5 Work From Home Habits We Should Keep After Quarantine
During the past two months, many organizations discovered the hard way that they didn’t have the infrastructure to support company-wide remote work. From overwhelmed servers to insufficient home technology, the COVID-19 pandemic has required companies to square-off with entirely new obstacles in the fight to maintain productivity.
But hundreds of Zoom calls and makeshift desks later, others have discovered the ways remote work can provide opportunities to be more efficient. Many managers have declared their employees to be more productive during coronavirus lockdowns, while some employees are reporting higher levels of satisfaction and the desire to keep remote work as a consistent practice once quarantine restrictions have been lifted.
But the research is still split on whether remote work is good for business. More flexibility and less commuting makes for happier employees, but challenges with team collaboration and communication can cause projects to slow down.
As states are lifting stay-at-home orders and employees return to their previous workplace routines, there are some work-from-home habits we should consider taking back with us to the office. By doing so, we can help ease the transition between office and home office practices, making our teams more flexible, dynamic, and ready and prepared to be successful from anywhere.
1. Use Slack Rather Than Email To Communicate Informally And Faster.
Let’s be honest. Drafting internal emails for day-to-day interactions is a practice that we should ditch entirely. Informal communication is a secret weapon for efficiency, and Slack is the best platform available to harness it.
Slack enables all employees to connect quickly and with ease. In the office, Slack gives team members the permission to navigate the more utilitarian nature of office conversations without unnecessary, time-sapping formalities. At the home office, features like Geekbot help standardize and improve daily and weekly reporting from team members. It provides a great way to increase accountability without being onerous or imposing.
Although too much office banter is a distraction, the right amount is actually good for morale. Both in the workplace and home, Slack channels provide that outlet without interrupting employee work flow. Acknowledging that our teams are made up of people who need interaction and camaraderie to thrive is not a weakness. It’s a necessary step in maintaining motivation.
2. Use Project Management Tools, Like Monday, Asana, To Improve Team Coordination Around Projects.
Keeping major projects moving forward has been another challenge for businesses suddenly scattered across home offices and computers, and it is also one of the biggest concerns for management about remote work. And with remote employees citing team collaboration as a challenge of being away from the office, project management tools can fill that gap, and position businesses to do better in both times of normalcy and moments of disruption.
These tools empower management with some understanding of how much time teams are spending across various projects, whether they are working from home or down the hall. Monday and Asana provide big pictures of workflows, but you can get even more specific data with tracking software like Hubstaff.
Remote work requires more monitoring and accountability to make sure projects don’t fall behind, but this kind of coordination shouldn’t stop once your team is back in the office. Because much of the research shows that employees are more productive at home, executives should strive to figure out better ways to replicate that productivity once their employees come back.
Project management tools can allow teams to set clear milestones and goals each week, and establish an explicit accountability and follow-up process. With the right toolkit, remote work may have already sped up some of your project timelines. If you want to keep that pace going when the distractions of the office return, having a centralized platform to monitor progress is a must.
3. Keep Virtual Meetings Going Where And When You Can.
67% of workers claim that they waste too much time in meetings. Although remote work should have been an opportunity to trim that excess, virtual meetings still managed to catch the meeting stigma during quarantine. This is because meetings–whether virtual or face-to-face–disrupt employees who most benefit from extended hours of uninterrupted work time.
If we want to avoid returning to the days of long, disorganized, and unproductive meetings once we get back to our offices, we should keep virtual meetings in the rotation. Yes, we want our team to be engaged and collaborative when necessary, but realistically, not every item on the meeting agenda applies to every person in the room.
Although some managers might worry that their employees have been using the mute feature to check-out, most are using it to multitask and keep their workflow going. In our conference rooms, multi-tasking employees would appear as disengaged or just flat-out disrespectful, where in-reality, they are trying to keep things moving forward.
Having more flexibility in allowing for virtual check-ins even from down the hall may help ease some of the negative meeting stigma. When you absolutely need your team in the room, reward them by setting a strict agenda and following it.
4. Be Flexible When And where You Can.
Employee productivity in home offices is a direct result of higher satisfaction. Remote workers love the flexibility that remote work provides, a flexibility that our brick-and-mortar offices will never be able to fully replicate.
So in the places you can be more flexible, try to be. It’s possible that your employees could be more successful outside of traditional business hours — after their kids have gone to school or later into the evening. Outside of scheduled calls, meetings, and time-sensitive tasks, be flexible with the hours that your employees can work hardest and most productively for you.
They know the best way to maximize their schedule, so give them the opportunity to prove it.
5. Consider Making Remote Work a Consistent Part Of Your Company Culture.
My digital agency has incorporated work-from-home Fridays since our founding. It’s the primary reason why my employees haven’t lost momentum since transitioning to full-scale remote work. The practice was already a part of our workplace culture, and as a result, we didn’t require any transition period to instill new habits and routines.
There is a positive relationship between remote work and productivity, and many teams have seen the fruits of that labor these past months. As long as management does their part, it’s more likely that your employees will surprise you with their socially-distanced efficiency and will be thankful for the opportunity to have a weekly day in their home offices.
Many experts predict that the current pandemic will fast-track global companies into embracing remote work. It’s possible that this moment in history is preparing your company for what will be our largely telecommuting future.
Whether you like it or not, quarantine will also require management to see your company from an entirely new angle. This distance may help you discover areas where you have inflated overhead, underutilized resources, or complicated processes that could be more easily streamlined.
So take notes. In the long run, the companies that adapt best to the current environment are going to come out of this stronger, more dynamic, and more profitable than their peers.
About The Author:
Manick Bhan is the founder and CTO of LinkGraph, an award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency that provides SEO and paid media services. He is also the founder and CEO of SearchAtlas, which offers a full SEO software suite. He is the former CEO of the ticket reselling app Rukkus.