How long have you and your colleagues been working from home? Weeks? (Does it feel like months?!) Some of our team members are enjoying the change, but others are itching to get back to the office. I bet in teams across your organisation it is fairly similar. Whichever way it is for you, remote work is here to stay.
As veterans of the ‘virtual working world’, we thought we would offer some much-needed support. In this article, we want to share how important remote work skills are for the workforce, not just during this Coronavirus pandemic, but across the board. This is now the way of the future for many organisations, so it should be a high priority for L&D in 2020.
- Why do companies shy away from remote work?
- What skills do you need to work remotely?
- How can I communicate while working remotely?
Why do companies not like remote work?
On the whole, organisations have historically been somewhat mistrustful of remote work. Question marks over staff members’ ability to remain productive while at home is a major factor. Not only is this a concern about motivation levels without the structure of the office environment and company culture but also the potential technology limitations.
However, the COVID-19 crisis has forced businesses the world over to accept working from home at rapid speed. Time tracking software RescueTime has found that, during the Coronavirus pandemic, knowledge workers, software developers, and IT professionals working remotely actually experienced a 4% increase in average daily time spent on their core work and an 18% decrease in time spent on things like meetings, emails and calls, making them more productive than office workers.
But what about those of us working in non-technology based sectors? What about salespeople, business and people leaders, consultants, account managers and other customer-facing professionals? Their role revolves around meetings and other forms of discussion with team members, clients and stakeholders, which is much more challenging when in-person communication is out of the question.
When communication is central to your business, you need a special set of skills to work remotely. These skills are really only just emerging in a corporate training context, but mark my words remote work skills training will be an essential by 2021.
What skills do you need to work remotely?
1. Good virtual presentation skills
In the pre-Coronavirus world, we had physical presence and non-verbal communication elements to support the delivery of our key messages. In the current world of remote work, you have only your voice, head and shoulders with which to make an impression via a video call.
All of a sudden, you need to think like a television presenter. You need good lighting, clear audio, an expressive face, a non-distracting background – you need to be able to engage through the screen. This is not as easy as you might think. How do you think your team is currently fairing at this?
2. Self-motivation and focus
This is an obvious one and goes for everyone who is working from home right now. Self-motivation and focus throughout the day are essential. This is not only critical for meeting targets and business goals, but also for having the drive and determination to upskill yourself and/or your team in order to meet the challenges of remote work. Everyone should be trained in prioritisation strategies and workload management. Staff members in their first or second job are the most at risk here.
3. Strong leadership
If you’re managing a remote team, you could be leading people with low morale, ebbing motivation and – in these uncertain times – personal issues. It’s important to check in with team members more regularly to gauge where they’re at and ensure they have everything they need to remain productive. Over-communication is key during this time period.
While we’re all in isolation, it’s critical that teams feel connected. A consistent routine is a good idea; why not implement a quick daily or weekly video call, for example, so that there’s a regular, scheduled opportunity to discuss workload and any issues. And don’t expect everyone to react the same to remote work. Some may miss the energy of the office, while others might thrive with the freedom to structure their own day. It’s important to assess people’s L&D needs individually when it comes to remote work, in order to provide the right support.
How can I communicate while working remotely?
1. Video meetings
Technology that is fit for purpose is essential. With so many different video conferencing tools out there now, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. Some have time limits, some have attendee number limits, some allow you to share documents and screens, some offer breakout rooms. Have a look at our remote working cheatsheet for a direct comparison of the most popular video meeting apps and their features.
2. Messenger apps
Google Chat, Microsoft Teams, Slack – whatever messaging app you use, it’s important to make sure everyone in the team has access to it. Being able to group message team members makes sharing meeting notes, discussing group projects and building a sense of community easy and quick.
3. Good old fashioned telephone
Don’t underestimate the power of a quick phone call to clarify something, ask a question and save heaps of back and forth over messenger or email. We’re no longer able to tap someone on the shoulder or overhear a relevant discussion in the office, so encouraging team members to pick up the phone when necessary is a smart move. Share around a call list containing everyone’s numbers so they can easily find contact details for the right person.
For more remote work training tips, we’ve devised a handy all-inclusive guide based on our years of experience and research. Use this to level up your home-office impact and make the most of communications during these challenging times.
Use these tips and share them with your teams to ensure they are well set-up, supported and productive while operating from home. Download our remote working tips now.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.