Being Effective in the New Normal of Remote Working

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Working remote is slowly becoming the new normal for corporations. One thing COVID-19 has forced companies to do is face their preconceived ideas that anyone who works from home isn’t going to be as productive as they would be in the office.

We’ve proved that’s not always true and now companies are starting to take a hard look at why they require everyone to come into work every day. Some major companies like Fujitsu, SAP, and Siemens have already started to move towards offering work from home options.

While this is an excellent move for the right roles and the right reasons, I have to say that we as a whole are not really prepared to work remote. Some of us need to be better at holding ourselves accountable for our own work and some managers need to employ better or different management practices. By that I mean, those who micromanage…boy howdy you are in for a rude awakening and those who can never be found when needed, you most assuredly are going to lose even more trust with your team.

….we are going to have to shift our mindset so that we hold ourselves accountable to do what we are hired to do at the same quality and pace while working remote.

Those who dig deep and know they need to work and lead in a different way will be successful or at least on the road to success in this new normal.

Personal responsibility will be needed more than ever

Let’s face it, some of us do better while seated at work. That may be because everyone is watching (or you think they are) or it could be as simple as you are able to stay hyper-focused on the job at hand while in the office. No matter the reason, we are going to have to shift our mindset so that we hold ourselves accountable to do what we are hired to do at the same quality and pace while working remote.

This includes how we lead and manage. Your standard approaches might not work any longer or maybe they need to be slightly altered. Either way, it’s up to you to find the best way to lead your team. That might mean you need to lean on your peers a bit more to see what’s working for them. Or maybe you work together to find the best way forward.

Letting go of the past is essential.

We all hold onto the past and now that the work world is shifting at a rapid pace, you have to let go of the “that’s not how we’ve done it in the past” or “this won’t work any longer because…”. You may be right that it won’t work or that it’s different, but it’s different for a reason so let it go.

You may find those who you couldn’t count on before might end up being the new stand out.

Also, I’d recommend letting go of your assumptions about others. I look at this remote working that we’ve been thrust into as a re-set of sorts. You may find those who you couldn’t count on before might end up being the new stand out. Shake off the old thoughts and beliefs and start over.

We need new ways to connect.

As a leader, you may want to ensure that what was once your morning stand-ups that have now morphed into 15-minute morning check-in zoom calls, don’t get off track. Typically, they get off track because people miss being able to connect causally like they could in the office.

You need to allow time for the team to share their opinions and thoughts. Give them the leeway to collaborate. This might mean asking them in the short morning check-in to schedule a separate call to bounce ideas for the right approach.

You should also provide an outlet for random or casual topics. Whether it’s a separate channel or group, set it up so your team can talk about things they would normally discuss in the kitchen or when they first arrived at work.

Connection is important as your team are removed from one another, so you need to proactively provide space to connect.

Get out of your comfort zone.

Basically I’m referring to asking for help. Again, you may be finding that you are not as connected so you don’t have someone right next to you to ask a simple question. Whether you need help, want to workshop and idea or just simply feel like you are missing the morning tea conversations, then ping someone.

I can see groups, like those in IT projects, where group meetings to deliberate the best way forward or to solve issues happen on a daily basis will really struggle with the aloneness of remote working. It doesn’t have to be weird, just reach out to others so you can have that connection. Chances are if you are feeling this way, then so are others so get over it and reach out to your team.

Keeping in balance.

I see two main areas where balance must be a key focus. Too many video meetings and overworking. Remember when the joke was that you had meetings to plan for a meeting? For some reason that has come back into play with video calls. Meetings should still have the same purpose and structure as they did when you were in the office building. Don’t force everyone to meet to discuss something trivial because you feel like you don’t have visibility of your team’s work. Also, too many meetings force your team to lose precious time to get work done. Better to have one meeting where you discuss everything than the constant interruptions throughout the day.

Working remote means that your computer is always at arm's length which leads to you being always at work. Just because your desk is now at home is no reason to let go of boundaries. You must have personal time to be effective at work. I realize that most of us already don’t know the concept of only working a 40-hour workweek, but that’s no excuse to pile on more hours. You must work smarter and force yourself to keep work hours, so you don’t lose your personal life.

I believe working remote can open up more opportunities for us all both personally and professionally, but only if you can find your way to let go and adapt. You must be able to find your path in this new normal to be successful.