Now You’ve Had A Taste: Do You Really Like Working From Home?

For many organizations, the request from employees to work from home was nearly constant. In fact, many organizations touted work from home as a benefit, a way to differentiate their workplace and attract high-performing workers.

But now that so many people have lived through the experiment of working from home, does it still have the attraction it had just 60 days ago?

I think many people who are being honest with themselves will say “no.”

Consider this: in a survey of 2,000 US office workers conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix, 36% of respondents felt overwhelmed working at home and 28% felt lonely.

We are social creatures and though we complain about our commutes, who left the dirty mugs in the sink and who keeps stealing our lunches from the fridge, we want and need our workplace interactions.

Our meetings are more effective because we can watch body language more effectively to know when we are rambling on and need to shut it down or to keep going because the team is into it. Our one-on-one encounters in the office to share an idea that just popped into our head are easier and require less structured planning than to set up a Zoom meeting long after the idea showed up. Or morning huddles that were truly huddles, sharing space, ideas, coffee and life with others.

Our complaints about others now seems like something we want back because it was ours and it felt normal. The person who speaks too loud on the phone, the one with the irritating vocal pitch or laugh, or the one who makes it to their desk only a second before their start time. Yes. All of it was normal.

So, with a little information and experience under our belts, it is time to check in on how remote work is going.

As a mindfulness coach, I always guide my clients to use the What’s Working/What’s Not Working approach to review any situation. Doing this can help you better understand the full picture of what’s happening right now. This is a mindfulness practice to expand awareness that ultimately improves decision-making.

When it comes to the work-from-home experience, I recommend that those who are new to working at home try this approach to check in on how things are really going. Start by creating a summary of What’s Working when working at home. How does working at home make work, performance, engagement, productivity, social connections, creativity and home life better? List all of the ways.

Then complete the list of What’s Not Working by working at home. Review the same areas and list everything that is unproductive about working at home.

Following this approach equips you with an inventory where you can clearly see both sides together. The next step: mindfully review what worked and didn’t work about the experience. Was it all you thought it would be? Or did you notice that sometimes, things look better until you actually try them? Do you still want to work from home?

I believe this approach is something that should be explored by not only individuals for their own unique work experiences, but also by managers. Conducting this What Worked/What Didn’t Work analysis about your remote employees can not only help managers better support employees who are struggling with this new normal by getting at the aspects of remote work that work and don’t work for the employee/the employee’s situation, but it can also shed some light on which employees may actually perform best in this way.

Some questions to consider answering include: did the work get done as it needed to be? Did your service standard get delivered? Did your employees feel engaged, valued and part of the team? Did you live your cultural values as remote employees?

No one really knows what will happen in our recovery period from COVID-19. However, now armed with some information about remote work from company and employee perspectives, does remote work fit into your future approach to work?

Use information from today to wisely guide you to better decisions tomorrow.

Take Action
Try using the What’s Working / What’s Not Working approach in every aspect of your life. Start with your working situation as both the employee and, if appropriate, the manager. Then try it out in other areas of your life: pets, kids, relationships, various life goals you’ve set for yourself.

Creating these lists provides you with information that equips you to make better and more intentional decisions.  

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Manage New Remote Employees

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How to Manage New Remote Employees

COVID-19 has made us rethink many things about our businesses: how we do our work, who remains and who goes, how we keep our employees safe, how we share information and how we support our customers, just to name a few. One of the newest changes from this pandemic is that many of our local employees have become remote employees.

As a manager, how will you ensure their success as remote employees?

We believe it has everything to do with the way you manage (and actually coach) them.

Let’s say you have used a methodical process to assess which roles can be shifted to remote, and that you have evaluated whether the employees in these roles have the capacity to work remotely, including having a remote workspace. If they are incapable of working independently and don’t have workspace to complete their jobs, they should not be allowed to be remote.

But let’s say they are a good candidate for remote work. They are now set up at home and, because they haven’t done this before, you know you will need to interact and connect with them differently. The reason? You want them to be amazing in their roles, to be productive, successful and happy, so they will contribute, grow and develop with the organization.

Consider these four tips to help your new remote employees rock at their jobs.

