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How to Upgrade Your WFH Experience

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In rapid response to COVID-19, many organizations became forced to implement remote work into their business strategy. But rolling out a fast solution isn’t always the best decision. Resident in-office workers became remote workers instantly, and many were not mentally prepared for these changes. This pandemic has led to challenges, and some failures for organizations because not all remote worker implementations worked the same.
 
There were significant problems in performance when everyone started to work remotely, as I mentioned in this related No Jitter article, “Measuring the Quality of Collaboration Sessions.” Remote work led to employee frustration and impacted collaboration success. In other cases, there were people problems with their collaboration behavior, as noted in “Collaboration is Not Automatic.”
 
An old-fashioned remote worker
As noted in this related No Jitter article, “Lessons from an Old Hand at Remote Work,” I’ve been working from home (WFH) for over 30 years. Even though I chose to do so, it took many months before I felt as comfortable and productive as I did in my company office. According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article I read, titled “Companies Start to Think Remote Work Isn’t So Great After All,” researchers concluded that WFH put organizations in a position where:
  • Projects took longer to complete
  • Hiring and onboarding new employees became complicated
  • New employees felt less connected and appeared to develop at a slower pace
  • Training became more difficult
 
The WSJ article has stimulated my interest in what to do to make WFH more successful. Below I’ve outlined some concepts that focus on people instead of technical issues.
 
WFH challenges
COVID-19 has had much more of an impact on employees than anticipated. Contact center agents may have already been WFH before the pandemic. Nevertheless, people working on projects in different time zones and countries were likely to operate remotely using Unified Communications (UC) platforms. Data entry workers were less likely to WFH because even though some organizations are already succeeding with this practice, they’re not exactly ready to scale up to the significant increase in remote workers.
 
Your WFH solution(s)
If your company wasn’t supporting WFH, then you likely needed to act fast when it came time to implement this practice. Your initial selection may not be the best choice, so if you do support WFH, ask yourself how well did the solution scale up? Most cloud-based services weren’t ready for rapid user growth. Going forward, you’ll need to go back and revisit your selection to look for improved operation and performance.
 
Is WFH a custom-fit?
While interviewing workers, ask them about their WFH desires and qualifications. Did they have WFH experience? Do they understand how they would WFH successfully? Does your organization’s work culture stimulate or delay WFH success? Don’t assume the office culture works as well for remote workers.
 
Does WFH create burnout?
WFH limits face-to-face interactions unless you ensure that video collaboration is part of your solution. Employees feel more recognized with video connections than voice or email interactions. WFH employees can also end up working more, leading to total burn out. For younger workers, WFH may affect their career development, and they may overwork to ensure their career progression. Therefore, you should assure them that there are regular video connections with both management and the other remote workers for social interactions, not just work-related efforts.
 
Are communications clear?
Having poor and infrequent communications is one of the biggest challenges for remote workers. Reduced face-time makes physical interactions even more important, so get it right by using more than one communication tool. Include video, chat, email, phone, and texting. Also, be clear about when to use each one. It’s necessary to make communication a top priority by executing regularly and often.
 
Stop the silos
Remote workers can feel like they are a cog in a machine that spans across the world, with little understanding of how they need to work together. Encourage workers to update each other when scheduling video conferencing, so they feel part of a team, not just a piece of a silo, or an island inhabitant.
 
Publish goals and accomplishments
It’s beneficial to schedule daily reports or weekly team meetings to discuss the previous week and the status of the week ahead. Doing so enforces work purposes and intentions to keep everyone aligned with company goals. It isn’t always possible to have video meetings, so consider using a software platform that lets your team report what they have finished and how they are handling their tasks.
 
Eliminate Micromanagement plague
Some managers don’t feel comfortable when their employees aren’t physically near them in an office environment. This lack of in-person connection can lead to micromanaging the remote worker. Eliminating micromanagement comes down to trusting your employees. With trust, there’s no need to micromanage.
 
 
There’s no question that today WFH has become a major aspect of any organization. Although the pandemic will eventually cease, this practice will continue. Don’t assume that all your employees and their responsibilities will automatically translate to WFH successfully.

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