Remote Living Has Eroded Our Empathy and Executives Must Find a Way To Understand Their Staff

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It is difficult to count what we have lost during the pandemic. We’ve lost jobs, loved ones, incomes and our social lives. Living and working remotely has also meant we are losing our empathy for colleagues. This is especially true of business leaders and executives who need to be able to understand the problems their employees are grappling with as we leave lockdown.

This loss in our ability to empathize with one another is not new. In 2018, 51 per cent of Brits said they thought it was declining, compared with just 12 per cent who thought it was increasing. The pandemic has supercharged this. We are looking at one another through screens and heavily ensconced in our own worlds, so it is difficult to expand our awareness to people with different experiences.

There is a crucial difference between empathy and sympathy. To sympathize with someone means we feel sad for their misfortune. Empathy, on the other hand, means understanding and sharing the feelings of another.

Throughout the pandemic, most of us have been able to sympathize with those who have lost jobs or family members. We have been able to feel compassion for those living in cramped quarters. But by being physically separated from them, we have not been able to truly understand and empathize with those people.

We have become distanced from our employees and, more widely, our customers – the

majority of who increasingly want to deal with companies and brands that demonstrate their care for people and the planet. As offices start to reopen, it is vital we can act with empathy towards our staff and those we serve. This is crucially important for those at the top of businesses, who have kept their jobs and had a different experience of the pandemic.

In order to understand the customers and people they are serving, business leaders need to be able to understand their staff. There is a huge array of experience just waiting to be tapped into to create a more empathetic work environment. Some communities are more tight-knit than others and have had better support systems throughout lockdown. Younger workers may have been more isolated and need more help and encouragement returning to the office.

Often senior executives have more in common with other senior executives than their customers and other target audiences, such as staff. Therefore, learning how to rebuild lost empathy will mean spending more time with the people you’ve never met. To lead with listening and not opining, to immerse yourself first-hand in the real-world experience of your customers’ lives rather than just reading reports about them.

On a practical level, this might look like asking for written feedback from staff on their experience of lockdown. It could also mean trying to spend time in the office coffee shop. Appearing physically accessible to employees will encourage conversations that can never happen over email.

There is also a place for data, but not as we know it. In today’s big data era, digital interaction between companies and customers means businesses have access to more data than ever before. Sourcing the most valuable data isn’t the only challenge. When there is an over-reliance on endless sheets of numbers it can be difficult to define behaviors. There is a risk of losing a richness of understanding. One-on-one interviews with staff or customers can be more useful than “big data”.  It can be costly and time-consuming and, because  of this, it often gets left behind.

However, with so much of the same data out there, it is in the small, slow data that the most striking insights can be found – nuanced findings that can make all the difference between people thinking you and your business are empathetic, or not.

By:   Joint Chief Strategy Officer at BBH London

Source: Remote living has eroded our empathy and executives must find a way to understand their staff – CityAM : CityAM

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Would you consider yourself an empathetic person at work? Are you always willing to lend an ear to your co-worker’s latest band practice drama, or would you prefer to keep conversations at the corporate level?

A recent survey conducted for the 2018 State of Workplace Empathy reported that a whopping 96% of respondents rated empathy as an important quality for companies to demonstrate. Despite this, 92% of employees believe that empathy remains undervalued at their company, which is an increase from results in prior years.

Empathy is described as not just understanding another person’s perspective, but truly putting yourself in their shoes and feeling those emotions alongside that person. It’s a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and when a workplace demonstrates empathy, there are countless studies that correlate it to increased happiness, productivity, and retention amongst employees.

You’re Still Doing Remote Work All Wrong

March 18, 2005, I cleaned out my desk at Registered Rep. magazine, the financial publication I was (I can admit it now) a rather terrible business reporter for, and left a job I’d held for two years. I didn’t leave on bad terms. I liked all my co-workers and there were no sour feelings, but I also didn’t have another job set up.

I just knew I wasn’t a very good business reporter, my boss agreed with me, and thus we went our separate ways. I turned in my key card, filled out some paperwork with HR, and hit the Irish pub across the street for a round of goodbye beers. I wasn’t sure what I’d do next. Maybe try freelancing for a while?

And that, friends, was the last day I worked in an office. Six months later, I founded the sports website Deadspin out of my apartment, and I’ve been working at home as a writer ever since. It has been so long since I worked in an office that my non-office work life is now old enough to drive. Considering every story I’ve read about in-person office life in the last 16 years has been about all the terrible things you’re doing to each other in cubicle-land, it does not seem that I am missing out on much.

What I discovered upon leaving office life was how much more immediately productive I became when I no longer had to commute back and forth every day, when no one ever came by my desk to interrupt me just as I’d really start to hit my groove, when I didn’t feel like my boss would come up and start breathing down my neck at any given moment.

To be sure, working from home isn’t for everybody, but it clearly worked for me: I can’t imagine working any other way now. I certainly didn’t get it right the first year, but I have developed all sorts of lifehacks and shortcuts to maximize my efficiency and sustain a comfortable work-life balance. I’m good at this.

I’ve watched during the past year as you have broken every cardinal work-at-home rule that I’ve honed to a science over the last 16 years.

But then the pandemic hit, and suddenly, many of you were working at home, too. And you, no offense, are terrible at working remotely. You’re all rookies, and you keep making rookie mistakes. I’ve watched during the past year as you have broken every cardinal work-at-home rule that I’ve honed to a science over the last 16 years; it’s a little like watching a toddler try to use a chainsaw. And now the whole world’s a bloody mess.

With the accelerated vaccine rollout and large swaths of the workforce likely returning to the office at some point this year, we’re (hopefully) going to be returning to some semblance of normal — or at the very least a New Normal. But there are still going to be hundreds of thousands of people working from home that previously weren’t before the pandemic. You all need to step up your remote work game and get a lot better at this or risk taking the rest of us down with you. To that end, here are five unbreakable rules, if you’re going to commit to remote working for the long haul.

