Today’s Solutions: October 16, 2021

“Going to work” this past year has looked quite different for many of us. In most cases, going to work didn’t require any commuting or even an outfit change.

There are many benefits to the shift to remote work, such as the fact that companies don’t have as many overhead costs because they no longer have to maintain large offices, or that parents, especially fathers, have the opportunity to be more involved at home. However, remote work also has some pitfalls. Employees must convert dining room tables into offices and fight for space or WiFi with their partners and children.

Another consequence of remote work is the lack of supervision which leads to employees developing bad habits. If you are leading a project remotely then you may recognize these bad habits forming in your team. Here’s how to identify and address them.

Hiding out

During videoconference meetings, it’s not uncommon for team members to keep their audio and video off. For everyone else in the meeting, it’s impossible to know if these individuals are engaged at all in the conversation.

Leaders should set ground rules for video conferencing like mics off, video on. They can also encourage participation from everyone by having a conversation with each team member before the meeting and during the meeting, ensuring that they direct questions to specific people rather than throwing out a question for the group.

Acting unfocused

Many people do not have the luxury of a designated workspace in their homes and are now working with makeshift offices in their bedrooms or kitchen tables. This means that some workers struggle with staying focused on the task at hand and may miss deadlines or simply be unable to complete some assignments at all.

Leaders should carve out time (ideally each week) to connect with individual team members to discuss their progress, but also how they are doing outside of work. It may also be helpful to end the day with a team meeting where people talk about things that are not related to business.

Multitasking

Remote work allows employees a lot of freedom to engage in more than one thing at the same time without it being immediately noticeable. This means that, in the spirit of getting as much done as possible, there may be a lot of multitasking going on during the day, especially during video calls. Team members may be answering emails, scrolling through their newsfeed, or chatting with colleagues or friends without anyone realizing.

Team leaders should try to emphasize that while multitasking may get more done in a shorter amount of time, the quality of work generally suffers. Also, video calls should be made to be more interactive so that participants don’t feel bored or zone out.

Overworking

Without the separating act of commuting to and from work, it can be more difficult to set work boundaries or hard schedules. This may mean that employees end up working whenever they can from morning until the late hours of the night. Although the enthusiasm for productivity is valued, this kind of behavior is just setting workers up for burnout.

It is the leader’s responsibility to make work hours explicit to their team and to lead by example by refraining from sending emails or making requests from an employee after work hours or on off days.

Professionalism

Working from home means that two worlds that are often kept separate are suddenly colliding. This can make it difficult for employees to continue dressing appropriately or presenting themselves in a business-like matter.

Team leaders should communicate their expectations and what they deem to be acceptable during all types of meetings so that no one is confused about what is appropriate in any given situation.

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