Times are changing, and the world is tilting towards working remotely or in hybrid mode rather than working solely in an office space. Waves of the coronavirus led employers to make the difficult but urgent decision to make employees work from home at least some of the time. A transition from working in an office space to working remotely has its challenges, even if it is only for part of a working week. You need to consider effective strategies for a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work.
A combination of remote and office work appears to be the future direction for about 90% of organizations as they emerge from COVID-19 restrictions. A McKinsey survey of senior executives in 2021 suggests this new model will dramatically change how business people work – a hybrid mix of in-person and remote participants seems to be inevitable.
As a team leader, you can ensure a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work
Communicators need to develop an internal plan
A core move to plan internal comms for remote workers is to work more closely with HR. Whether you’re fully remote, in-person or in hybrid mode, it’s important to strengthen your relationship with your human resources department through staff at your level. This contact will help you better understand HR’s goals and challenges, and helps HR staff better understand your responsibilities and goals for internal comms at this time. As a result, expectations will be clear between departments, and you will be able to coordinate your roles in dealing with your mutual stakeholders.
While working remotely, it could seem like you are working individually, but remember that you are still working as a team, which is where communication comes in. You should provide guidelines and policies on the mode and timing of meetings and communication. Arrange convenient times for team members to engage in discussions, submissions, and objections. Use email for smaller messages like the location of the meeting, time, and passcode. Ensure a deeper level of communication through video calls, conference calls, and even phone calls. Video calls have the advantage enabling participants to observe the body language of the others.
Misunderstandings can quickly occur while working remotely, so settle these immediately through video and phone calls to enable employees to make a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work. Sometimes, an in-person meeting should be set up, attended by crucial team members, and recorded for the other team members. Communication is a vital tool when working remotely and you should work hard to simplify guest communication. Without suitable telecommunication, it might be challenging to achieve the work aim and objective while working remotely.
Initiative needed to keep teams together in spirit
In a remote world, managers must go from being supervisors of time to managing relationships. Managers today must be more mindful, empathetic and collaborative. This requires training and support to help managers adapt. It also requires a mindset shift to treating team culture as a priority. Good workplace relationships are vital for a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work.
Three main issues confront team leaders of remote or hybrid teams, which need to be addressed, according to senior research scientists Jennifer Deal and Alec Levenson in a 2021 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review. They recommend that team leaders need to take account of three key areas: strengthening weak ties, building social capital in new teams, and onboarding employees. (Social capital is largely about the reciprocal value of social networks, bonding between similar people and bridging between diverse people.) Deal & Levenson say:
One advantage of the physical workplace is that informal interactions between people with weak ties support a significant flow of information in organizations. While connections among people who have strong ties have continued throughout the pandemic via technology, interactions across weak ties have suffered significantly because there are fewer easy ways to initiate these often chance-encounters when working remotely.
When people aren’t having conversations in the corridor and around the water cooler, a lot of relationships that normally form incidentally, stop forming. These side conversations that help organizations move more quickly are enabled by the weak ties that build up over time among people who have frequent, repeated, incidental interactions with one another. These types of interactions happen when people work in the same area, but don’t happen when they don’t. This creates an issue for organizations, because the social capital developed through weak ties supports work across silos, groups, and organizations. Maintaining weak ties leads to a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work. Leaders need to think about how they’re going to improve this social capital and, if employees are going to continue to work remotely, how they’re going to increase the social capital of weak ties, not just the social capital involved in office workgroups.
Deal & Leveson report an example of one division within an organization that has decided all team meetings in which not everyone can attend face to face, are now held online. Rather than having some team members together in a room while the rest of the group is online, they’ve found the team functions better, and all members of the team can contribute more equally, when every individual attends the meeting virtually on their own screen.
Listen to your employees
To get the remote employee feedback you want, you must be intentionally inclusive. You must be purposeful about seeking feedback from all in the team.
Peers are perhaps the most persuasive “influencers” of team members inside your organization, so pay close attention to what they’re saying. Give your remote workers autonomy, flexibility and freedom. This will be core to a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work.
Out of sight, too easily out of mind
Working remotely makes it more difficult to maintain strong relationships with colleagues and bosses. So, ensure you act to stay connected with them. Employees who put in the groundwork to build solid relationships with their seniors were 82% more likely to get promoted when compared with colleagues who hadn’t stayed in touch, according to the researchers who conducted the survey, which they reported in a 2021 Harvard Business Review article. This finding supports the conclusions of Deal & Levenson, above. So what can you do to network remotely?
What you can do as a team member
Network with your personal stakeholders. Remote work may have slowed down your career in recent times, but you can get your career path back on track. Actively networking when you are based at home for some or all of the time is strongly recommended. Here are some of the networking initiatives you can take:
- Make your work visible. Make it easier for your boss to be aware of what you’re working on, and they’ll know who to thank when things go well. If you stay on their radar, when more responsibilities arise, you’ll be first in line. You could say, “Since we’re all working remotely, I thought I’d send you a regular update on the projects I’m working on. Would that be okay with you?”
- Early small talk. Join each video meeting five or so minutes early and casually chat with those present. If you aren’t able to finish your conversation with an individual, ask them if you could have a quick catch up later to finish the chat.
