The year is quite unsettling in nature as systems have gone off the track by miles. In every sphere. In every sector. All these because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has forced people to stand at a cusp of an upheaval where adopting and adapting to new structures are the only means of moving forward. And one such drastic change is the evolving work from home culture.
Work from home culture has spurred the adoption of virtual and remote setups, which has been witnessing support from rapid digitalization. But how can we streamline it? How can we ensure a smooth transformation to bolster the present and the future?
The answer is in emerging technologies and management. Proper implementation of these is required to ensure success. According to a Stanford University survey, around 42% of the U.S. labor force are now performing their duties from home. But their starts were not easy. When reports about massive breakouts of coronavirus got out, government mandates forced companies to launch this new pattern. But a lack of know-how of how to work from home and other factors acted like constraints for them.
Like many other companies, we faced problems. When there is a physical distance, sync-ups emerge as a huge challenge and so is maintaining a rapport among teammates. Even getting a proper update on jobs done consumes a lot of time.
But we were in no state to lose our mind and allow any plummet in productivity as that could have triggered a domino effect leading to the point of no return. Financial worries had a significant role to play in it and its gravity is now evident from the U.S. economic reports showing a plunge in GDP by 31.4% in the second quarter.
What Were Our Constraints
To weather such a crisis, we brainstormed to find out what aspects were bogging us down. We found out a few. They were,
- Communication gaps
- Feeling of work as isolated and unstructured
- Tracking progress becomes difficult
- Missing the feeling of working together, the office ambiance
In addition, as the days rolled by, we found out employees in different countries have started complaining about their well-being while working from their homes. Sometimes, it is related to work desk and posture but often issues like furlough, finances, career hiatus, fear of illness, and other factors impacted their outputs.
We certainly didn’t want those for our employees. We care for their well-being. Studies have revealed that when employees are happy and content, they become more productive and their satisfaction levels guarantee better outputs for customers.
That’s why we took some measured steps to ease the process. We had to make the lives of our employees more comfortable and we are glad that we did it when the time was ripe.
How We Streamline Our Work?
We started jotting down possible solutions quickly, whatever was there on top of our minds. Then we zeroed in on the most effective ones, the ones with the maximum output and minimum integration challenges. At the end of the process, we came up with four major buckets to address all the problems.
- Switching from pull to push method of communication
- Writing things down
- Respecting the need to create a connection
- Adopting new tools to simplify the flow
Each of these aspects required a specific type of handling. But the effective practice of these required a thorough understanding of behavioral patterns of employees and technologies. So, we dug deep and did a little bit of research to understand what suits each of them best. Below are some of the effective tested work from home best practices.
- Switching from Pull to Push Method of Communication
When we are at the office, team leads or managers have face-to-face interactions with a group or individuals for regular status updates of projects. It is the pull mode.
But as the architecture changed, we realized the need for the push mode. We pushed the ownership of a project to the concerned employee. In the work from home method, we asked them to publish the work status and not to wait for being asked by their supervisors. This ensured a seamless flow in operation as update logs helped in improving synchronization.
A Stanford report claims that productivity increases by 13% when people work from home. But you need the right process to capitalize on it.
To effectively put the system into practice, you can try making the following things mandatory.
- Ensure status visibility on Skype or other mediums to avoid any confusion and also notifying others about their logging and out times
- Update the job sheet to streamline procedures
- Ask for help when stuck somewhere and don’t wait to be asked
- Focus more on HRMS to ease the process of attendance regularization
- Inform the meeting host about a delay in joining a meeting. Let your team or manager know if you are taking an unplanned leave
For leaders or managers,
- Break calls into three distinct parts: updates, demos, and then discussions. This would prevent any digression and stretch of work hours
- Set office hours and ask employees to schedule a DND to let them enjoy time with their families
- Writing Things Down
In remote setups, we were facing was a communication gap. Views were lacking clarity and misalignments in the flow were happening. To curb that, we ensured a practice of documentation. Yes, it took time but we got things streamlined.
To ensure proper implementation of this method, we asked individuals to
- Integrate a process of self-explanatory documentation with logical subtasks, estimates, queries, and answers
- Update a task with a small blurb to explain changes. This reduces the time spent on calls
We asked leaders or managers to
- Create a team norm and discuss it with your team to set general work expectations
- Mark a shared space like OneDrive for common contents
- Circulate agendas before a meeting and then distribute minutes about that
- Record all the essential calls
- Respecting the Need to Create a Connection
It may sound cliché, but it is true; we all are social animals. According to a Deloitte report, 45% of employees prefer social interaction while working, whereas 31% prefer collaboration. This clearly shows how much we need our peers by our side to boost our morale.
But connecting with people virtually is difficult. However, we can do a lot better if we just switch on our camera. It is because we are ‘visual beings’ and 90% of the information that our brain processes are visual.
- Ensure meetings that are visual. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft Corp., said in a recent interview, “Video meetings are more transactional. Work happens before meetings, after meetings.”
- Set up a time for team playtime. It can be Scrabble or an online game, which you can use as a stressbuster and a time to bond
- Create a channel to post weird news or memes or anything
- Come up with innovative ways to bond like ordering pizza for all and then having it on a virtual meet
- Adopting New Tools to Simplify Flow
We all knew that various software and AI would control the work atmosphere. But we didn’t expect it to be this soon. Now, when we have to adopt and adapt to confront challenges, we should make the most of it.
In fact, now employees have started realizing how they can benefit from various emerging technologies. Around 69% of the respondents in a survey conducted by HR Dive revealed that they feel technologies have empowered them.
We have found some tools useful in maintaining the flow. They are
- Miro or Limnu for whiteboarding
- Draw.io or drawing.net to explain flowcharts, block diagrams, org charts, etc.
- Krisp.ai is proving its mettle in removing background noises from Zoom and Skype calls
- Jira Assistant and Microsoft Teams for a common work area
- Donut for team pairing and inspiring better social connect
- StoryXpress Clapboard is essential in showing demos during a meeting
Deloitte revealed that around 61% of desk-based workers would like to continue their work from home culture or at least do it more often. It means that people are getting warmed up to this new concept. But there is a downside as well. From an organizational perspective, work from home is not often an ideal solution as technologies have their limitations.
While working with tools, we have to understand the psyche of our employees. For instance, video conferencing is great but short meetings like with a time-cap of 30 minutes are more effective. Otherwise, the mind gets tired. It also came out in Nadella’s talk, where he used Microsoft’s research works to substantiate his claims.
And again, demography has a huge role to play in it as socio-economic and political scenarios impact work cultures. You have to find a balance in work from home setup and for that, insights are crucial. Leaders have to take the onus of simplifying things and take charge of the pack to ensure a sound transition without affecting the goals.
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