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Talent Assessment | 4 Min Read

Remote Work Handbook: Guidelines To Overcome Remote Work Challenges

Introduction

Almost three months back, remote work was imposed on organizations across the globe due to COVID-19. A good-to-have organizational policy turned into a necessity, practically overnight.

This watershed moment in the global economy has underlined many challenges of working remotely. It caught businesses off-guard without giving them the time to establish specific guidelines and policies to work remotely, effectively.

With every passing week of working remotely, organizations are evolving and equipping themselves with best practices to ensure business continuity and productivity of remote workers. With effective employee communication, engagement initiatives, and adequate support from managers and coworkers, a remote work setting can be made exciting and empowering for everyone involved. 

After understanding the collective concerns of organizations, we’ve compiled a handbook to help you, your managers and your workforce to navigate these uncharted waters. 

Welcome to the new age of remote work! We hope this guide helps you feel at home (literally) in this new ‘normal.’

Guidelines for Organizations

This is the time for organizations to extend their full support through resource provision, proactive communication, positive engagement, and well-being initiatives. Minor initiatives can go a long way in making your employees feel cared for and instill a sense of belonging. 

  • Provide resources that can help employees connect easily through chat platforms, video conferencing tools, and project management software.
  • Provide flexible work timings to employees; or reduce working hours/days.
  • Offer support by providing a list of local childcare providers, if possible, and extend benefits to cover unexpected childcare needs.
  • Provide tech support and resources (laptops/internet connection, software updates) to enhance the experience of working remotely.
  • Recognize and appreciate employees’ efforts. Virtual award ceremonies can be conducted to highlight individual/team achievements. It would also boost overall employee morale.
  • Revisit policies for sick leave & personal time off (PTO). Avoid deducting salary for those who are unwell or in quarantine.
  • Direct employees to medical service providers, including emergency hotlines. Provide access to emotional support programs/counseling services as part of the organization’s health package to all employees.
  • Plan and conduct town halls to provide a platform to address employee concerns and queries. Encourage and address both identified and anonymous matters and requests. 
  • Internally design or partner with training providers to introduce virtual work training and webinars.
  • Extend company-sponsored medical insurance policies to aged parents of employees.

Guidelines for Managers

Managers of remote teams might often question their methods and strategies, due to a lack of familiarity with working in a remote setting. However, managers can play a significant role in overcoming the setbacks of remote work. Here is how managers can help ease the situation:

  • Set clear expectations and lead by example. Give definitive inputs to avoid too much back & forth on deliverables.
  • Communicate clearly to all members of your team about your availability – interact proactively and respond quickly.
  • Maintain consistency in routine – conduct team calls/standups at the same time every day, take lunch breaks at the same time, etc.
  • Connect with team members daily through multiple channels. Conduct structured daily check-ins, but define rules of engagement. E.g., Keep ideation meetings on video conferencing platforms, but route urgent messages through text/instant messaging.
  • Trust your team to work effectively and set guidelines (avoid micromanagement with too many calls). For instance, practicing a no-calls policy after hours, responding to emails within 24 hours, etc.
  • Schedule weekly/fortnightly catchup calls with each team member – use this as an opportunity to understand their concerns (personal and professional). Take this time to initiate and conduct coaching and developmental activities.
  • Offer encouragement & emotional support – acknowledge the stress due to change, listen to their concerns, empathize, etc.
  • Have informal catchup sessions with your team, either at the beginning of team calls or on direct calls with the team members.
  • Provide the option of flexible work-hours, on a case-by-case basis (working earlier in the day/later in the day, etc.), particularly for those employees with young children.
  • Re-align your work goals to suit the organizational goals and ensure there’s no disruption in productivity.

Guidelines for Employees

In addition to multiple distractions at home, the absence of face-to-face communication, and the feeling of isolation, remote employees are expected to adapt to the new setting without considerable loss to their productivity. Working from home has its challenges, but here are some ways employees can balance their work and home fronts:

  • Create a schedule for yourself; this should include periodic breaks.
  • Set “in-office” hours for your team and family members’ reference and set up a signal to let others know when you’re in your zone or at the peak of your productivity and should not be disturbed.
  • List down the tasks for the day regularly and update the same. Prioritize urgent/important/challenging tasks based on the time of the day you can best focus (early morning, late evening, depending on external factors).
  • Have a dedicated workspace, set aside rules for this space, and communicate the same to your family members.
  • When work and personal life are under the same roof, it may be challenging to switch off from work. Make a conscious effort for it.
  • Put reminders to get up and stretch or take a water break every hour or so.
  • Share personal approaches employed by you to effectively cope with this situation with coworkers. Feel free to share work/non-work related tips.
  • Connect with team members/colleagues/friends through any mode, at regular intervals.
  • Take steps to maintain physical, mental & emotional health to ensure more productivity during work hours.
  • Proactively discuss any challenges you may be experiencing with your manager to ensure the same can be effectively and timely addressed.

Originally published June 23 2020, Updated June 23 2020

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

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