  1. Do not just wear your pajamas all day. I’m not saying you have to put on a suit and tie like you’re working at a bank or something. (But also it wouldn’t hurt?) Your mind, body, and soul can’t help but not take anything you’re doing all that seriously if you’re still wearing your bedclothes all day. You obviously don’t have to be formal, but you have to set very clear boundaries for “work time” and “off time,” and a great way to do that is to dress accordingly. I recommend, at a minimum, workout clothes, which at least hint to your mind, body, and soul that you should be doing something right now. Changing your clothes before you sit down to work tricks you into believing your surroundings have changed. And tricking yourself that you’re under more scrutiny than you actually are is a key part of working from home. It is truly shocking how many people tell me that they just wear pajamas all day when they’re working at home. No wonder you’re not getting anything done.
  2. Conversely, do not forget that you are also in your home. Whenever someone who has always worked in an office finds out I’ve worked out of home for so long, they always say something like, “I don’t know how you do it. Don’t you just want to go lie down rather than work?” But in practice, it’s the opposite problem: When your home is your office, that means you are in your office all the time. After all, there is always some work to do, and if you are not careful, you will just spend all your waking hours doing it. And we have enough of a national issue with workaholism and burnout as is. The problem is not remembering your home is your office; the problem is remembering that it is not just your office. During the pandemic, it is increasingly obvious that some of you are just sitting at your desk every hour of the day… and nowhere else in your home or apartment. It’s your living area. Live in it.
  3. Limit how much time you spend on social media. This is just a good life tip in general, but the problem with being at your computer all day — particularly when we’re all in the middle of a global pandemic — is that you can get sucked into a doomscrolling black hole. (And after all: That’s supposed to be what lying in bed and not sleeping is for!) Social media is making us all crazy anyway, but when you combine it with cabin fever, you get, well, you get the total madness we’ve all been experiencing over the past year. I recommend the Freedom app, which will block whatever sites you want it to, for as long as you want it to. You’ll be surprised how much happier and productive you are.
  4. Set a clear schedule with set parameters. This goes hand in hand with Rule №2, but you have to make yourself, every day set a time that you stop working, no matter what. (You know: like a job.) I recommend thinking of the day not in terms of hours, but in terms of tasks. Make a list at the beginning of the day. If you get all the tasks done before your set hour, great: You get time to go read a book, play a video game, or put your pajamas back on. But no matter what: Don’t go past that set time, or add to your lists of tasks. Otherwise, you just won’t stop.
  5. Go outside. This is vital, even in a pandemic. (Especially in a pandemic.) People that work from home constantly have to remember that, in spite of all immediately available evidence in front of their face, there is in fact a whole big world just beyond their doorstep. Go see it. Your home, your computer, and your work will be waiting for you right where you left it. And who knows? You might even find work a little easier to crack into upon your return.

Seriously, you all need to head back into the office; I can see how this is making you all nuts. But in case we’re all still stuck, sans office, for a little while longer, you can start by finessing these five unbreakable rules for working at home. For your sake. For mine. For everybody’s. You can thank me later.

Will Leitch

 

By: Will Leitch

Source: Americans Need to Go Back to the Office | Index

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For anyone that works, commuting might just be the worst part of the day. So with WFH and less time commuting, could we see a drastic change in the cities we live in? #WFH #FutureOfWork #BloombergQuicktake ——– Like this video? Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/Bloomberg?sub_… Become a Quicktake Member for exclusive perks: http://www.youtube.com/bloomberg/join QuickTake Originals is Bloomberg’s official premium video channel. We bring you insights and analysis from business, science, and technology experts who are shaping our future. We’re home to Hello World, Giant Leap, Storylines, and the series powering CityLab, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Green, and much more.
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Out Of Office: What The Homeworking Revolution Means For Our Cities

Susanna* has spent most of lockdown in back-to-back Zoom meetings. It is a major change for the senior banker, who used to commute to London from her home in rural Lincolnshire and regularly travelled across the country to meet business customers face to face.

The 55-year-old does not miss the 5.30am alarms or spending three nights a week away from her husband and son. And she appreciates the way the bank’s management has banned calls between noon and 1pm – now dubbed “golden hour” – and cuts video meetings off after 50 minutes to give staff a brief buffer. But working from home has felt relentless, and after nearly a year she is longing to return to some sort of normality.

Following the pandemic, Susanna is hoping for a middle ground where she can experience the buzz of central London and cross-country travel, while enjoying the extra downtime remote working permits. Her ideal scenario would be to meet her team of six just once a month in the office, and she would not be afraid to challenge bosses if they asked for more.

“Why would we need to do that,” she said, “with everything that we’ve proved over the past year in terms of how we’re able to conduct our business, and do it much quicker?”

Susanna is not alone in her desire for more flexibility in her post-pandemic life. Indeed many analysts believe a shift to remote working was already under way, with coronavirus accelerating it by around a decade.

Seven in 10 UK employees who have been working remotely during Covid-19 told a survey by Boston Consulting Group that they felt as productive at home as in the workplace. More than half (53%) of workers said they would prefer a hybrid model in future, splitting their time equally between their desk and a remote location.

Boris Johnson provided little new guidance on managing the return to workplaces last Monday when he presented his roadmap out of lockdown, promising only to review the advice on working from home by late June. Most social restrictions are expected to be relaxed in midsummer, but businesses are not anticipating a large-scale recolonisation of offices before September, provided coronavirus case rates continue to decline.

By then, office-based workers will have spent almost 18 months away from the watercooler, and few expect work to return to the way it was.Some of the largest firms in the financial sector, for decades a bastion of an office-based corporate culture, seem ready to rethink the way things are done. They are also seizing the opportunity to cut costs by reducing the amount of office space they use.

