Remote work is nothing new. Recent Census Data reveals that 5.2% of workers in the US work from home and 43% worked from home on periodically. The coronavirus, however, has generated a seismic shift in these numbers across the globe as nearly every worker with a job is doing business from established or make-shift home offices. Organizations of every size have the C-suite, managers and employees working remotely.
The technical infrastructure for virtual work has more or less been in place for years, however, the sudden shift from workplace or no workplace has had a profound impact on leadership, management, employee engagement, HR, and culture. Instead of break room gossip sessions, sneaking out for a cigarette, constant interruptions by colleagues and seemingly unproductive meetings, the workplace is now contending with kids, dogs, slamming doors and embarrassing teleconference moments. This is the new normal and normalizing it will be critical to success.
During this crisis, communicating to employees about the expectation for how remote will be conducted and what the rules of the new road will be are essential. As social distancing sets in and behaviors change due to a lack of social and physical engagement, both positive and negative “workplace” behaviors will emerge and reveal themselves on conference calls and teleconferences.
Communication is the key for remote work to be successful especially in a time of global health and economic crisis. Employees can perform if provided the tools but how they perform and interact will be driven by strong leadership. Here are a few good guidelines for managers and employees alike to promote a safe and productive virtual workplace:
Distance doesn’t mean the workplace culture has to fall apart. Evidence suggests remote work can increase productivity and employee happiness. The goal now is to ride out the crisis, keep the team engaged and productive. If you lead, the team will follow.