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The Rapport Report
December 15th, 2020
Running Remote: 7 Remote Working Insights to Consider
by Cristina Baniceanu, Project Manager
Recently I attended the Running Remote online conference, one of the world’s largest remote work events, which in the current context, was more needed than ever.
This event made me realize I am not alone. I am not the only one struggling. We are all dealing with similar challenges. This is the new normal, whether we like it or not - so I’ve found myself asking: why are some fighting the change instead of embracing it?
Below are some things that really stood out from the live talks, and the polls created by the organizers. It might confirm what you already think, but haven’t said aloud:
1. The new normal should give us the ability to choose
I attended an interesting discussion called “The office is dead?” - between Uptin Saiidi, Journalist and Video Creator, Thomas Moran, Chief Strategy Officer at Prodoscore, and Karen Mangia, VP of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, debating the pros and cons of working from home.
Turns out there are two sides now: people that absolutely love working from home, and people who miss the office—it had free coffee and snacks.
Karen Mangia highlighted that most people used to complain about the office—lots of meetings, you were easily interrupted, there were long commutes—but now we can’t go there, some imagine the office as this idyllic place.
However, as one of her discussion partners mentioned, if we went back, after a few days of commuting and working in the office, people would probably want to be working from home again.
Why is that? Most likely what we miss most is variety and human connection, not necessarily working from an office.
So what’s the best solution once the pandemic is over?
Moran suggests companies with an ability to work remotely should give their employees flexibility and choice—figuring out a combination of remote + office work that works best for them.
What do employees think? Below you can see an overwhelming number of attendees agreed.
2. Adapting to this new way of working
Steph Smith, Head of Trends at The Hustle had an interesting presentation called, “Thinking past the office: designing resilient remote teams.”
She mentioned, perhaps unsurprisingly, that companies who already work remotely, haven’t had any issues adapting to COVID-19 work from home policies—for them nothing changed.
Most companies were not remote, but some have announced they’ll be staying remote after all of this is over, including big names like Twitter, Shopify, Slack, Square, and Upwork (Source: flexjobs.com).
There are also some companies switching to a hybrid work type. “Google extended its work-from-home policy to September 2021 and plans to accommodate remote work indefinitely, as well as try a program where employees work half the week from home. Microsoft similarly offered all of its employees the chance to work from home less than 50% of the time without approval.” (Source: businessinsider.com).
They’ll be saving a lot of expenses, and overall people are more efficient working in their own environment, without distractions, with more flexibility, and less time spent in traffic.
I am also one of those people who is more efficient working from home. However, when it’s safe to have an office again, I know there are many people looking forward to working from outside their home—and I would definitely love to visit from time to time. We all have different personalities, different needs, different work routines and mechanisms—and we’ve all been through a lot this year, so executive teams should take a closer look at how their team members work best, and offer flexibility where possible.
So, why doesn’t working remotely work for everyone?
Well, “Some companies want to copy and paste what happens in the office” – and that doesn’t work. “In an office you are in a box”, there are lots of constraints. But “the amazing and difficult thing about remote work is that you have to rethink your box!” You have to “reinvent, instead of just copying and pasting.”
“Some companies want to copy and paste what happens in the office” - @stephsmithio of @thehustle
Smith also shared some tips to get us started:
- Encourage giving behavior
- Consider how you can design flexible working practices so it’s oriented to achieve the best outcomes for all
- Consider that everyone is unique - support their affinity to specific expectations and assist them to harness their unique strengths
- Learn about the motivation styles of your team members and tailor your leadership to be most effective for them
- Design systems that enable people to easily act in beneficial ways. This may mean some degree of positive administration not existing before
The conclusion? “The values of remote work: output, autonomy, and flexibility are powerful. Let’s make sure to embrace them with care and build stronger, and more self-aware organizations.”
3. So, what are the biggest struggles to overcome when working remotely?
I have to admit, this poll almost read my mind. Do you identify with any of these?
Also, here was another finding which shows how important mental health is for our teams:
Project Management is now more challenging than ever!
We are an AGILE tech company, and even we on the Project Management team are challenged to find the right balance between communicating enough and not burning everyone out from too many meetings. It’s difficult. But from one week to another, we rethink, we adjust, and most importantly, we listen to our team and consistently improve the way we do things.