Banking group HSBC revealed last week that it was taking advantage of the booming popularity of home working by cutting its global office space by 40%. Its floor-space footprint looks set to shrink in London: the lender said it was committed to its headquarters in the Canary Wharf financial district, but may not renew leases for other sites in the capital.

Competitor Lloyds followed with an announcement that it would slash its own desk numbers by a fifth over the next two years, following staff requests for home working to be made permanent.The issue of remote working has divided opinion within the financial sector, however, with the chief executive of Goldman Sachs calling the trend an aberration.

Although the US bank has operated successfully while its staff remained at home, David Solomon said this did not represent “a new normal” because firms like Goldman Sachs required face-to-face contact to foster innovation and collaboration, and to train and guide the next generation.

It may be younger members of staff, including millennials, who demand flexibility from their employers, including those in the financial sector, said Anita Rai, head of employment at law firm JMW. “As a business you have to make yourself attractive,” she said, “and that is the challenge for some of these financial institutions which are saying they are not really fans of agile working, because a lot of the generation coming through will be more resistant to that.”

Most firms are expected to embrace a hybrid model, which will be more difficult to implement and manage than having the entire workforce either at home or in the office.

“It’s going to be very difficult if we have a complete free-for-all,” said Nick South, expert on the future of work at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). “You have to think about people’s families and needs, people’s preferences, the practicalities, the guardrails you want to provide. There is quite a co-ordination job needed to make this work, and that’s before you think what tech do we need where, and how we will redesign our space.”

Another banker, Belinda*, is among those hoping to continue working remotely for at least half the week, from her home office in rural Devon. The mother-of-one, who is in her 40s, appreciates being able to spend time with her son as soon as she closes her laptop.

Her life before the pandemic consisted of commuting to various city-centre offices run by her employer, a high-street lender.

“I have been really impressed with how productive we can be without being together in a building,” she said. “But there are times, if I’m really honest, that I miss doing some creative thinking together.”

New ways of working will make new demands of managers and human resources teams, according to psychologist Prof Cary Cooper of Alliance Manchester Business School, who is also president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

“You have to have line managers who can manage people, who can tolerate ambiguity,” Cooper said. “They will need social and interpersonal skills, to recognise when people aren’t coping well because they are working too much from home. But all this is doable.”

During the pandemic, UK office workers have adopted remote working more readily than their European counterparts, according to several surveys from US bank Morgan Stanley’s Alphawise research unit. British employees also intend to request more days at home in future than those in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

It is not entirely clear why this should be, though the length of the average commute in the UK, especially in south-east England, could be a deciding factor, as well as the hours worked in the UK, which has a longer average working week than most European countries.

The shift in the world of work will have lasting consequences, not just for organisations and their staff, but also for our city centres and the service businesses – including sandwich shops, coffee stands and dry cleaners – which before Covid relied on steady footfall from office workers.

Those businesses may find town centres less attractive in future, said Catherine McGuinness, chair of policy and resources at the Corporation of London, the governing body of the Square Mile.

“We are pretty confident about people wanting to keep their big headquarters,” she said. “I worry what this means for the smaller supporting businesses. We may see a shakeout from the centre to the areas where people are basing themselves for the other days. It’s inevitable, I suppose.”

* Names have been changed

Remote possibilities for big tech

The speed with which Silicon Valley embraced Covid-enforced working from home as a permanent cultural shift made what is a challenging transition for many businesses look easy. In February last year, weeks before coronavirus had achieved official pandemic status and ahead of government-mandated emptying of offices, companies from Google to Twitter had told their employees to stay at home.

As restrictions stretched into months, the need to adapt sparked a remote-working arms race between the digital giants, underpinned by the notion that more flexible employers are better employers.

For tech companies with existing resilient, internet-based working practices in place, and employees familiar with chat groups and video calls, the initial switch was frictionless. In May, with most traditional companies still grappling with the logistics of remote working, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, proclaimed that employees would be allowed to work from home “forever” if they wished. Google and Facebook have followed, announcing a permanent extension to their remote-working policies.

But while tech firms have been quick to adapt to a decentralised, distributed model, the shift has proved a surprising cultural upheaval.

“[Tech companies] weren’t as far ahead as you might think with remote working before,” says Joseph Evans of UK-based Enders Analysis. “They had that image, but expectations at these companies, particularly in head office, were the same as in other sectors – to be present in the office. The pandemic changed that, and unquestionably companies such as Facebook have embraced the change.”

Now that vaccinations look likely to allow a return to offices later this year, Silicon Valley companies are looking at “hybrid” models. Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is developing a model where staff work three days in the office for “collaboration” and two days from home. “No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid workforce model,” Pichai said in an email to staff in December. “It will be interesting to try.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said the pandemic is fuelling a geographical diversification away from Silicon Valley, with about half the company’s workforce probably working remotely over the next five to 10 years. “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale,” he said.

But the flexibility does not stretch as far as some may wish. Alphabet’s model would require employees to live within commuting distance, and a fully remote option is reportedly off the table. And while the Facebook and Twitter plans open huge opportunities for those living outside Silicon Valley, the companies have said employees who choose to relocate to cheaper areas will take a pay cut. The moves have sparked a wider debate on localised pay rates across cities and regions.

“All the tech companies have gone on a back and forth journey regarding remote working,” says Evans. “They are settling on the idea that it has worked better than hoped, but that fully distributed teams on a permanent basis isn’t an optimum situation.

“There will be substantial remote working – Facebook in particular is excited about hiring from anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world – but none of them will be 100% any time soon.” Mark Sweney

By: and

Source: Out of office: what the homeworking revolution means for our cities | Working from home | The Guardian

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Making a Success of Remote Working for the Long Term

During the spring wave of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, almost half of all employees in the UK were working from home at least some of the time. Whilst this was, of course, a scary time for everyone, there was also a sense of banding together, battening down the hatches and maybe even a little excitement at being able to work from home for the first time. Many adapted well to this strange new set-up. Kitchen tables became digital business hubs and spare bedrooms make-shift Zoom boardrooms.  

