The Workplace Isn’t a Place Anymore
Where work is done is often irrelevant. In our increasingly connected society, work can be performed almost anywhere. While working closely with customers is always important and necessary, there are almost certainly activities in your organization that can be performed outside of an office setting. The key is to outline your company’s overall operational structure and strategic objectives, and then get creative about how you define and fill the supporting roles. If juggling multiple RFPs, perhaps you can utilize remote talent to assist with proposal development. And some of your business’s internal processes, such as financial planning, resource forecasting, talent management, or operational support, may be done in large part using collaboration tools with only occasional (if ever!) face-to-face meetings. Though some activities, such as client/prospect meetings, nearly always require a physical meeting place, similarly a software design and development team may work best when co-located.
Harness Talent Seeking an Alternative Arrangement
Many people choose to leave the workforce due to shifting priorities, particularly after major life events. Some of these individuals still yearn for an opportunity to contribute and grow professionally. You hire smart, ambitious people, right? Don’t let traditional assumptions and expectations be the reason you lose or miss out on great talent. Scaling back in some areas (days/hours per week, travel, etc.) does not mean someone is looking to sit back and coast. Be flexible and continue to give your employees meaningful and challenging work assignments. You’ll be happy to see that contributions will remain strong, which benefits your whole organization, and hopefully takes some things off your plate as well.
Working Remotely – Tips for Success
When working remotely, discipline is key. And paramount. And without it, failure is ensured.
Yet we’ve all fallen down the rabbit hole of distractions. You hear the ding of a new text message, and you instantly grab your phone. It’s your friend asking if you’re free Saturday night to check out the new restaurant in town. You decide you will reply later and close the message. But then…then you notice the ever-growing feed of updates on your phone, and next thing you know, 20 minutes have gone by and you don’t recall what made you pick up your phone in the first place. And what were you doing before you picked it up? Hmm… You’ll spend another few minutes getting yourself back to where you started now almost a half hour ago. Knowing this can happen to anyone, naturally you are concerned about productivity levels of employees working remotely. So here are some tips for those easily distracted:
- Set your phone down, face down, far away from you. And leave it there. You may want to pick it up to quickly check a text, but then you see the red bubble showing you have six unread updates on Twitter. And four on LinkedIn. And…oh my, you’ve missed three CNN alerts! But guess what…the world is carrying on without you policing it. And it’s fine to continue to let it do so.
- Check your phone once an hour (maybe top of the hour?), and even then, only scan for items directly related to your work. You can consider creating a group in your mobile’s contacts for essential work colleagues and clients and designate a specific ringtone/chime for them. This will ensure your ear perks up to potentially critical items before your next “check-in”.
In addition to limiting distractions, ensure your home office environment is functional and comfortable:
- Avoid falling into the habit of working from your breakfast bar for several hours straight, and invest in an ergonomically friendly desk and chair. You’ll thank yourself after not feeling stiff and cramped when you step away to take a break.
- A dedicated space with a proper desk and chair are a good start, but continuing to hunch over a laptop may still cause undue tension in the body. Peripherals such as monitors and keyboards are relatively inexpensive and will lessen physical stress and fatigue.
- Ensure you are surrounded by the proper technology to stay connected with remote teammates. If the mobile reception in your home is less than excellent, consider a landline or VOIP. Unlimited call service is an economical add-on from most internet service providers.
Success for a part-time and/or remote working arrangement lies almost entirely with the person in that arrangement:
- It’s imperative to manage the expectations of others, particularly around your working hours/days. If you are out of the office at certain times/during certain days, mark your calendar accordingly. Occasionally remind others of times you will be away. You may also consider setting up an “out of office” auto-reply on email for days you are out so people trying to correspond with you know when they can expect a reply. Actions such as these allay frustrations over availability and responsiveness.
- Ensure others are aware that although you work a modified schedule, you are still “pulling your weight”. One way to do this is to seek feedback from both your supervisor as well as your peers to gain an understanding of how your performance and contributions are received. And be flexible. Sometimes you do need to monitor critical activities while attending to personal affairs during your “away” time.
- Consistently maintaining discipline and drive is essential! Ensure you spend time reflecting on activities that keep you energized and motivated, and weave these into your work schedule as needed.
Maintaining a Sense of Connection
While remote work arrangements are often feasible, they do require a bit more care and feeding to sustain cohesion. Toward the beginning of a new assignment or when adding a new team member, try to arrange for all relevant parties to meet in person. Putting a face to name and voice is very important, and even minimal in-person interaction makes a huge difference in an otherwise remote working relationship. Try to get to know your colleagues on a somewhat personal level so you have a mechanism to lighten conversation and stay connected beyond the task at hand.
In addition to connectivity to specific individuals, it’s also important to stay connected to your broader organization. Those working remotely need to proactively take measures to address this, such as attending company meetings whenever possible, reaching out to those with whom you’ve been out of contact for some time, and staying informed on company updates. The organization should also ensure they create avenues for keeping employees connected, such as annual or semi-annual meetings. Even meeting only once or twice a year can be enough to sustain bonds. Coupled with regular check-ins to monitor progress, performance, and motivation, the sense of isolation can be alleviated.
Trust Your Talent
Your employees are part of your organization because of their skills and talent. Remote resources can do just as good a job (if not better!) than people you see every day. One doesn’t have to be in an office full-time to contribute and be a valuable resource. Changing your organization’s mindset about a work environment can expand your talent pool, and even create positions for new talent looking for a role and employer that can both challenge them and accommodate flexibility. You may be surprised by the output of a broadened and diversified “workplace”.