- Find mutual interests. If you’re speaking to someone you haven’t met before, try to find some common ground. LinkedIn helps you see what others are posting, and some people may have personal blogs too. Read up and find commonalities ahead of the call to help you break the ice. This will facilitate a smoother transition to remote and hybrid work
- Offer to help. Ask your boss what they’re working on or if they need a hand with anything. When you help your boss, it is also an opportunity for them to see what you’re like to work with as an individual. You could say, “I know you spend time on a lot of market research. Is there anything I could help with? It would also help me understand the market needs better.”
- Ask your boss for help when you need it. If you’re new to the organization, ask your manager who else you should be speaking with, so you can understand the other departments better. Not only will this help you increase your knowledge, but it will also help you reach out to people you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
- Be curious and genuine. When you speak with others, ask about who they are, how they came to be in their role, and what their job entails. In addition, if they voice an idea that you think could be improved upon, give them some tactful feedback. Something like: “Have you thought of doing it this way as a possibility?” This will show them you’re genuinely interested in their work, and they will be more likely to think well of you. But don’t overdo the smart ideas! Many people will just get defensive and may think you are big-noting yourself.
Further suggestions. Here are some further thoughts on how to preserve your relationships when working remotely.
Working from home
Creating a new office space at home
Though employees might be mentally accustomed to the office space, they work effectively in a practical working environment. There is a need for space creation for remote employees, which will serve as their new office space. Space should be in a place of maximum concentration. It could be a small table cleared out solely for work. If this space instills your office space mentality and helps you work more effectively, it will enable you to keep your professional feeling and productivity.
This space must help you to stay focused and keep track of time. Often, when working remotely, people are unable to separate their working hours from their rest hours. There are no boundaries between work and home, one is always dealing with the two. These could lead to a loss of overall productivity as a result of the imbalance between life and work. Working in your “professional” space, will make it easier to be productive through breaks and work. The created space should not be in locations designed for your rest. Being aware of these factors will enable you to make a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work.
How do you intend to work remotely without the use of technology? Technology has made life more comfortable. Through various applications, an efficient and productive meeting can take place online. All you need to do is ensure you have a good remote internet connection. The technology may not be terribly attractive to you as long as you can do your work in a comfortable, simpler, and faster mode, so embrace it. Cloud-based business applications and file sharing methods help you work with other team members from different locations. You can share files as though you are in the office and can work more effectively. An important remote working appliance is Raspberry Pi 4, which enables you to remotely access your office network. While working remotely, you still have to work as a team, so good internet connectivity is necessary.
Set suitable work hours and your breaks
If you have the flexibility to select the times when you will work and how you are going to work, things may quickly go chaotic. Everything such as a warm and comfortable bed, a Netflix queue, and your children playing in the next room can easily distract you from work. For overcoming these distractions and maintaining concentration you are going to need your own guidelines. You have to set the working hours for your assignments and stick to this schedule. You must not work before and after this schedule. Assign the relevant tasks to these hours and maintain track of time while working on these tasks.
You may use online tools such as Tomato Timer for efficiently tracking your productivity and helping you keep yourself on track. Maintain a similar discipline while you are taking breaks from work. Determine the number of breaks you will need for avoiding burnout. For example, some people take a 20-minute break after every 2 hours. Even though this is not a hard and fast rule, you need to set proper breaks and keep them separate from work time.
Eliminate cabin fever
Although working from home may sound like a dream come true, spending a lot of time at home can drive you crazy. As you are stuffed up in a single space for a huge amount of time, it can have a major impact on your productivity. Set aside a time during the day to allow yourself to step away from the home. You can use this time for running errands, walking your dog, or just for walking outside. Changing your surrounding environment regularly will enable you to maintain concentration when you return to your work mode.
Another good way of avoiding this cabin fever and is going to a co-working space. Several organizations advocating remote work also provide co-working space allowances to the members of their staff. You can also consider going and working at the nearby Starbucks or even a coffee shop that you like. Services such as Upsuite are a great way of accessing co-working spaces on demand. In some cities it is possible to try out different co-working spaces. For instance, in Phoenix, Arizona, you can rent co-working spaces by the hour or you may consider staying there all day. You are likely to get fast Wi-Fi and get some complimentary coffee there as well. You could probably meet new contacts who are also working there remotely. This will be a good part of making a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work.
Develop and maintain a good work-life balance
As an employee, you need to be aware of when to start working and when to cut off from work. When you make a transition from office work to remote work, there is a tendency to work additional hours to overcompensate and display raised productivity. However, you need to be capable of maintaining your work-life balance and maintain satisfaction with your work. Always keep in mind why you wished for remote work in the first place. Was it for increasing your productivity, traveling around the world, or for spending more time with children? To enjoy all the perks, you will have to define strict boundaries between your work and your personal life.
For example, there is no need to check emails after working hours. There are systems in place that just send urgent messages through Slack. They also take into consideration different time zones and the working hours of other employees.
Prepare to-do lists for everyday tasks
Another method can be used for transitioning to remote work smoothly. Prepare a list of day-to-day tasks. It might be a good idea to prepare a weekly or even a monthly to-do list. It is up to you. When you have a to-do list for all the daily tasks, it helps you by ensuring you are not missing out on things and are in a position to assign a specific time for all tasks efficiently. It will also help in saving time as there is no need to scroll up and down to check your emails or check with Slack messages every hour to be aware of the next tasks.
Working remotely or in a hybrid mode is the future of working space and effective communication. The tips in this article provide you with effective strategies for a smooth transition to remote and hybrid work
Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.