working Remotely

How do you win against the struggle of working remotely?

Sleeping stations, coffee vouchers, or happy hours – companies around the world are beginning to recognize the importance of offering workplace perks to improve their talent acquisition and retention. In fact, job seekers in 2019 ranked employee benefits as the 2nd most important factor when filtering which companies to apply for, trailing only to remuneration. 

Of the perks, the most popular by a significant margin is the ability to work remotely. Citing flexible schedules and time with family as the key components, applicants use websites such as Glassdoor to analyze which companies will offer them the flexible schedules that they desire. 

So, one thing is for sure – COVID-19 has advanced the inevitable: remote work is not a band-aid solution, it’s here to stay. 

Typically, you would’ve waited for larger companies to experiment with working from home to learn from their mistakes, allowing you to slowly enlarge your comfort zone rather than step out of it. 

But now you don’t have that choice, you have to get this right…immediately! 

In 2019, buffer.com published their annual report on the State of Remote Work, combining the opinions of almost 2,500 remote employees to learn about their routines, benefits and pain points. 

Albeit usually the optimists, working from home during the coronavirus is unlikely to yield the typical, regular benefits. Conversely, the pain points will remain vigilant, perhaps even exacerbated. 

Almost everyone flirts with the idea of working from home occasionally, staying in their pyjamas, and doing the bare minimum with Netflix in the background. But obviously, this is neither sustainable nor effective – the struggles of working from home will appear through the cracks within a couple of days. As such, it is important to channel your efforts NOW into avoiding the strains, to keep your team productive during this uncertain time. 

Take a look at the results of the Buffer survey for the most difficult of working remotely:

struggle of working remotely

The #1 Problem – Unplugging After Work

For in-house workers, it is simple – when you’re at work, work; when you’re at home, rest.

The key struggle for remote workers is the ability to mentally switch off, given the lack of separation between home and the workplace. Every waking moment is an opportunity to be working, even if it is not expected. Employees infectiously fall into the tempting trap of working at 50% for 12 hours instead of 80% for 8 hours, or even 40% for 14 hours. This may seem like a similar output, but the absence of intensity in a business is the death of productivity.

Very few operators remain efficient without a strong routine, even if they get more done for the first week. This slippery slope can extend to a reduction in physical exercise, continuous snacking instead of meal-eating, and most dramatically, an increase in stress levels as they lose

Flexibility through Structure

struggle of working remotely

Avoiding this is simple, but you’ll need to do something counterintuitive – make rules to create flexibility. I know what you’re thinking, that’s an oxymoron. But with company-wide guidelines on login times, expected response rates, and even mandated lunch breaks, you afford your employees the gift of routine. By establishing a concrete structure in your business, you emulate the work-home split for your company that will act as an anchor during these times of ambiguity. 

Create a conversation around your employee’s daily schedule and encourage them to maintain a ‘regular’ life as much as possible. Here are some of the simple, practical ways we encourage the MultiplyMii team to maintain a balanced lifestyle while working from home:

  • Beware of everyone’s working hours and respect them religiously.
  • Morning video huddle – start the day together with momentum. 
  • Shared calendars with non-work-related events updated too. This includes walking the dog, morning jogs, cooking dinner, and social meet-ups (COVID-19 permitting).
  • Logout message – inform the team when you’re logging out for the day. 
  • Respect the weekend!

Beware the Overzealous Employee

Furthermore, protect your team from the over-motivated employee that works outside their prescribed hours. While initially, you may LOVE the determination, the subtle pressure that they accidentally create for their peers is detrimental to your business. First, employees will begin to respond to Slack messages during their ‘off’ hours…then it will be emails, and finally calls. Before you know it, your company has abandoned a healthy workplace routine, employees aren’t managing to unplug and stress levels surge through the roof. Productivity will indeed spike, but very quickly the trend will reverse. 

You heard it here first – don’t be short-sighted!

Your role as a manager is to catch any falling stones that can trigger the avalanche. It may seem counterintuitive to call-out your most driven, loyal team-member. However, your role as a leader is to be holistic and see the bigger picture. A balanced lifestyle is always important, but even more so in the midst of COVID-19!

Practice What You Preach

This is two-fold: 

1. Be an example for your team. Despite the surrounding chaos, champion the value of maintaining your existing work-life balance. If you start working 16-hour workdays, your employees may well follow suit. Conversely, if you pave the way to correctly operate remotely, your team will naturally reflect your best intentions. 

2. Take care of yourself! Recognise that this period will be unpredictably challenging from a personal perspective and your leadership will be tested. If you’re feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, you’re probably not wrong. Conscript daily concrete rules to essentially enforce work-life balance upon yourself while working from home. You have a responsibility to your team to remain level-headed, so employ necessary measures to ensure you can remain the vanguard in the fight against the coronavirus pandemonium. 

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Jobseekers Remote Work

5 Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated Remotely During COVID-19

Shifted to work from home set-up? Motivating your remote team can be challenging but possible.

As a sensible business manager, you’re currently channeling your energy to building a viable contingency plan to guide the company through the COVID-19 crisis.

Conversely, any sensible employee is currently disturbingly distracted by the possibility that their future with your company is in jeopardy. Both you and your team can be forgiven for plainly placing your own survival above all else – but that’s going to have to change for your business to succeed, and you’re going to have to be the bigger man (or woman, of course). 

