COVID-19 has sent millions of employees home to work. Months later, we're seeing restrictions lifting in many parts of the world. But not all companies are marching their teams back to the office. Some are extending work-from-home policies for the next several months or the foreseeable future.
Grail Insights has always operated as a flexible organization. Many of us have been supporting clients and collaborating with colleagues from home offices for years. But remote work was still a new experience for some at Grail. Some of our work-from-home 'rookies' opened up about the initial challenges they faced in the transition to remote work. This is a Q&A compilation of some of the challenges they faced and the solutions they discovered.
A: Develop an independent working style. Office workers may find it difficult to be productive and motivated at home. Fewer meetings and casual communication lead to real feelings of isolation. It’s critical to develop the ability to work independently. Employees who thrive in remote work are resourceful and independent problem-solvers. But that doesn't mean they don't need support. Remote employees are less likely to ask for colleagues’ time when it’s not clear who is and isn’t busy. Effective remote working requires a level of trust and comfort with proactively calling on teammates. Independence doesn't mean isolation. Teams that support each other remotely also thrive independently.
A. Develop your focus. Distractions abound at home. Employees must create an environment where they can focus on work. Parents may need to negotiate child-attentive tasks. Spouses and roommates should consider ‘do not disturb’ times and signal when privacy is critical. If there's no quiet and comfortable corner to be found, consider noise cancellation earphones. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like working when we’re in an environment where we normally live the rest of our lives, and setting rules for ourselves can help bring clarity and focus.
A. Unplug from your professional life. Employees who work from home run the risk of working right up to and through the traditional end of the workday. Sometimes having flexibility while working at home makes us think we aren't working enough. Consciously set times to work, even when those times are flexible or include unusual work hours to accommodate different time zones. This helps with balance between roles that occur in the same physical space. Try an end-of-day ritual like closing your home office door and turning out the lights.
A. Re-create office similarities. In the physical office, we have people and routines that cue us to take breaks, whether it’s after a check-in, for a snack or exercise break, or when an office mate swings by to grab a coffee. At home, it’s important to re-create these breaks and routines. Set a timer as a reminder for a walk. Drink water during the day. Get up to stretch. Since all our conferences are in the same room now, it is important for our mental wellbeing to create recharging breaks throughout the day.
A. Create a loop, virtually. Make sure your team meets regularly via video conferencing. This helps everyone communicate more effectively without feeling left out. A good manager will be doing this with their teams regardless of whether they are virtual or co-located. Meeting discussions should be documented or recorded, so anyone who can't make the meeting is still looped in. Employees can also create loops with their peers. This helps everyone feel involved and establishes a protocol for efficient collaboration by all.
A. Connect virtually with a suitable guide/mentor. In a co-located office, it is generally easier to establish relationships and reach out to others for guidance. However, in a remote setup, employees need to connect with someone they admire or can learn from and talk to that person often, even scheduling regular meetings to check in and look for career guidance to ensure their jobs remain satisfying and they continue to grow.
People are creatures of habit, and our habits have changed. How we prepare for the Great Return to the office and the new habits we bring with us will likely impact the nature of work for years to come. Like many companies, Grail looks forward to the reopening of our main offices across the world and harnessing the positive habits that have been adopted by our talented teams.
How has this global work-from-home experiment impacted your company? What positive habits have you cultivated?
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