Back then when things were as normal as it could be, I use to wish there were days I could just work from home. Not thinking things through, I would imagine how easy life would be to be able to just wake up and start work as everything was done remotely anyway. Be careful what you wish for, a saying that is indeed very true.
As when it really happened made not only me but so many others, both employers and employee how not a straightforward thing it would be. It was not just a moving your laptop and paper work from one place to another task. It was a lot more complex than that, and indeed was an ongoing process which involved many steps after realizing this and that were missing to ensure a smooth transition took place.
Lucky for me, prior to my current job, I had the opportunity to be working remotely as a freelancer with a Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SMEs) as that was where I learned the basics of working in a different place yet effectively. Thus, having managed teams in these companies, here are some ways how companies can smoothly transition from being an office-based one to a partly or fully remote operation.
1. Communication is Key
I cannot stress enough how important communication is, what more to be working physically apart from each other. You see, back then when were all in one place at the same time, if there was a discussion that needed to take place, all we had to do was just to book a meeting room and everyone’s time, and just like that – we would all be there, present.
In the case where an issue would arise at a very last minute, all one had to do was just to walk over to the team member’s desk and start discussing on the matter. Little did we know in just a matter of time, situation turned 180’. Not only were we not able to practice our normal norms, we were also somewhat ‘forced’ to do it without much experience for many and yet to produce the same outcome as before.
Struggling to survive happened to many, but at the same time, struggling to perform was also taking place. Now that things are a lot more stable, one thing that is definitely encouraged to do is to communicate regularly, be it from the start that many are still in the office, or while transitioning, or the entire office are already working from home, communicate, communicate, communicate.
When communication takes place, a lot of issues would be visible, and a lot of the How, Why, When, What, Where, would be answered, and staffs would not be as anxious as they would be in the not know phase. Now that many are already familiar with it, make it a practice by establishing platforms to communicate regularly, not necessarily having to wait for a townhall or a conference.
However, slotting in some time to check-in from time to time would also help ease the process of moving from an actual office to home office. As one gets familiar with working remotely, having a fix routine of catching up and updates via Zoom, Skype, Teams or many more out there would be a great guidance for team members in getting on track with their tasks.
2. Proper Setup for The Transition to Remote Work
Have you ever heard of how the ambience of the place would really set the mood which would determine the end result of the person? Indeed, it is true. As an organization, it is crucial to ensure and be informed of the situation and condition of the staffs working place at home, or wherever they may be. Lucky enough for myself and a few that I know that from the beginning our organization emphasized on this matter.
An email was blasted out to inquire if staffs would be interested in taking back monitors and an office chair, to ensure that at the very least that aspect is covered, for both the employee’s physical health – imagine just having to sit on the floor staring at the small screen for the next 3-4 years for a minimum of 8 hours straight, oh what could happen to our back bone and eyes – and equally important, for the employee’s mental health – as it could cause stress due to the discomfort.
Once a comfortable place has been setup, it can be treated as a great first step for staffs to begin their journey of working remotely from home. Bumps might occur from time to time, but that’s okay, one step at a time. Just as long as you start off with the right foot, at least you know your starting point could have not been any better.
3. Clear Expectations from the Beginning
Working from home would never be the same as working in the office. How can one compare an orange to an apple is indeed the way to put it as the 2 setups are just incomparable. Scenarios that one would never have thought to face somehow became a routine once working remotely from home became compulsory.
Hence it is highly recommended from the beginning to have a mutual agreement on expectations from all parties so that all would use it as guiding tool and not fall far astray from it, and altogether avoid the blaming game of who is doing work and who isn’t.
In reality, in order for this to work, both parties need to have a deep level of trust between one another, whereby the organization would have to put the trust in the employees that point in fact they are indeed working on their tasks, but at the same time cannot expect for them to be replying to queries immediately as at the same time that their role is as a part of a team member, they are also simultaneously playing the role of a parent/child.
Just as long as the outcome is achieved at the expected time, in my personal opinion, it is fair to say that the team member is considered working at full capacity achieving the targeted goal as agreed by all. While the organization is doing that, staff is also expected to not betray the trust and work at full length so that in the time to come management knows clearly work is indeed not much affected regardless of where the staffs are.
Once mutual agreement is achieved by all adhering to it, work would flow smoothly despite the circumstance. From my personal experience, I have had the opportunity to work with 2 types of managers. One would look into every single detail that myself and other team members would do that we started feeling suffocated with the micromanaging as some of us have to deal with patty matters while their 2-year-olds are screaming at home, when it is clearly understood what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it.
On the other hand, I have also had the chance to deal with an extremely understanding manager that would allow us to be flexible in our work as she understands how tough it can be to juggle many roles all at once, just as long as our final goal is achieved. Believe me when I say the productivity of having an understanding and flexible manager was not only maintained, but achieved at a higher than expected rate, because after all, it is clearly understood that we are all working as one.
Bottom-line, is if things are planned thoroughly and communicated between all parties, as much as nothing’s perfect and there would be unavoidable hiccups along the way, but at the end of the day the transition would be as smooth sailing as it can be as all would have a clear picture on their roles as individuals and as a team.