Offices are relocated to workers' homes for up to several days a week. Technology offers super possibilities to make work more seamless. However, we seem to have been so happy with the success and benefits of remote working that we have been a little slower to notice the drawbacks. Isolation, engagement problems, loosened communities, reduced efficiency - what can HR do?
During the covid, many workers opted to work from home only out of necessity. However, even the doubters were convinced that technology was a great way of bridging the gap. In an age of online meetings, chat, email, file sharing, etc., having team members in different buildings is not a problem. Work-life balance is also usually easier to achieve with a flexible working schedule.
After a few years, it was time to realize that, like everything else, remote working has its drawbacks, often latent for a long time. We've taken the work home, it's harder to draw boundaries. Isolation set in, and a lack of social experiences at work, and a real sense of belonging. In particular, it's easier to make new connections with face-to-face meetings. This of course has an impact on employee well-being and engagement. Indeed, it is often precisely because of these problems that team effectiveness can suffer.
Remote working has not lost popularity - but the odd situation has arisen where workers do not want it and employers do not insist on a return to office-only working, yet the parties are not entirely satisfied. It is up to managers and HR to cut this Gordian knot. However, with a little attention and a few simple techniques, the challenges of remote working can be overcome.
Okay, we're not in the same office, but workflows and tasks can only be coordinated if everyone can see exactly how the project is progressing, what's going on, what's next, etc. To ensure seamless collaboration and bridge the physical distance, you need the right tools and a digital platform that can be easily accessed remotely by everyone in the team. One that is easy to use, understandable, and allows for real-time collaboration. This is essential for effective working when working remotely.
With this new way of working, a new corporate culture is obviously being built to support this hybrid / remote working. This could hardly be achieved without providing the technological conditions, but it is not enough in itself. The team needs to have access to all the documents, information, and data they need to work. In fact, this is one of the main drivers of digitization efforts: to get to anyone, anytime, anywhere, what they need to do their job.
Work-from-home colleagues need a communication channel that everyone can use confidently, understand how it works, and not be distracted. Many of these tools are available, but they can also get lost among them, so it's good to have a dedicated internal communication channel designated or established. They facilitate smooth communication, they also play a huge role in project management. It also helps work efficiency, allowing you to target messages to groups, departments, and individuals, and it gives you the opportunity to have more informal, informal conversations and topics, which is important for community building.
The fact that employees rarely or not at all meet their manager in person means that there is less opportunity for consultation, questions and feedback. Performance appraisal and monitoring can also be more complex, which can create professional uncertainty among colleagues, and expectations may not be clear. This is why regular meetings are crucial in hybrid and teleworking - and not just online! Ensure that team members have face-to-face meetings as well as virtual meetings. It's good for relationships too, it gives the opportunity for more personal, closer bonding, and it also reduces feelings of isolation.
Graphs and images can help to visualize more complex information and data; visual elements and content (infographics, video) make more complex information clearer and messages easier to remember. But beyond these practical reasons, they also make communication more attractive, colorful, and entertaining. They are more attention-grabbing, more varied, more visual, more interesting content than plain text. Create as many visuals as possible, executive videos, infographics on what you need to know, or more informal, playful content. Gamification is a great way of building community as well as increasing efficiency.
There should be room for personal and general professional development, skills development and career development even if you don't meet the team every day. In-house or external trainings, courses, online courses are also necessary during flexible working hours. Nor should the mental health and stress management issues of working from home, mentioned earlier, be sidelined. In addition, training specifically for managers should be treated as a separate project, as effective team management in hybrid working requires new approaches.
Regularly address what colleagues need to look out for when working from home so that they don't lose their healthy balance. Include regular breaks, designation of work-at-home areas, exercise, conflict management, mental coping, etc. from time to time, and provide opportunities for employees to talk to others about any problems they may have.
Celebrating milestones and successes is an important part of the togetherness and workplace community experience, while closer, more personal bonds and friendships are formed through more informal experiences. In addition to regular virtual meetings, make time for team-building events. Face-to-face meetings and programs are everything, of course, but there are also plenty of opportunities to build workplace community through online platforms.
With online team-builders, games, competitions, challenges, group exercises, quizzes, or even online shops and virtual training, you can do a lot to create a super community of team members who don't meet every day in the office.
Blue Colibri's free downloadable e-book on the topic will be published soon, in which we will go into more detail and depth on the organisational challenges of remote working. For more ideas and tips, sign up to our newsletter to be among the first to know when this ebook is published.