Among the top in almost everyone’s list of issues of remote work is the lack of SPACE. Both physical space and mental space!
The first time I “worked from home”, was many years ago (when broad band connections at home were not even available in India). The California headquartered company I worked for, was going through a M & A and the global deal team had to be on stand-by 24/7. After multiple all-nighters in the office, I finally mustered the courage to hesitantly raise the issue to my boss. She was horrified when she realized what was happening and instantly approved an upgrade to my home internet plan (still cable, but better!) and ensured that all future calls had a local phone dial-in number. This experience taught me a few things-
- Many leaders assume their teams have a home office and IT infrastructure to support work at home.
- Employees are hesitant or uncomfortable to raise the issue of lack of home office or IT infrastructure and struggle through the constraints as best as they can
- Raising the issue, atleast makes a resolution possible!
For many of our employees, especially in emerging markets, high speed home broad band connections or a home office infrastructure are still not the norm. This has made working remotely harder than it needs to be!
Here are some of the things I have found useful in supporting remote teams-
- Help the team set up a physical home office
Working long hours on the living room sofa or at the dining table, is physically exhausting because of poor posture. The living and dining rooms are also the “social” part of everyone’s home! Which means that it is impossible to get the quiet space needed for work or video calls.
Providing a one time “home office” allowance to cover the cost of a work desk and chair is a good way to get started. If your company is large enough, negotiating with a supplier for bulk pricing to makes it easier for employees to get what they need.
- Support IT Infrastructure costs
With video calls becoming the norm, a good broad band connection is now a must have. Unfortunately, data connections are still expensive in many emerging markets.
Implementing a monthly “internet access” reimbursement program can ease the burden on the employee. It helps with productivity and ensuring availability during work hours.
- Lunch Program
Many employees miss the subsidized lunches at the office cafeteria. Also, balancing working from home when you have young children at home can be particularly difficult.
Consider a “lunch program” where the company provides a lunch allowance or home delivered lunches (where possible). Companies that have implemented this have seen a spike in productivity & well being!
Mental Space is a lot harder to solve for than Physical Space!
The biggest issues with mental space are work hours and wellness. Here are a few things that I did that have worked –
Agree as a team what the work hours for meetings will be. This way, team meetings requiring the team to have video available are easier to manage. This is especially helpful when more than one member of the house is working from home. Structuring check-ins, asking team members the best times for 1:1s and being mindful of personal time – all hard to master disciplines that work!
- Social Time
I have raised this topic in several previous blogs. I raise this again, because social time together is an integral part of the “team experience” most of us want from our workplace. There are many ways to socialize virtually- pizza parties, BYOD (bring your own drink), birthday celebrations (with the cake delivered to the birthday boy/girl), cocktail workshops…the list is only limited by our imagination.
- Wellness time together
Bringing in wellness experts to talk to the team was an unexpected success! We tried a dietician, a yoga instructor and guided meditation. Do whatever is right for your team! It helps keep individual wellness top of mind and reminds us to take care of ourselves.
As we adapt to the new ways of working, it is super important that we are sensitive to our team’s needs and support them. Let’s continue to experiment and figure out ways to discover what works best for our teams.
It is the only way to build long term team productivity and engagement!