But that was nearly 10 months ago, and the short-term shift to remote working has gradually become a more permanent, fundamental change in the way we work. And many are now realising the potential pitfalls.  

Driven partly by the resurgence of the virus following the summer, and also by shifting attitudes of employers who are now realising they can trust their people to get the job done and remain productive without their watchful eye, remote working is here to stay in some capacity. A recently released survey from KPMG showed how 68 percent of CEOs plan on downsizing their offices to reflect this shift, and it seems that what was the most popular employee benefit of the last decade has been fast-tracked some 20 years in the space of 10 months. 

That’s all well and good for those who have adjusted well or have properties large enough to accommodate a home office. But not everyone wants to be working from home. Some miss the buzz of the office and the social aspect of a workplace. Others may miss the ‘me time’ that a commute afforded them. Indeed, many new members of the work-from-home community may have contributed to the startling increase in divorce rates and break-ups.

 Maybe that open-plan family room wasn’t such a good idea after all. Regardless of which camp you’re in, remote working in some form is here to stay. So how can you make a success of it? Here are some pointers from someone who’s been a member of the work-from-home clan for more than two years now. 

Create a dedicated space. 

The biggest change that new work-from-homers will need to make as a short-term solution shifts into a permanent new reality is creating a space in their home that’s sole purpose is work.  

Kitchen tables, the sofa or cluttered box room just won’t cut it anymore. Even for organisations that switch to a 3-2-2 model or a variation of it (that’s three days in the office, two working remotely and two days off at the weekend), it’d be a struggle in terms of professional mindset to move from office to sofa and maintain the same attitude, output and productivity. 

A dedicated space helps create a more seamless transition between workplace and home working. It will induce a professional mindset when you enter and aid focus. This dedicated space should ideally be cut off in some way from distractions and general home noises.  

I don’t think I would have been nearly as productive over the last two years if every morning was a trip to the kitchen to turn the laptop on and there I stayed until 6 p.m. That close a proximity to the fridge certainly wouldn’t have helped things either! 

Play around with the ambience.  

One of the big benefits that many would have enjoyed when starting their first few remote workdays is having total control over the office environment. Radio station? Pick your favourite. Too warm? No need to negotiate opening a window with an always-cold coworker.  

For long-term remote working, it’s good to play around with the ambience of your home office to find what works best.  

As an example, I always find talk radio is a great backing track for the morning rush to clear the inbox and check on campaigns. But the post-lunch lull requires a lively Spotify playlist at full blast to maintain productivity.  

Others find that certain tasks, such as a blog or technical writing, can be easier to focus on with softer background noise such as rain sounds or even a YouTube video of general office background noise (I kid you not, and I’ve tried it, and it does work on occasion). 

Have a play around with lighting too. Natural light is always best for alertness and attention, whilst for those who like to work into the evenings, softer lamp light may be less harsh.  

Finally, have a think about the temperature of your room. Whilst it’s very tempting to create a snug office that’s always warm, research has found that we tend to lose focus and productivity in rooms that are too warm. After all, if you’re a bit tired after a long drive, you don’t whack the heating on – you open the window for some fresh air.  

Force yourself to stay connected.

Remote working presents a challenge to both extroverts and introverts.  

For the former, not being surrounded by co-workers, a lack of “real” conversations or office socialising are a real problem when it comes to working from home. They thrive on these interactions and, as such, working alone at home can become frustrating and isolating.  

On the flip side, for introverts who likely gravitate toward remote working more naturally, there is a danger of slipping into a mindset that starts to resent or even fear the Zoom or MS Teams call sound after a few hours of peace. For the more introverted, the office forced social interactions. Remote working can quickly see you start to actively avoid the group chats and digital socials.  

Whichever camp you may be in – and it can be a bit of both depending on your mood and how fatigued you are – forcing yourself to stay connected is critical for long-term remote working. 

And force yourself to stop working, too. 

This is probably the biggest problem for the WFH community. For a workforce that was increasingly becoming an ‘always-on’ workforce, working from home has exacerbated the problem – especially when the makeshift workspace was the kitchen table or living room armchair.  

But it’s critical for the long-term success of remote working to force yourself to STOP. If your organisation has still enforced a 9-5 or equivalent working hours – just work those hours then shut up shop for the day. If your employers are really forward-thinking and allow for both remote working and flexible hours too, then make sure you’re pacing yourself too.  

recent survey from The Office Group found that working longer hours was the biggest contributor to burnt-out millennials, alongside the inability to separate work and personal life.  

Remember, you’re no good to anyone if you burn out from overworking. And it’s detrimental to your physical and mental health. So take a break, try to switch off when your day is done and resist the late-night email check.  

The best ways I’ve found to deal with this is actually leaving the house when a particular working shift is done, either to walk the dog or a trip to the shop. It breaks the work mindset and helps you to switch off. Give it a try!  

By: Arthur Wilson Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Modus Create, Inc.

