A Crash course in Leading Remote Work

This morning I read up on Stoicism and they sometimes get the bad rap of being negative. The famous thinker Seneca was always prepared for challenges and worked the unthinkable into his plans and prepared for that. A pleasant surprise is much better than an unpleasant one, he stated. 

The Swedish CDC along with many larger international companies and organizations have recommended remote work for the rest of the year and some outliers are even putting it in place until July 2021. 

Let’s hope they can surprise us all and we can go back to the office earlier, but in the meantime, we have to prepare ourselves for doing the best we can with remote work. To do that successfully a number of things need to be put in place quickly to avoid damage control later. 

  1. Consistent monitoring of mental health and general well being of co-workers
  2. Providing equipment that is reasonable for ergonomics and productivity, the workspace at home must be checked regularly since it’s the responsibility of the employer. 
  3. Providing meaningful guidelines and contracts between employee and employer so everyone is well informed on expectations. 
  4. Providing support helping Remote Workers foster Self-Leadership, focus, motivation, work structure, healthy habits, and provide a listening ear.  

A large number of people have loved RW and #WorkfromHome and find that it; 

  • Saves time when the commute is within your own four walls.
  • Not having regular distractions has created a calm environment conducive to productivity.
  • More time has been available to spend with family and maybe friends even with social distancing.
  • It’s been a good time to skill up and focus on acquiring new talents.
  • Unexpected upsides are supporting local businesses & dogs love having all-day company.

There’s a flipside though.  Around the world, concerns are raised around the mental wellness of Remote Workers that miss having an office to go to. Some problems are unrelated to work such as having an abusive home environment and another reality for many, mainly women are to have young children at home, and some even need to home school while working full time. 

This is a time when you and your company can excel by addressing the downsides of Remote Work right away. Finding ways to care for remote workers is new for many organizations although up 30% already have had some distance work set up. Now many companies that are going fully remote, at least for a set amount of time, and need to take a close look at the things that may have slipped through the cracks during the spring 2020 emergency period. This is a major undertaking, and many have to do so with a significantly reduced team both with fewer co-workers and some may even be working parttime. Meeting legal responsibilities, under tight deadlines, is not easily done. 

This type of work typically falls under the HR department. Crafting a new program requires a lot of thought, research, and testing of technical aids to be executed well. Companies doing this head-on will gain the advantage of having less damage control. 

Retaining and being able to attract talent in the next few years will also change as the realities of what is and what can be offered will not be the same. We can expect the lawmakers and tax agencies around the world to adjust to this, but it will take time and until the legalities of remote work outside the national borders are implemented we will have to make the best of what we have here and now. 

Some things that have to be addressed by employers, in some countries such as Sweden, it’s even stipulated by law that it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure mental wellbeing. Other areas of support relate to happiness, focus, help with self-leadership, onboarding of new employees, and motivation. 

First and foremost, a way to monitor the wellbeing of the workforce without making individual calls to each and every one is essential. 

Secondly, how do you know who in your current workforce thrives on remote work and for whom can it be dangerous? 

  • Who needs to go to an office? 
  • Who can work well if the office is available 1-3 days per week? 
  • What projects require collaboration and where is it perfectly fine with a monthly or even yearly meeting?

Thirdly, when offering new positions that may be more or less remote then finding out how the talent works best is ideally done beforehand. Offering remote positions going forward can allow you to find new co-workers anywhere as long as you know that it works for them and the team. There are good ways of monitoring this before rather than discovering afterward that you have to make adjustments that you didn’t expect. 

Areas that need to be addressed are; 

  • Setting up of work stations
  • Clear guidelines on what is expected while distance working
  • Clarity around how IT support works and if not done already address IT security issues
  • Source good communication platforms and start using them
  • IT security
  • Counter loneliness
  • Foster Focus

While HR professionals are trained to handle problems, let’s not forget that working from home and handling all the challenges around that also falls on them. HR professionals are usually in their role because they are especially social and thrive on human interaction. Perhaps, they suffer more from social distancing than less social individuals. 

Nimmersion has had a distributed team for many years now with many crucial team members being far away. There are some major advantages to this and in our case, we have hired for skills which is why the team is distributed. However, HR professional may now find themselves encountering some of the challenges that we have worked through and they most likely relate to; 

  • People working from their original home – which can mean that they are in a different time zone. 
  • New hires that don’t know the specifics around the work need extra support.
  • Having a good command of the language is essential when the communication is virtual and adding language classes to enhance the level of the team is one way of improving the collaboration. 
  • More often than in IRL cultural nuances can cause misunderstandings when the water cooler chats are not possible. Finding ways to replace the water cooler is vital. 

This is an exciting and difficult time and those that navigate around it well will have a considerable advantage. 

While Nimmersion has spent several years doing this out of keen interest and having a distributed team across time zones, countries, and continents, we had the luxury of doing it without time pressure. Sharing is caring and we are pleased to help others create stability around a new way of working.

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