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Work from home (WFH): Easing the transition to remote work

The number of organizations engaging with remote work is surging, but while working from home can have real benefits on productivity, it also comes with hurdles.

Corporates should leverage technology to facilitate collaboration and empower their employees Finding the right balance and time management can be a challenge for people used to office environments Organizations may also struggle to adjust both their processes and their expectations

As work from home (WFH) becomes the new buzzword, it’s important to remember that while it can have real benefits on productivity, it also comes with its own set of hurdles.

Corporates are – or should be – leveraging technology in order to facilitate collaboration and empower their employees, regardless of where they’re working from. 

But turning a home into an office, finding the right work/life balance and time management can be a challenge for people used to operating in an office environment. 

Similarly,  organizations may struggle to adjust both their processes and their expectations.

Here’s how you can ease the transition to remote work:

On the employee side

1. Identify the best place in the home and dedicate it to work, ideally with a good chair to support your back.

2. Create boundaries between work and home life by having dedicated spaces for relaxation and work. The bedroom and other living spaces should be places where you can switch off at the end of the day, while an office should be a space for work tasks that you can close the door on after a productive day.

3. While it might be tempting to stay in your pajamas, getting dressed for a day of work can put you in the right mindset. You’ll also be ready should the boss request an impromptu video conference.

4. Keep a schedule by defining your work hours and objectives for the day. This will help prevent procrastination – one of the many temptations when working from home – and burnout.

5. Take your full lunch break to tune out of work for a bit, just like you would in the office, and avoid excessive snacking – another major temptation when working from home.

6. Schedule specific times for household chores as well, so you don’t get distracted during work hours.

7. Inform people you live with that you’re working, especially if you need them to be quiet during a call, for example.

8. Invest in a good pair of headphones with a microphone for conference calls. Remember to mute the mic when you’re not talking to avoid background noise that could hamper the conversation.

9. Play music to help with your focus and productivity.

10. Disconnect from work when the day is over: sign out of work-related platforms – this includes personal devices like smartphones.

On the organization side

1. Set up your tech strategically and get your infrastructure right. Ensure that you and your team have remote access to this technology and that everybody can navigate between the different videoconferencing, chat, project management and whiteboarding tools. Set up a virtual work hub such as Microsoft Teams to make sure everybody is aligned and can share information, processes and progress.

2. Adjust tasks to keep attention levels high. A 2012 study by the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization showed that people performed ‘dull’ tasks better in a controlled cubicle setting than they did in a less-structured remote environment, but were more productive working from home on creative tasks. Try to identify the tasks that sustain your team’s interest while working from home.

3. Check in regularly. Figure out how and how often you should contact your team members to maintain communication, continue sharing ideas and nurture motivation, whether it’s via a call, email or instant message. Make yourself available as much as needed.

4. Meet your full team at least once a week via video conference, and keep in mind that newer employees, those working on critical projects and people who might need more support will require one-on-ones more often.

5. Set up clear ground rules for virtual meetings: phones should be turned off, nobody should be checking emails or multitasking. With everyone out of the office, videoconferencing is a great tool to touch base. Follow up the meeting with an email on what was discussed to ensure everybody is aligned.

6. Adopt the Results Only Work Environment mindset where you measure employees by their output as opposed to the time they spend online. Organizations should be prepared to accept the fact that employees have to manage issues like childcare, for example. This means being more flexible about the hours and adopt a more fluid way to work. Focus on goals and metrics. Don’t track employees’ hours and presence behind their desk as long as you’re getting the results.

7. Don’t assume productivity will go down. It can be maintained and even enhanced with the right tools, systems and schedule. Productivity can be monitored on a results-basis, and trusting your employees will deliver is especially important.

8. Communicate what’s happening with the company, its clients and objectives. People working from home can feel disconnected from the organization and need to remain involved. So share news and developments with them.

9. Be transparent. When working from home, employees can let their imagination go wild and get nervous about the company’s status. Make sure they know where the organization is going. In the current environment, CEOs in particular have a role to play to keep mindsets calm and give people confidence.

10. Don’t overcompensate your concerns around productivity by taking yourself too seriously. Just like in a real office environment, make sure you keep the human aspect of the job alive. You can joke and have a bit of fun. Plan virtual downtime with your team like lunch or coffee breaks to help maintain the connections you have in the office.

This article is brought to you by Microsoft: Unleash the power of your team with Microsoft Teams