Modus Project Manager Samantha Park sits down with Co-Founder Jay Garcia to discuss how remote life differs at Modus from other organizations, share some of their techniques to make remote work easier, and talk about some of the challenges they’ve experienced working in a non-traditional environment. Ms. Park elaborates on the flexibility and independence that remote work provides, and discusses the expectation and reality of remote work, how to create a work-life balance, and tips for staying focused and on track. Modus is always on the lookout for people who want to work in an environment where they are challenged to grow and do great things with awesome people. Think you have what it takes to work with us? Check out our open positions at https://moduscreate.com/careers​ Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and turn on notifications! https://mdus.co/subscribe​ Sam on Social Media: Twitter – https://twitter.com/sparkps126​ LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/samantham…​ Blog – https://moduscreate.com/blog​ Timestamps: 0:24​ – Working remotely at Modus 0:50​ – Going fully-remote for the first time 1:38​ – Dealing with loneliness 2:08​ – Expectation vs. reality of remote work 2:33​ – Drawing a boundary between work and life 3:29​ – The flexibility of remote work 4:14​ – Building an office space at home 5:16​ – Leading Modus while remote Modus Create is a disruptive consulting firm based on the model of an open-source team dedicated to making the best software on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it. Together with our customers, we build products that empower people with breakthrough services and experience. Modus is always on the lookout for people who want to work in an environment where they are challenged to grow and do great things with awesome people. Think you have what it takes to work with us? Check us out at https://moduscreate.com/careers#workfromhome#remotework#employeeinterview#workculture#collaboration#collaborationtools#creativethinking

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11 Best Practices for Working Remotely

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There isn’t much mystery when it comes to working in an office. Every day, you: Get dressed in company-appropriate attire. Commute to work. Join a few meetings. Take coffee breaks. Indulge in hallway conversations and lunches with coworkers. Go see a client. Commute home.

Remote work is completely different.

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Everyone has different way of working. Different times at which they work. Different work locations. Different time zones.

Even though the rise of remote work isn’t a new trend, many people are still figuring out how to work remotely through trial and error, doing their best to stay happy and productive. The challenges exist both for those who are remote work veterans and people who are just getting started.

And it’s not just people, entire companies struggle at making remote work too.

What’s the key to getting remote work right?
At FYI, we wanted to understand everything we could about working remotely. Including its challenges, how people feel about it, and the best ways to work remotely. Plus people’s tips and best practices for working remotely.

So we surveyed almost 500 people about remote work and put our findings together in the Remote Work Report.

We had a hunch before we did the research that in spite of the challenges with remote work, people loved it. We were right, except we underestimated just how much people love remote work:

Why do people love remote work?

It’s the flexibility. The lack of commute. The reduction of distractions. The ability to travel and live anywhere, including outside of major cities. The increased productivity. And of course the ability to be closer to one’s family.

But even though most people love working remotely, remote work has a lot of challenges. It’s easy to fall into many of the traps of remote work, especially if you’re new to it.

remote work challenges

We asked people “What is your #1 challenge with remote work?”

  • Communication topped the list, with 27% of people mentioning it as their #1 challenge. Remote work makes it harder to read body language, hear what people are saying, ask follow up questions in the hallway, or quickly ask a coworker for clarification at their desk.
  • Lacking social opportunities was the second largest challenge cited by participants. Office culture doesn’t exist when there’s no office. That’s why people struggle with the lack of social opportunities, like grabbing drinks with coworkers.
  • Loneliness and isolation was the third most-cited challenge. Sitting at home alone day after day can leave you sapped of energy and feeling down. A few survey participants even mentioned not quite feeling like they were part of the company.

How to thrive as a remote worker

With some consistent effort, you can overcome the challenges of remote work and create a healthy, happy, productive environment for yourself and for your team.

Here are 11 ways to ensure you succeed at remote work in spite of its challenges based on everything we learned. You’ll find tips and best practices from people who are working remotely, plus personal advice from my co-founder Hiten and I.

remote work best practices

  1. Practice good meeting etiquette
  2. Experiment with what makes you most productive
  3. Prioritize documentation and clear communication
  4. Create boundaries between work and life
  5. Make yourself visible at work
  6. Schedule time for socializing
  7. Connect with your teammates
  8. Do postmortems on key projects
  9. Build in accountability
  10. Define your and the team’s responsibilities
  11. Focus on your health

1) Practice good meeting etiquette

In person, it’s easy to see if someone is checked out during a meeting. They fiddle with their pen, start reading emails, maybe even begin to doze off. But when calls happen remotely, it’s much more difficult to see the telltale signs of disinterest.

Without video, people could be doing anything on the other end of a call – from making lunch to petting their dog to working on something else. That’s one reason why having cameras on for all remote calls will help keep you and everyone else on the call alert and engaged.

Be sure to setup a free account with GoToMeeting if you don’t already have a video conferencing service.

good remote meetings

That’s the #1 key to having good remote meetings: simply turn on your camera.

“Always use video in conference calls. People tune out when it’s an audio-only call.”
Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork

remote work cartoon

Since your video will be on, make sure to wear a shirt and pants. It may sound ridiculous to call this out, but there are too many embarrassing remote work stories about people showing up to meetings on video without enough on, like this one from our report:

“Meeting with a client who shows up on the Zoom call in the bathroom – not wearing much…. 😩”

Having video on doesn’t just connect you with the team (and show everyone what you’re wearing), it keeps you on good behavior and paying attention.

Do your best to avoid working on other things or fiddling with your cellphone when you’re on a video call. Hearing someone typing during a call or seeing them stare at another project on their screen can feel disappointing for everyone else on the call. Plus the person is probably missing what’s going on.

“Have your video on even during even casual/simple meetings. Enabling video goes such a long way to help everyone feel more together, communicate better, and trust each other (even when you’ve mastered remote communication).”
Nikhil Nik Kundra, Co-founder & CEO of Partender

How should we handle video calls with teams that have an office and remote folks?

If one person is remote, everyone is remote.

A team with some people in a single location and others who are remote should treat meetings as if everyone is remote. That means everyone should call in from seperate rooms/spaces.

“Even if people are in the same physical space (e.g. conf room) do all the meetings through the same video chat (we use Zoom). Why? Equalizes the experience — no muffled voices because the speaker is too far, or off camera banter that leaves out the remote person.”
Everett Harper, CEO & Co-founder of Truss

Source: Truss
And make sure to follow standard meeting best practices too. Create and share meeting agendas before the meeting starts. And take down notes, action items and follow ups, plus share them with the team afterwards.

2) Experiment with what makes you most productive

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should be able to sit down at your home office desk in the morning and seamlessly crank out work until nightfall. But without the built-in discipline and natural breaks of an office, things can easily fall apart.

