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The Challenges of Remote Working

Covid-19 has shaken up the world of work and completely shifted the balance from working in the office to remote working at home.

A couple of months ago occasional remote working was either part of an agile working policy or a privilege granted to corporate employees, often reluctantly by its bosses, or it was by choice for those being self-employed and for those with flexible employment contracts geared to remote working.

Now we are all suddenly working remotely at home, which has turned everything up-side down for everyone, and presents organisations, its managers and employees with tremendous challenges.

Reactions and experiences to Remote Working are likely to be mixed, but we reckon that individuals and organisations are experiencing and observing some or all of the following five outcomes:

  1. A few individuals will take to it like a duck to water and find it to be a productive experience. Fewer interruptions from colleagues allow for more individual focused and concentrated work.
  2. The majority will experience different levels of difficulty in adjusting to home working, which affects their individual levels of productivity and engagement.
  3. Virtual collaboration with colleagues is challenging, but can also reveal surprises such as being more effective for some types of meetings.
  4. The social aspect of working closely with colleagues is missing, and can lead to feeling disconnected and isolated.
  5. Isolation can be a big challenge for those living and working alone. It can also lead to increased worries about the future.

All of these outcomes are happening all over the world, but they are of course tempered by individual circumstances, and environmental factors.

For instance if you already have a private office at home supported by the necessary technology and internet connection, you are likely to fare better than someone who is missing some or all of these factors. And if you have responsibilities for looking after your children at the same time as you are working due to home schooling, you are also likely to struggle more than those without such responsibilities.

Apart from outcome #1, the remaining outcomes #2 to #5 are undoubtedly presenting organisations, managers, and individuals with numerous challenges trying to overcome obstacles, ironing out negative experiences, providing effective support systems and continue to motivate staff to stay engaged.

The perspectives from organisations, managers and employees will invariably differ, and these will have to be harmonised, but in our experience, the following perspectives need to be addressed as a minimum:

Individuals need to know that:

  • They are supported by their supervisors and managers.
  • They are part of and connected with their team while working alone.
  • They receive clarity on what is expected of them and guidance for how to work effectively.
  • They are able to connect freely with their team members through collaborative technologies.
  • They have the technology and/or space to enable them to work effectively.

Managers need to be able to:

  • Communicate clearly with their teams, instil clarity and priorities
  • Be transparent about what they themselves are doing
  • Enable the connectivity of the team and maintain social cohesion
  • Support and encourage each individual recognising their individuality
  • Reinforce guidelines and tools for everyone.

Organisations need to:

  • Respond to problem areas where processes, roles or structure have to adapt
  • Provide clarity on expectations and provide support guidelines
  • Equip its managers with the support and understanding of how to manage remote working teams
  • Provide the optimum technology tools to enable everyone to work remotely, access and share information, and collaborate virtually
  • Monitor and survey attitudes to enable optimisation where possible.

There is lots of learning available from other organisations that has resulted in tools, insights and guidelines, which can be adapted and incorporated for any organisation.

We are experienced in helping and supporting organisations to work through these scenarios and needs, and helping to equip managers with the skill to manage teams remotely.

We can offer to work with your organisation or yourself as an individual to adjust to this change through our advisory or coaching services. Please get in touch with us if you would like to learn more.

Niels Kemp Rasmussen

Founder of Kemp & Associates