Going in to the new year, we have the time to reflect on the way that remote work is currently organized in our team. Do you have long-term solutions to common challenges in remote work? In this article, I will highlight five challenges of remote work and tips on overcoming them.
Creating a positive and supportive work environment
Problem: It can be challenging to retain a collective feeling within a team when personal contact is limited. Reactions and comments from team members may be misinterpreted, and the feeling of being disconnected or alienated can have a toll on employees' satisfaction in their workplace.
Solution: Implement different strategies of building team relationships into the daily work day and see what works best for your team. Establishing a Video-On-Policy allows team members to feel connected with other people and to be able to interpret their reactions better. Make it a common practice to begin meetings with a check-in where staff members are encouraged to share personal aspects of their lives, whether it be how they spent their weekend or what is currently on their minds. Another fun alternative is to ask your employees to describe their emotional state with the help of a smiley☺️🤔😡 and evaluate it afterwards. This strengthens the team feeling and positively impacts the collaboration within your team.
Implementing Communication and Collaboration Tools
Problem: When face-to-face communication is no longer an option, then the importance of effective and straightforward communication tools increases. Implementing new tools into a team can always be tricky and can lead to confusion, which negatively affects the productivity and the satisfaction of your employees.
Solution: Find tools that you can easily integrate into the daily work flow. Look for a few tools that enhance and encourage collaboration, rather than having multiple tools that can lead to miscommunication and inefficiency. Here is a short list of the SpinLab core team favorite tools:
Asana is a task management tool that allows teams to work on different projects together, create and assign tasks and set deadlines. This platform offers a clear overview of personal tasks for each user, as well as having an overview. Individuals can also create lists for reoccurring tasks, for example an annual event or onboarding procedures, to save time.
2. SlackSlack is a communication tool for larger teams. The app has features such as individual private chats between team members, as well as channels and groups where multiple people can share ideas and discuss with others in the team about a certain topic or project.
3. Google Calendar and Hangout
Google Calendar is a great tool for personal organization plus team coordination. Team members can share their calendars with other people in the team to coordinate meetings and check availability. Appointments made over Google Calendar automatically create a private Google Hangout room for the video chat. Since it is quick and easy to arrange meetings, Google Hangouts can also be used for short, spontaneous meetings, almost mimicking the speed of interaction within an in person office.
Blurred lines between work and private life
Problem: For most people, working remotely means working from home, the same place where they sleep, eat and relax. It can be challenging for employees to come up with strategies to separate their work and private life. This can lead to the feeling of always having to be available for work.
Solution: People in leadership positions need to set a positive example for their employees of a healthy work-life-balance. Set clear rules for “off-hours” where communication about work topics is off limits. Encourage employees to enter their working hours on their calendars (this function is available for example by Google Calendar) so that other people in your team are notified when they try to make an appointment outside their working times. A document proposing the new labor laws, published at the end of October, explained that workers should have the right to at least 11 consecutive hours of “night rest,” during which they should not be interrupted unless for emergencies.
Addressing physical and psychological health of your team
Problem: It is no wonder that living in times of a global pandemic with social distancing and free time restrictions will have an impact on the psychological and physical wellbeing of your team.
Solution: Of course as an employer, you won't be able to change the personal circumstances of your employees, but you can offer them tools to improve their overall wellbeing. Stresscoach (SpinLab class 12) is a great app for mental health that focuses on mindful practices that can help with different issues such as stress, concentration, and anxiety issues. German health insurance providers cover the cost of the app. Eversports is an online sport platform that allows users to book livestream classes as well as follows pre-recorded guided sport courses. In major cities in Germany, there are also in-person courses that would make for a great team excursion! An example for a daily practice you can introduce, try implementing an active break. Especially if the employees work a lot on the computer, active breaks allow them to get up and move around. Try desk yoga together in a virtual chat! There are hundreds of free YouTube videos that you can try out.
Team building and team events
Problem: Corona has certainly not made it easy for most companies to organize team building events for their employees. Nevertheless, team building measures are an important component for a motivated team and positive work atmosphere. But in times of remote work, this aspect of work culture is often overlooked.
The Spinlab core team is a big fan of online pub quizzes
Solution: When organizing online events, there are some essential things to keep in mind: Keep online events short and sweet! While an onsite event may go on for hours and still be lots of fun, generally the motivation span for actively participating in online events tends to be around 1-2 hours. It may seem like many people have lost interest in online events, but with a few cool ideas, they can become a real highlight. Here are a few examples of team events: Online Beer/ Wine tasting, Virtual Escape Room or an Online Art Night. You can also organize a virtual event to discover unexpected hidden talents of members in your team by organizing a living room concert - can someone play an instrument or sing? These types of funny and playful events will be sure to have a positive and lasting impact on your team’s collaboration.
To enable employees to exchange ideas during remote work, weekly virtual coffee dates can be initiated. It should be a fixed rule that work topics are not discussed! To find out more personal facts about your colleagues, you can also use tools like Staffbase. Ask your colleagues for a fun fact about themselves, their hobbies, funny experiences that happened while at work, or to share their most embarrassing high school moment.
The future of work…
will include more and more remote working opportunities! In order for your startup to remain competitive and attractive for employees, it is essential that you take the time to implement a strong long-term remote working structure. So be sure to constantly reflect on the tools in your daily workflow and ask for feedback from your team!
//Article written in collaboration with SpinLab working student Celesley Torres.