It’s up to you to build the best way for yourself to work remotely.

When we work in an office, we take walks to get snacks, chat with coworkers, take coffee and tea breaks, and make time to have lunch away from our desks. But at home, somehow these natural things start to feel as if we’re cheating or slacking off.

Suddenly, people are working more hours with fewer breaks, all from the same exact place every day. This is almost certainly a recipe for disaster and burnout.

remote work experiments

The best way to escape this trap is to experiment to find the best way that you work. Give yourself permission to try different start times, work from different places, and wear different types of clothing.

“Experiment to find what works best for you. Home office, nomad, music, silent, dress up or PJs, we all work differently. The beautiful thing about remote work is you have the flexibility to find your perfect set up.”
Sarah Betts, Customer Champion at Olark

Things like the temperature of your work space, your audio setup (headphones, earbuds, microphone), the comfort level of your chair, and the desk you use can all mean the difference between productivity and distraction.

You should also consider the times when you are most productive and want to do independent work, and when you should do less intellectually stimulating work.

“Splitting the day in deep and shallow work. I usually spend my mornings doing deep work, and I spend the rest of the day doing shallow work.”
Amir Salihefendić, Founder of Doist

If you know you’re more productive after taking a long walk with your dog halfway through the day, you should do that.

Try different ways of working, different break times, and working from different places to learn what’s best for you.

3) Prioritize documentation and clear communication

Communication dynamics for remote workers are totally different than those for people who are together in an office.

The days of walking over to someone’s desk anytime you want to clarify something are over. Suddenly you’re dealing with multiple time zones, and communication over Slack and video. Not to mention poor video and audio connections, which is the #1 challenge people have with remote meetings.

improve remote communication

Remote work requires purposeful and planned communication. Otherwise things can get misunderstood, or never communicated in the first place.

Make sure to document more than you would normally. For example, create documents to outline your ideas and align on next steps. Those documents will make sure that everyone is on the same page.

“Document more. Use asynchronous collaboration tools whenever possible (e.g. Jira, not Slack).”
Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork

Write down as much as you can when it comes to your work. You’ll have a much happier time as a remote worker.

At FYI, my co-founder Hiten and I create more documents than we can count. All to ensure that our ideas and what we’re working on are communicated properly to one another and to the rest of the team. We also have the added benefit of using our product to keep them organized too 🙂

“Overcommunicate on Slack/email and record as many meetings as you can (and share those on Slack for others to consume). Disseminating information is a major contribution in a remote environment. Remote teams which write clearly, succinctly and with enough context can minimize back and forth while maximizing understanding.”
Ben Erez, Product Manager at Abstract

It’s important to go beyond simply documenting. Make sure you share what you’ve written and discuss it with your team, either in your team’s chat app or on calls.

If you feel drawn to, try collaborating using virtual white boards. They’ll help you collaborate in real time in a much more visual way than with a regular document. One tool that can help you do this is virtual whiteboarding product Miro.

It’s also important to communicate how you’re feeling. It’s easy for people to see you in an office and notice that something is going really well, or really poorly. But working remotely makes it difficult to spot when something is off. That’s why it’s essential that you speak up. And if you’re a manager, ask the team how they are doing often.

4) Create boundaries between work and life

Boundaries between work and life get blurred for remote workers. Since many of us work from home, suddenly the work environment and the home/life environment merge into one never-ending entity. Wake up, check your email, sit down for breakfast while working, keep working throughout the day, suddenly it’s 10pm and we’re still working.

I’m personally guilty of this remote work sin. As is my co-founder (don’t ask him when his last true vacation was).

This can be extremely unhealthy.

Unplugging is important. To do this, as a remote worker you’ll need to create boundaries that help separate work from regular life. Or else, potentially pay the price of burn out, social isolation, even depression.

remote work boundaries

Decide when you’re working, and stop once your day is done. That way, you won’t work from sunup to sundown.

One way to create boundaries as a remote worker is by creating a special work space that you can physically walk out of. For people who live in cities with limited apartment space this can be difficult, but if possible, having a separate office with a door that closes can help tremendously in creating boundaries.

“Having a completely different room/area that is a designated ‘work zone’ that you know if (a) you are in it, then you are 100% committed to working and (b) if you are outside it, then you switch off completely and do ‘real life’ stuff.”
Devan Sabaratnam, Creator & Co-founder of HR Partner

Another hack is getting distance from your work electronics. Turn off your phone and computer work-related notifications in the evening and on weekends. Even put your work devices out of reach. I also have much more about this tactic in a post I wrote about Marie Kondoing your digital life.

“I recommend turning off notifications on your phone, keeping your laptop in an office, and overall creating rules that work with your life so that you can still relax at home and avoid feeling like you’re always working.”
Hailley Griffis, Head of Public Relations at Buffer

You can also use a physical object to help your brain realize that work is done for the day. Like a work hat or work shoes (or fuzzy slippers).

“Have a special pair of “work shoes” that help literally and figuratively signify when you’re working and when you are not to help with boundaries.”
Max Lind, Manager Field Marketing / Designer Evangelist at Abstract

Or, you can go even more out of the box and literally walk out of your house and walk back in when it’s time to start work. Then do it again when you are done with your work day. Anything to trick your brain into separating work and regular life.

There is another side to boundaries that’s worth mentioning. Since you work from home, sometimes family and friends think that means you are always available. If this is the case, you may need to set boundaries with them too by explaining your availability to them.

5) Make yourself visible at work

When you have an office, you’re constantly visible to others. This can be bad (you’ve got a hangover, you weren’t able to get any sleep) but typically, it’s quite good.

Your boss sees you on the regular and asks what you’re working on. You’re on people’s minds because they bump into you all the time, so they invite you to meetings and set up time to chat. People drop by your desk and say hello. You run into the CEO and give her a quick elevator pitch of what you’re working on.

