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Making the Most of Remote Work During COVID-19

By Vivek Purekar

We are truly living in unprecedented times, which seems to be changing by the day. When we aren’t out scavenging for the last package of toilet paper on barren grocery store shelves, chances are we have found ourselves working from home. 

As COVID-19 has spread across the country, we have turned to social distancing measures to slow the outbreak. Overnight, the established norms of how and where we work have changed. The shift in working from home is a shock to the system that we are all still trying to understand. What once was a nice perk that we enjoyed from time to time, is now a daily reality and teams are encountering many challenges as they consider how to best shift to a work from home model. 

I, for one, believe this could be an opportunity for organizations to think about remote work in an entirely new way. Understandably, companies are struggling to find their way with completely different communication plans, engagement models and collaboration tools. However, in each of these areas, there are great opportunities for discovering a better way to get things done.  

Working from home is not a new concept. Its ability to give more balance to the day, improve flexibility and save time typically lost in commuting, has always made it a draw for employees.  Maintaining these benefits while adapting to a longer-term model where entire teams are remote is the challenge at hand. 

Managers and HR contacts have an important responsibility to help drive the work from home effort while ensuring employee productivity and motivation remains high. They must also do so without the typical in-person tactics we are all accustomed to. For instance, many organizations typically use team building activities to improve collaboration, communication, and strengthen relationships. Moving forward, organizations will need to convert these in-person team building exercises into a remote-friendly application while thinking through the specific challenges their remote employees are facing. For example, many will be juggling children out of school while needing to work, and what better way to team build than to involve the whole family.  Recognizing team members’ specific challenges and adapting management strategies to meet their needs is the best way to confront these difficult times.

HR and direct managers also play an important role in establishing new ways of communicating with employees. As working remotely has grown popular in the last few years, many organizations have started to find ways to reach these employees. At Simeio, the Listening Booth is an effective internal communication tool used by the HR team to reach out to remote employees to understand the challenges they’re facing. We plan to build off of our past efforts and ensure we have active and ongoing communications between HR and our employees. Likewise, employees must also be proactive in terms of reaching out and engaging.  If all sides involved make additional efforts to have intentional interactions, leveraging technology, it will go a long way to reducing the feeling of remoteness that is inherent in remote work. 

With COVID-19 pushing many more into working from home, and with the potential for it to drag on for an extended period, organizations will need to act quickly and begin putting new models of communication and management into practice. From engaging with families and increasing meaningful communications and interactions, organizations can find ways to make working from home a positive experience.