Working Remotely, Collaborate Effectively, Thrive Virtually

In the wake of COVID-19, most of the organizations across the world have asked employees to work from home but remember, that culturally or practices, we are not tuned to working from home naturally. We need to get habituated to this and that often requires some time. When we have a situation that we have today, during emergency, getting time to get accustomed or acclimatized, it's difficult. This often puts stress on the employees and their supervisors or managers. We are sad to say that Virtual Collaboration is not being talked in most of the forums and not even the Leadership Development programs or coaching sessions!

Working Remotely, Collaborate Effectively, Thrive Virtually

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What are the Challenges?

The biggest challenge that we face here can be categorized into two-part:

Cultural Issue

  1. As I have mentioned in the previous paragraph, most of us are not habituated or our mind is not tuned to working from home. Whenever we go to the office, we get up on time, get ready, get dressed properly. But when we are working from home, we often feel a bit lethargic – we feel, since I am working from home, it’s all right, if I start working late, meaning getting up late!
  2. Many times, the break timings (b’fast break, lunch break, etc) are different at home when we are staying with family. Now, if I have a stipulated lunch break in my organization while working from home, I must follow the same break timing! Else, you will not get the entire team together to connect for a longer period, which is counterproductive.
  3. One more challenge we face is from the other family members at home. They are not habituated to see us working full day while staying at home. For many of them, if I am at home, I am on vacation or today is a holiday at my work. This means, now, I need to get them educated that, even though I am at home, but I am working. In other words, even though I am at home, I cannot be called for any household work or I cannot be even disturbed!

Trust Issue

Many of us at the supervisory role, are habituated to see our people just under our nose! Now, when suddenly a situation comes when, as a supervisor, you can’t see your team working in front of your eyes, you start getting a trust issue as you are not too sure, whether everyone is working seriously or not. As a result of this, some supervisors started to get into micromanagement. Sometimes, they ask the team to be online in some instant messenger and the manager, keeps on checking the status (“Available”, “Away”, “Offline” etc.). This creates two problems.

  1. The productivity of the supervisor goes for a toss, as he/she is always busy with checking the availability of his team members.
  2. When the team members come to know about it, they feel bad, cheated and clearly understand that his/her manager does not trust him/her!

Except for all these, there are other challenges also. When we are working in different locations, getting into a team meeting or team huddle becomes challenging. Even if you go for a team meeting virtually, gaining attention is another big challenge.

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How to Resolve these Issues

To resolve these issues, we can do the following:

Culture Issue

  1. Follow the same timeline as you used to follow when working from the office. All you have in hand extra is commuting time from your residence to the office. You can relax only those minutes with some extra sleep or some other work but nothing more. If your shift starts at 8 AM, you need to be logged on at 8 AM. Similarly, if you have a lunch break between 1 PM to 1:30 PM, then even though you are at home, you need to finish your lunch during that time only.
  2. Educate your family members that even though you are at home, you are not available, you are working. So that you are not disturbed.
  3. Find a quiet place for work, where outside sound does not come in. It looks very unprofessional if there are a lot of external noise when you are in a conference call!
  4. Get dressed up or groomed the same way at home also, be in Business Casual or the dress code as per your organization rule, so that you get a mental feeling that you are working!

Trust Issue

  1. Identify the resources in your team, who needs micromanagement, even in the office, you can continue doing micromanagement with them, but not with everyone.
  2. Setup calls regularly – both one on one and with the team. Explain to them that while we were working from the office, we could see each other every day, every time, could discuss anything whenever it comes to our mind. But since we now working from different locations, we must connect more often than we used to do in the office, so that we can discuss all the issues.
  3. Make yourself available for your team even other than the regularly scheduled call. Pass the message to your team that you are available and they should feel free to ping you / call you if anything comes to their mind.
  4. Message to your team that you are available and they should feel free to ping you / call you if anything comes to their mind.

Participation and Collaboration

Another big challenge is how to improve participation and collaboration during a virtual meeting

This is the toughest part – as we are unable to see each other, it’s difficult to bring the same level of participation and collaboration.

First thing first, identify the people in the team, who communicate with each other regularly. For larger teams, as per the Harvard Business Review, we should focus on a flexible, fluid team structure of multiple tiers.

  • The core tier is responsible for strategy and important decisions.
  • The operational level includes day-to-day ongoing work

This way, we can make a smaller team to be responsible for different layers of the task and we will not need a team meeting with a very large number of audience frequently.

Wherever possible – enable video and use it during the meeting. So that you can see each other. If the environment or technology does not support that, then make the meeting as interactive as possible.

Make the meeting a more collaborative call, rather than one way speaking. For that share the agenda in advance and make the agenda in such a way that everyone in the meeting needs to share/speak something.

If the meeting is purely a one-way meeting, then it’s very difficult to gain attention and participation from the audience, unless the message that you are trying to give is of great interest to the participants of the meeting. If not, then, the only way to get some attention is – asking questions by taking a person’s name, if that is appropriate in your culture.

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Amit Ganguly
Featured Uplyrn Expert
Amit Ganguly
TEDx Speaker, Coach, Mentor
Subjects of Expertise: Career Development, Personal Development, Leadership Development
Featured Uplyrn Expert
Amit Ganguly
TEDx Speaker

Subjects of Expertise

Career Development
Personal Development
Leadership Development

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