Remote doesn’t have this luxury.

Outside of meetings, we’re reduced to a name on a Slack sidebar. Unless we take action to become visible.

remote worker visibility

A simple but highly effective way to stay visible is to let people know what you’re working on. It’s natural for your teammates – and even your manager – to get caught up in their own day to day. So it’s up to you to remind them about what you’re doing (and frankly, your existence).

“Be prompt when someone asks you questions. Even if you’re busy with something else, reply to them and let them know you’ll get back to them within a certain time, so that they’re not just waiting around unknowingly, instead they have clarity on when you’ll be getting back to them.”
Ritika Bhagya, Founder & UX Director at PT. Studio Flolab

Being responsive as quickly as you can is another form of visibility. If someone asks you a question, whether it’s in Slack, Microsoft Teams, or in a comment in a document tool, the faster you get back, the more visible you can seem. That’s not to say you should constantly be available at all hours and be open to interruptions, but quick responses can help people see that you’re hard at work.

There are lots of ways to stay visible virtually, like being active in Slack, setting up meetings with people on your team, even sharing documents before and after meetings (like notes and agendas). All of these things keep you top of mind to others on your team.

“Although you have a job definition and goals, you do not have the luxury of working in an office and getting a ‘feel’ for if you are achieving the right objectives. Be sure to check in with your manager and if you’re managing direct reports be sure to ask “Are you getting what you need from me?” This will foster a conversation around objectives and ensure both the employee and employer are getting what they need!”
Tiffany Heimpel, Director of Sales at Dribbble

Getting feedback on your work is another form of visibility. And it can be tougher to come by for remote workers since you have to explicitly ask for it much of the time. So ask for feedback, early and often.

6) Schedule time for socializing

Alone at home. Working all day. Wearing fuzzy remote work slippers. Sipping tea while petting your dog (or cat). All these things lend themselves to not going out once your work is done. You’re so comfortable, why disturb the peace by leaving the house?

remote dog

When you work remotely, you miss out on the built-in social benefits of an office, and can easily descend into madness.

Unless you purposely create a social agenda and time to connect with other human beings in person. Like your friends.

This is especially true since, contrary to popular belief, most remote workers are not introverts.

remote work social time

“Keep a regular social calendar. I play poker with the guys twice a month and I do a happy hour with friends once a month. You need to get out and interact.”
Greg Digneo, Writer at Time Doctor

You can also create a faux office culture by connecting with other remote workers in person.

“Being remote might mean that you don’t have work friends to share that after-work drink with. Find other remote workers to build your own in-person community. Co-working spaces, meetups, and slack groups are great places to make friends.”
Vivian M. Chen, Founder & CEO of Rise

Whatever activities you choose, whether it’s time with friends, gym classes, meetups, coffees with people from your co-working space, make sure to actually do them. Put them into your schedule. Ask people to hang out. Ditch the slippers and force yourself to get out of the house.

“You must be proactive in setting aside time to see people! When you’re remote, you have to be the one to schedule coffees and lunches! Weird at first but get out there!”
Sibi M., Startup Advisor

remote digital nomad

7) Connect with your teammates

Getting to know your teammates beyond just work will help you feel connected, be more productive and feel happier at work. Even if you mostly work alone, feeling connected to the team will help you enjoy the work you do.

Without connection to your team, you can begin to feel isolated, alone, even unhappy.

remote work connection

If you’re able, don’t just rush into work when you get on a call. Spend at least a few minutes catching up and see how everyone is doing. The more you can learn about your teammates, the happier you’ll be that you’re working with them.

“Start all meetings with personal check-ins. We do rose, bud, thorn; red, yellow, green; and others. Building personal relationships remotely can be hard, but mutual trust and care are essential to high-performing teams. There’s no “watercooler,” so you have to make one.”
Jeff Whitlock, Founder & CEO of Unbird

You can also dedicate entire meetings to getting to know one another and catching up on things outside of work. Virtual teas/coffees or drinks can work well for this.

Another way to get to know one another is through photos. For example, you can share family photos with the team when you are inspired. Photos from your vacations. And of course, your pets. Plus the things you love doing outside of work.

Here are a few that our team recently shared in Slack:

remote work slack

As always, try to get facetime over video so you can see each other’s faces when you’re connecting.

8) Do postmortems on key projects

Postmortems are my secret weapon on a remote team. It’s how we complete projects so that we’re ready to do even better on whatever is next. Postmortems also directly address the biggest challenge with remote work: Communication and documentation.

fyi postmortems

A postmortem is a written assessment that gets completed once a project is done to help assess how it went and what should happen differently next time.

Whenever a project at FYI is complete, we run through a postmortem. It could be anything from a new feature we built, a marketing initiative, or a serious bug.

Whoever was in charge of the initiative owns filling out the postmortem template with all the pertinent details of a project, and then getting insights from the rest of the team. Here’s what we include in our template:

Postmortem Report Sections

I like to focus on filling out all the nitty gritty details of exactly what happened and why we chose to do the initiative. Once I have a good feel for that, I dive into the results of the initiative. What were the outcomes of the initiative? What went wrong along the way? Next, I go into what we should improve next time, and make sure to add action items with names of team members for each one.

Here’s what we always add to the top of our postmortems to help inspire us to be honest and open about what happened:

postmortem guidelines

Once the template is filled out, I make sure to go over the postmortem during a meeting with the key team members who were involved to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

For remote teams, since there aren’t any hallway conversations about how a project went, postmortems help us get everything down on paper and discussed.

Our aim in doing postmortems is to celebrate what we did, understand the results, and do even better next time. They are one of my favorite tools to use as a remote team and are great for colocated teams as well.

9) Build in accountability

Years ago when I had an office job, a manager used to come by my desk to say hello. Before he announced his presence, he’d stand behind me for a few seconds (probably much more) and scope out what I was working on. Sadly, sometimes it was Hangouts chat or Facebook Messenger. And I was caught red handed. The fear of being caught kept me from slacking off most of the time.

