5 Tips for Organizations to Help Navigate the Challenges of Remote Working

Written by guest blogger and frequent Akumina contributor Steve Bynghall

The spread of COVID-19 or Coronavirus is already having a profound effect on businesses and how we work, with a new emphasis on working remotely. Many large organizations are actively  preventing any unessential travel and physical meetings, and some are now insisting that employees work from home. Although the situation is still very fluid and is changing daily, at the time of writing it appears that COVID-19 will have a deep, sustained and ongoing impact on our working patterns.

Switching to remote working rapidly presents challenges to many organisations, particularly where it is not a mature practice. There may be some technical, infrastructure, bandwidth and even security issues, but these tend to be more navigable than the cultural and people issues encountered. Given that the spread of the virus is also highly stressful, organizations need to be sensitive to the needs of people who are having to cope on multiple fronts, not only with a completely new way of working, but also the potentially troubling conditions around them.

So, what should organizations be doing and how can the digital workplace help?

1. Providing clarity

In times of change and potential stress it helps to have clarity on company policy and information relating to remote working. Having clear policies helps teams with approaches to navigate the challenges of remote working, sets expectations and avoids misunderstandings. In some cases, policies may need to be defined in some detail. For example, in virtual meetings you might want to set a policy that it is not a requirement to turn your camera on. This will avoid misunderstandings that can occur at the team and individual level.

Any policies should be in an easily accessible place – ideally on your intranet or digital workplace homepage. If you have a multi-lingual workforce, it might be necessary to translate any guidelines into languages above and beyond your official “corporate” language. Of course, it also helps to provide clarity on which tools will help people work remotely; “how to” resources such as instructional videos can  help.

2. Supporting health and wellbeing

For many of us, working from home is preferable to working in the office, but it’s not ideal for everyone. Remote working can  be difficult, for example if you have a small home with young children. For others who thrive on contact with their co-workers in the office, remote and home working can also be surprisingly lonely and even stressful.

The ergonomics can also be less than ideal if you don’t have a proper desk and chair. If you have to work long hours on a dining room chair and at the kitchen table, it may not be great for your back or neck.  

There are multiple ways that organizations already support health and wellbeing but in times of rapid change, managers need to step up and support team members for whom remote working is difficult. If possible, HR functions should support managers with guidance, tools and training.

3. Lead by example

CEOs and senior leaders can set a great example by working remotely and letting everybody know how they are getting on. A simple video, blog post or personal update from a CEO on your intranet can be surprisingly helpful. This will also influence other positive behaviour from senior managers, who in turn positively influence middle managers and so on.

4. Let social channels flourish

When your workforce switches to remote working you may find your social network and related tools really flourish. These channels not only provide a place for people to interact informally (those fabled “water cooler” conversations),  but also a place to ask for practical advice. For example, a group to support employees with tips and tricks on how to work remotely can be a good idea.

In stressful times social channels can also give people working remotely that extra bit of human connection and light relief. If there’s a time to allow cat videos on to your social network, it’s probably now.

Social tools also allow companies to listen to how people are getting on with working remotely. You could ask for people to give you their feedback about how the organisation could better support remote working, for example.

5. Be flexible

When an organization’s workforce suddenly has to work remotely, there’s going to be some unexpected consequences, surprises and mistakes. Overall, companies should be flexible and be prepared to change their policies, introduce new tools and help employees. Many of us will be learning as we go.  

The power of the digital workplace

A good digital workplace helps remote working and supports employees. COVID-19 is proving to be a huge challenge for many organisations, partly due to a sudden shift in working patterns,  but with flexibility, understanding and perseverance we should be able to at least navigate some of the considerable issues we will face in the coming weeks and months.

To learn more about remote work best practices, tune in to our webinar, Working From Home and the Digital Workplace: Technology Best Practices for technology tips and tricks from Akumina’s David Maffei.

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