There are no manuals for managing projects during this particular situation, there is only caring, not only about the company and goals, but also about the people you work with. There are so many new factors to consider, but we’re learning every day. One step at a time.
So, how can we fight this constant overload in the future?
For an introvert like me, it can be exhausting having so many meetings with your camera on—especially with quarantine hair and clothes…But I also understand that in order to communicate more efficiently, having a visual helps a lot. So, where’s the middle ground?
What if you could have an avatar dress up for you? It would definitely be more entertaining and less exhausting.
“What if we replaced video with an avatar? Would that generate an increased feeling of social presence? Turns out, it does!” – Read more about this in our article on How to Create Social Presence Online with Avatars.
4. The biggest struggle of them all – Mental health
Another great talk was the one given by Matthijs Keij, CEO at Withlocals - "Communication and collaboration are key, but connection is King". What stuck most with me from this talk was that during these times, saying, “I hope all is well” has a whole new meaning now—it’s not just a simple greeting. Now when we say it, we really mean it. We hope everyone is well. We care more. We understand each other more.
Because now that our needs of safety and belonging are clouded by constant uncertainty, the rest of Maslow’s pyramid is shaking on unstable grounds. And what about those who’ve lived like this their entire lives? What about those who don’t even have their physiological needs met?
Our mental health is more fragile than ever. Luckily, focusing on mental health is one of the good changes this pandemic brought with it. More and more companies are focusing on their team member’s mental health, and even provide a support system for them during these difficult times.
Rapport has one such initiative for team members: A company-paid membership for mental health support with an online community sharing articles, courses, and advice from others going through similar experiences. And it’s been great to feel cared for—we really need that in our lives right now. Our virtual social initiatives are also growing. We need to socialize on topics other than work as well, and have started collaborative playlists, quiz nights, and a shared “virtual travel” channel on Slack to share our various locations. After all, that’s what we miss most about the office—human connection.
5. How do we protect our mental health? Find balance. Set boundaries.
This is hard to do, especially now when everything is in one place, personal life blends together with work, and the days are melting into one big Groundhog Day.
What we can do is try to improve every day, and find the right balance between what we have to do, and what we want to do. It should be easier, right? We’re saving all those commute hours, and going out for lunch and coffee—why not use them to decompress instead of adding more pressure on ourselves? So embrace your newfound flexibility, but try to stick to the same number of working hours. In the long run, learning to pace ourselves will pay off better than quickly burning ourselves out.
6. “Working with different cultures can be new and interesting” Sahin Boydas, CEO at RemoteTeam
Even though it may pose some administrative challenges, being able to work with people in different cultures and from different backgrounds is so much fun. It provides a wider perspective—to talk to each other and learn new things about each other’s countries and cultures, making us a truly global-thinking organization.
And it’s reflected in our work—having different approaches and points of view leads to better results and pushes us to think outside the box. It can be what helps us grow stronger and faster, and keeps us more connected to each other.
How can we increase our team’s connection on a deeper level? Matthijs from Withlocals has some suggestions:
7. Virtual travel can be filled with emotion, too.
The highlight of the conference was the virtual walk through of Rome, powered by Withlocals. Gabi, our virtual guide, threw a coin into the Trevi fountain, wishing for all of us to be able to visit Rome again soon. Until then, we have the option of traveling remotely anywhere in the world, and that’s also fun and filled with emotion.
Turns out our outdoor hobbies can also be moved indoors and bring us joy. For a moment I felt like I was exploring the streets of Rome, looking for gelato on my way to the Trevi fountain. Whenever traveling in person is not possible, this is definitely the next best thing. So, virtual travel is now a newfound hobby, and probably for other participants as well.
This conference was a great experience. I had fun, I listened to many interesting presentations, and learned a lot of new things—hopefully some of which you’ll be able to consider when working remotely with your own teams.
We are migrating towards a new normal, and now is our chance to improve it everyday, one step at a time, to create the best “normal” for each of us. Remember to keep an open mind, be flexible, adapt to the changes, adjust everything you can according to your needs and people around you until you find the best formula. And let’s hope that 2021 will be a better year for all of us, professionally and personally!
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