That’s why remote work is great. You can chat with whoever you want, whenever you want. Instead of working you can wash the dishes you forgot to wash the night before. Even do your laundry while you’re on a call, as long as you keep the video off.

remote work laundry

Except… socializing or doing household chores when you’re supposed to be working is a recipe for reduced productivity, longer hours, and work-induced woes.

It’s easy to fall into these traps as a remote worker. Distractions loom ominously close. And there’s no one to regulate you but yourself.

remote work accountability

But have no fear, there are plenty of tactics you can use to become more accountable.

The first: timebox each task you’re doing. Decide how long something will take and dedicate yourself to working on it during that time.

You can also use a time tracker or alarms to help keep you on track.

Or, block your calendar off so you know when to focus on what and to prevent people from scheduling meetings at that time.

“Set a schedule, including breaks, and hold yourself accountable. Personally, I use alarms on my phone to remind me when to stop. I block time in the calendar to prevent meetings from being booked during those times that I know I need a break (lunch, gym, etc.). And, I try to make a list of what I need to accomplish each day to feel like my day has been a ‘success’.”
Heather-Mae Pusztai, Customer Engagement at Buffer

Standard task lists can help you know what you’re working on for the day and check it off as you go along. Hiten and I have a shared daily checklist we each add to every day which helps us add in an extra level of accountability since someone else is seeing it.

“A lot of people struggle with accountability with remote work. I publicly commit (in Slack) to what I’m working on and when I plan to get it done. If I say something publicly, I’m more likely to get it done when I say I will.”
Melissa Bierly, Product manager at Parse.ly

Sharing what you’re planning to do in Slack will help build accountability in for you and your team. If you’ve said what you’re doing, you’re much more likely to do it than face the specter of public judgement.

At FYI we do this through what we call daily updates. We share what we accomplished the day before and what we’re planning to do today. That way we can let everyone know what we’re up to, see what others are working on, and also keep ourselves accountable to our work.

daily updates remote work

10) Define your and the team’s responsibilities

How many times have you done something, only to realize that someone else did the same thing? Or, you finished up a project and delivered it to your manager, only to hear that you didn’t do what was asked of you.

On remote teams – where communication is more challenging and things can get lost in translation – it’s important to be crystal clear about responsibilities. Otherwise communication mishaps can happen all the time.

remote work responsibilities

“Who is responsible for X should be obvious to everyone. When it’s not clear, you end up having more meetings, calls, emails, and conversations than you should. This is a recipe for disaster.”
David Fernández, Co-founder of Readsmart

If you find that people are confused, there are lots of unnecessary meetings happening, emails flying around, and lots of questions coming your way, it probably means responsibilities aren’t clear.

Start by defining responsibilities on a project. Then, write down who is responsible for what, and share it with the team. Getting it documented means way less confusion and wasted time.

If you’re suddenly not sure what you’re supposed to be doing, ask. Slack your manager, set up a call, make sure that you are clear about what’s expected of you. And if you’re a manager, check in with your team to find out if they understand their tasks.

“When there’s doubt about who should be working on what and what the responsibilities are, don’t try to coordinate with everyone individually. Instead, set a time to jump on a call and discuss so everyone’s on the same page. Literally ask: “does everyone understand or have any additional questions”. Often it’s your fault for not being as clear as you need to be, and saying it out loud forces you to clarify your own thoughts.”
Matt Hollingsworth, Head of Operations at We Work Remotely

11) Focus on your health

If you let it, working from home can sap your energy. I used to always go to the gym on my way home from the office. I had momentum, I had a routine, it was easy to fall into the good habit.

With remote, you’re home, so the momentum is to stay at home. It’s easiest to be in comfortable clothing, ordering take out and working around the clock. Especially when your pet is asleep on your lap.

This isn’t a trap everyone falls into. But it can happen to the best of us. And it’s easy to prevent.

remote work health

A routine can help you get into the groove of healthy activities. Once you do something a few times, you gain momentum to keep doing it. For example, taking time to go to the gym, hiking with your dog, going to a yoga class, or getting time in nature.

“Get outside every day, ensure a steady workout routine.”
Claire Atkin, Director at First Mountain

Make time for these activities, even if you take a break from the work day and finish working later.

Stay hydrated and make sure to get up from the computer every so often. Practice healthy eating habits if you can. And don’t forget about your mental health too. Make sure you celebrate wins and achievements and don’t drive yourself to exhaustion and burnout. If you need to take time for a therapist, do that. Whatever it takes for you to be healthy and happy.

“Being a workaholic, you often forget to be physically active throughout the day. I find it’s important to get up out of your desk every 30 minutes or so and just stretch and walk around a bit. Sometimes this is easier said than done because being a remote worker means there may not be anyone around to remind you to take a break once in a while. This drive often must come from within.” Will Mitbrodt, Engineering Lead at We Work Remotely

What’s next for remote work?
Remote work is nothing new. But figuring out exactly how to work remotely, that’s still cutting edge.

If you work remotely or have remote team members, these 11 best practices for working remotely should become second nature to you.

We also pulled together nearly 200 tips on remote working that you can explore. For even more remote content, we’ve put together a growing list of the best remote work resources we could find on the Internet. And, here’s a remote work statistics directory for when you want to dive deeper into remote work trends.

 

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Source: https://usefyi.com

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I truly believe working remotely is the best way to take control of your time, but it can be a bit of a minefield. Whether you’re new to working remotely or been at it for a while, you are in the right place. I have 10 hard-earned tips for work remotely from home without getting depressed, anxious, or distracted. If I could go back in time to 2015 when I was a WFH beginner, this what I would tell myself. Thank you for watching my video! If you want to get the most out of your precious time here on this beautiful planet, join the Better Crew by subscribing.
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