For unprecedented pandemonium such as this, no data from 2008 or 2001 or even 1929 can be conscripted as a guide. All you have to rely on is fierce, courageous leadership. It can be tempting to place your Big Business problems above the level of your team, but you’re going to need everyone on board to successfully navigate this period. Remember, your company is bigger than you. While it may not seem the most urgent right now, managing and motivating your team is the most important issue for the future of your business. 

The trick is to align everyone’s self-interest into one collective goal and help them identify with your concerns, while you identify with theirs. This can be even harder to pull off when working remotely, so here are some tips to help you adapt your management style to the corona restrictions to display strong leadership. Motivating your remote team can be possible through:

1. Communication. Communication. Communication.

motivated remotely

Put yourself in the shoes of your employee right now. They’ve got a mortgage or rent, perhaps a sick parent and the kids are at home. The most important thing running through their head is the security of their employment. They know that you’re being pushed against the wall, but it’s not their job to put themselves in your shoes.

While working from a distance, they’re hanging on to every episode of communication they have with you, whether by email, phone or their aunt’s friend who saw you “worryingly smile” while getting your morning coffee. If they’re millennials, they’re gossiping about you in the Whatsapp group. Even though they’re potentially competing against each other for a spot on a shrinking team, they’re teaming up together because they’re seeking comfort, not rationale. 

The only way to calm the nerves and steady the ship is to communicate with your team. You’re not sitting in the same room, but that doesn’t mean there’s space for an elephant. You should address the most pressing issue head-on, and offer the team as much peace-of-mind as you responsibly can. 

If you have the luxury of being optimistic, you should be. If your business has been hit hard, you can still show positive intent and integrity in your response. Look your employees in the eye (on a video call) and say something to the effect of: 

“Times may be tough, but you are a valued member of the team, and my number one priority is pushing through this with you on board. Whatever the case, I promise to communicate with you honestly and expect nothing less from you in return.”

2. Get Small Wins on the Board

Get Small Wins on the Board

In modern first-aid courses, other than CPR and opening airways, a crucial element of the curriculum is dealing with a patient in a state of emotional shock. The main method of bringing the patient back to being a cognizant decision-maker is by requesting that they perform easy tasks to record achievements. Simple requests such as “Can you hold my water bottle?” or “Tie your shoelaces”, followed by positive reinforcement. 

While your employees (hopefully) aren’t in a medical state of shock, the same concept applies to crisis management. Return to the basics and help your team accomplish small wins to build momentum and encourage positive intent. It will help alleviate stress and return their focus to the task ahead.

3. Emulate the Water Cooler

Emulate the Water Cooler

Don’t lose touch of the social benefits of the workplace. You may be motivated by the success of the business, living from metric to metric – that’s okay. But your workers value the morning smiles, the precious lunch-breaks, the workplace banter, and the collective countdown to Friday afternoon drinks. Motivating your remote team can bring more value.

Help facilitate this community while working remotely, by assigning time to all get on a conference call and talk about non-work related topics. In our company, as everyone is always remote, we have a Monday morning coffee break to talk about our weekends. Be present during these conversations and show that you are emotionally invested in your employees, not just financially. This can provide comfort and defeat anxiety, as well as lessen the loneliness of isolation.

4. Be a Port of Call

Be a Port of Call

Your employees are bound to experience personal challenges over the next few months, and a strong leader is the first port of call. A weak leader, alternatively, is never exposed to the suffering as they are impersonal, feared, or deemed not to care. 

The challenge of working remotely, not just during the COVID-19 isolation, is developing strong relationships with employees in which they feel comfortable talking about insecurities. While it is important to constantly remind your team that you’re always available for a chat, the best way to encourage this is to ask questions and show that you care. Set up a weekly meeting with each member of your team, where the first 10 minutes is dedicated solely to a ‘personal catch-up’. 

While working remotely, maintaining company loyalty and a support mechanism is crucial to motivating your staff to continue to work hard during these times.

5. DON’T Walk on Eggshells

Communication. Communication. Communication.

Giving face-to-face negative feedback is tough work for any employer, so criticism while working remotely – with a foreboding economic crisis – is a real land-mine. 

However, it is crucial for businesses to have honest evaluations and feedback loops at all times to ensure quality control. Don’t fall into the trap of walking on eggshells because you’re nervous about the effect of your negative feedback. It won’t serve you or your employee, as let’s face it – sometimes the stick is more effective than the carrot.

After working with Filipinos for over a year, I have learned of the art of giving feedback to extremely non-confrontational team members at the best of times. Here are 3 key takeaways: 

  • It’s all about managing expectations early. Create a project brief in which you outline a number of crucial factors, such as deadlines, requirements, and deliverables. If you didn’t set expectations properly, hold yourself accountable. If they didn’t meet your standards, it will all be documented.
  • Don’t give negative feedback until you have a planned a practical follow-up task to give them an opportunity to improve. 
  • Negative feedback should not be emotional or personal, rather constructive and reasonable. Try to help your employer recognise your point of view, and avoid escalating the feedback into a conflict. 

Start motivating your remote team now and increase productivity.

MultiplyMii will be releasing daily content to help your business thrive during the COVID-19 working regulations.