  • Think and act like a coach. You have to start with you. Regardless of how you managed this employee / these employees before, what they now need is a coach. Coaches make time to ask, listen, support and guide. Coaches hold others accountable for their commitments and their work. Coaches help others solve their own challenges instead of filling in the blanks and doing the work of others. This approach activates greater personal connection, accountability and loyalty. Before you start managing your remote employee, learn the fundamentals of coaching. These include learning how to be self-aware and self-managed to shift the attention on the other party. Focus on gathering information, brainstorming ideas, choosing ideas and implementing performance plans. As you shift from controlling (managing) to guiding (coaching), you will interact differently with your employees, both those who are local and those who are remote. You will make time to explain, review, support and develop your employees. The reason for this is that it gets the work done more effectively while building rapport, increasing engagement and encouraging loyalty from your employees – particularly remote employees. This helps the remote employee be more committed to their role (that now has less direct supervision) leading to successful performance.
  • Define or redefine the performance expectations of the job. Since the remote employee may not be new to the job but new to the remote environment, defining, redefining or reconfirming the expectations and assessing what is reasonable based on the new environment is critical. The goal is to help the employee be successful in this new arrangement, and business as usual is not likely to happen. This could include a daily huddle or 10-minute review of expectations and challenges. As a coach, making time to review, guide and support encourages the employee’s confidence and competence. This helps to make a more effective remote employee.
  • Regularly assess performance. As this approach to work is new for the remote employee, increase the amount of time you assess and evaluate their performance. This isn’t to come down on things not done, but rather to create a recurring performance conversation about what’s working and not working so the employee knows they are supported, can improve in areas needing improvement and is applauded for successes. Again, acting more as a coach than a manager encourages an easy discussion about performance instead of one that is defined by worry about being reprimanded or scolded for things not done well.
  • Include the remote employee in local employee meetings and activities. Being remote may create a benefit for the employee in one respect, but it also can interrupt their ability to feel connected to their team. It will require intention to continually include remote employees in the discussions and activities of local employees. Challenge the team to develop ways to constantly and successfully include all employees and to ensure morale, engagement and the feeling of inclusion remain high. Activities such as team meetings, brainstorming sessions and even birthday celebrations can include remote employees so they feel included. Get creative in how you can have remote employees participate in the things local employees do.

New remote employees will need support. Though they were capable employees in a local environment, even the best employees can find themselves distracted, disconnected and disappointed in a new remote environment. Unless, of course, you create a successful environment for them.

Take Action
Stop and assess your management style. What is effective and ineffective about it with your new remote employees? Make the time to ask how your connection and support with your new employees is working. This will give you feedback and set up an honest exchange that will facilitate your working relationship and their performance success.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to Do More

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How To Keep Your Team Energized When Some Now Work Remotely

You had a great team. Everyone was focused and engaged because you had your daily huddle, you shared your performance expectations, you spent time each day connecting and developing your team and you made each team member feel included, valued and special. Then COVID-19 struck. Now, this tight-knit team is working from home. Your team now feels disjointed, confused and less connected than before.

How do you get back the great culture you created when some – or all – of your team now works out of the office?

Despite the fact that the remote workforce has become more of the norm over the past few years (since more of our work can successfully be done remotely), it has never been done on such a vast scale before. Sure, working remotely is a great benefit or role attractor for many people, so we have started to see managers learn how to keep the team cohesive, energized and engaged, but that just scratched the surface.

Consider the following ideas to keep your team connected and feeling supported when world events may move them to different locations.

  • Adjust your attitude. Yes, it would be great to have the entire team together in the same room, but some things in life are beyond your control. Spending any energy wishing it were different just uses your energy to be disappointed instead of solving how you want to keep the team excited and engaged. How you choose to look at this situation will allow you a narrow or wide view of the options to create a remarkable and connected team, regardless of the distance. So, as in most things, start with you first. Work to change your perspective. When you see that this is just a change that needs a new approach, you will find the energy and excitement to do it well.
  • Begin with the end in mind. Define what a great and high-energy team looks like and what makes it. This could include defining the quality of the relationships that exist between team members, the way the team supports and communicates with each other, or even the way they support each other on tasks because they share deadlines and expectations. Knowing what a high-energy team acts like creates a clear goal. From here, the team can brainstorm and consider meaningful options to achieve it.
  • Engage the team for ideas. It is in the team’s best interest (as it is in yours) to have a team that is wildly successful together. Have the team suggest ways to keep their energy high when some – or all – of the members are working remotely. As in effective brainstorming, accept all ideas. From these ideas, you can collectively choose the best ones and give them a try. A few ideas to consider as ways to engage remote employees include a daily Zoom or Skype huddle; a daily individual call to the remote employee to check in on progress and to talk about the work experience; an activity each week that requires team members to reach out to each other, such as a fun scavenger hunt or a project that puts employees with different abilities together. It is the intention of constantly connecting the worlds of local and remote employees that creates the ability for all employees to feel connected.
  • Try the ideas and assess their impact. Give any idea chosen a timetable to be fully implemented. Then assess what worked and what didn’t work about it. Have the team discuss how to do more of the successes and propose ideas to improve what didn’t work. This will keep the ideas coming and keep the focus on having an amazing team.

Local or remote, you need your team to connect and work seamlessly together. Sometimes this is easier when everyone is local, but in today’s COVID-19 world, that may not be possible. So, spend your energy helping the team define their new normal, how they want it to be and what they would be willing to do to have a high-impact and connected team.

Take Action
Engage your team to define how they want their interactions to be. With this clarity, host conversations to generate ideas, try the ideas and assess what works and doesn’t work. Keep developing and trying ideas until you consistently deliver the team experience you want.

Having a team that includes remote employees doesn’t mean the team has to be disconnected and disengaged. We all work better when we are valued, cared for and are included – regardless of where we work. Knowing some of the team will now be working remotely challenges us to come up with greater ideas on how to make this happen. We can respond. We are smart, resilient and capable. Guide them to build what they want.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right for your Business

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