Slowly but surely, lockdowns around the world are beginning to ease up.
Whether it’s being able to go to the coffee shop or the park with some friends, hints of normality are beginning to ease back into our lives. But we’re still far from being back to normal. And those of us who have become accustomed to working from our living rooms and kitchens are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In fact, Gartner found that up to 74% of companies are expecting to shift to semi-permanent remote work in the future.
As we emerge from the peak of the pandemic, we’re beginning to ask different questions about what our working lives are going to look like over the next few months. How will the pandemic change the way we work in the long term? And how can we prepare for this situation? In this blog, we look into the future.
Adopting a Flexible Approach
Over the next few weeks, the lockdown will hopefully continue to ease and we’ll be allowed to make our way back to work again. But for most workplaces, the office won’t look the same for quite some time. A lot of companies will choose to let some workers back earlier than others, reducing the number of people that can be in the office at one time.
Perhaps people will begin to return to the office in waves, or on a rotational basis. Perhaps some companies will decide to have the management and C-Suite level workers in the office before everyone else.
For many companies, working remotely has been a learning experience. Those that thought they’d never be able to work outside the office have discovered that it’s much easier than they’d originally thought.
There’ll be plenty of managers out there wondering whether having 100% of their staff back in the office should be a priority after all. Flexible working is going to continue long after the immediate effects of the pandemic have begun to cease.
How to Work Remotely Long Term
By now, most organizations working remotely have settled into their groove, at least for the short term. But working remotely for a period of weeks is quite different from doing so semi-permanently.
To sustain long-term remote working, businesses need to change their culture. That’s because the habits and processes people develop sitting next to each other aren’t well suited to the world of remote work, and these will become increasingly apparent the longer we’re separated. Here’s a look through a few examples.
1. Find Time to Focus
When we work remotely, we communicate exclusively through messages, emails and calls. Keeping up with this information is a job in itself. If we’re going to make long-term work successful, it’s important to manage these communications in an efficient and effective way. If we reply to every message as it arrives, we risk never having any time to focus and complete our individual tasks. If we ignore messages to try and focus, vital communications can be missed.
It’s important to compartmentalize your time, shutting off emails and communications during focus times, but also setting aside the right amount of time to reply to messages and emails. Scheduling half an hour perhaps twice a day to catch up on correspondence, before shutting down all communications again is the best way to achieve the right amount of focus.
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2. Share Information as Standard
When we all sit next to each other in the office, it’s easy to lean over the desk and ask a question, such as ‘where is this document?’ or ‘what did the client say last week?’.
Working remotely, it’s much more difficult to enable these communications, particularly if we want to avoid adding to the endless stream of emails, messages and calls. It’s important to take a different mindset to share information. A proactive approach assumes information should be shared by default.
The best way to ensure information is shared ‘by default’ is to store files and documents in a shared area that everyone can access. As well as this, it’s about letting people know when information is added and where they can find it. After all, it’s better for someone to know the information is there and not need it then never know in the first place.
One area that we have found particularly helpful is the use of video recordings. Now that we are working remotely, video calls and meetings have become essential to the everyday running of our business. Recording each meeting and storing them in a specific folder so anyone who missed the call or would like to catch up can easily do so in their own time.
Also, using a video recording tool like Loom has been beneficial for describing processes to a new starter or a member of the team who missed a client briefing. You can record your screen and speak to your camera to explain a document or how a piece of tech works. Then anyone who needs this information can watch the video.
3. Regular Catch Ups
When working remotely, it’s important to make time to catch up and discuss priorities. But when doing so long-term, this should take a different form. It’s not simply enough to schedule calls ad-hoc as individual pieces of work need to be done. It’s important to take a proactive approach to share priorities, having regular, perhaps even daily, meetings to discuss what work you’re covering and agree on deadlines and expectations.
Set out time to make sure everyone is always working on the same page. A daily ‘stand-up’ conference call where you share your priorities and work schedule with colleagues can be very beneficial to ensure everyone is on the same page. It can also highlight issues with projects regarding timelines, resources or bottlenecks.
Making Remote Work Sustainable
At Fifty Five and Five, we are experts in enabling remote work, having had several permanently remote employees over the years. We’ve been practicing these tips as part of our daily working habits since long before the pandemic. That doesn’t necessarily mean that remote working has been a breeze, but it’s certainly been a lot easier than it otherwise might have been.
Fifty Five and Five is a B2B marketing agency that provides specialised marketing services for the technology and IT sector. Get in touch if you are looking to grow your business, drive brand awareness or achieve your marketing goals.