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With COVID-19 related stay at home orders, only essential workers have been braving the streets. For those with a career where working remotely is possible, many find themselves dealing with a full workload, Zoom fatigue all while juggling a personal life, families and – oh right – the stress of living in a global pandemic.

It is important to really let that sentence sink in. Sure, we all want to keep doing business-as-usual, but this is most definitely NOT business as usual. Your team, your manager or you yourself might experience a lack of motivation, clarity or patience. This is normal. But, wait you didn’t see that email at 7:30pm last night? Why not? Aren’t you working from home? 

That brings us to the second point. You are working remotely, most likely from home, but don’t allow that to make you feel like you are living at work. Put schedules, boundaries and a cut off hour in place so you don’t find yourself feeling obligated to answer that email that comes in at 11pm. Personal time and rest are crucial to avoid burnout and even more important during the current global situation we are experiencing. 

ECCO has done some research to look into this concept of ´remote work,´ including predictions, pros and cons plus best practices so you can face whatever may come your way in the long term! 

Most experts agree that remote work is here to stay. Really, the concept of the office began in the 1930´s, with the ´cubicle´only moving into the mainstream in the 1980´s. As some of you may know from personal experience, remote work was already trending pre-COVID. According to Forbes, 80% of workers would reject a position if it didn’t offer flexible work arrangements. Since 2015, the desire for a remote position grew by 44%. And with good reason; flexible remote work allows for people to have both financial independence and family planning, plus the savings from day to day expenses like commuting and take-out meals. On average, the remote employees save around $4,000 per year! Take into account that millennials are tech-savvy and favor their independence, it’s no wonder remote work has been growing in popularity. From a managerial perspective, remote work is beneficial too: offering an average of 25% reduction in employee turnover and 77% of employees reporting increased productivity. Really, COVID-19 just expedited this process. 

But expedite it did. Since remote work isn’t going anywhere, businesses will be strengthening work-from-home policies and will rely and invest in their technology more than ever. This will make cyber security that much more important, as well. Thankfully with platforms like Zoom and Slack allowing for connection and collaboration, from meetings to virtual happy hours, employees will find that work-social life balance despite the distance. Although, beware of that Zoom fatigue – schedule breaks to stretch, get some fresh (socially distanced) air and then come back to the screen!

As beneficial and modern remote work may be, it also presents unique challenges. From a macro level, in the long term, Forbes identified a few significant downsides:

  • Remote work could further the racial divide
    • With Latinos and Black Americans feeling 145% more concerned about finding remote work. This is based on various factors such as: bias in the interview process, access to stable internet and exclusivity when it comes to what positions are able to be remote. 
  • Determining promotions and merit increase will become data centric
    • Hopefully managers will be able to find holistic approaches to this issue, rather than relying on keystrokes or logged screen time.
  • Cyber security measures will become more necessary
  • Methods of feedback will definitely change 
    • While your work may be remote, the relationships, feedback and check-ins will be more important than ever. Especially to combat the loneliness and isolation individuals can feel when remote. 

Now, with all the changes and uncertainties, managers may have a tendency to micro-manage. Something to keep in mind during this shift to digital work is the difference between trust v. control. Part of understanding this difference is: empathy and vulnerability. We are all in trying times. Empathy to each person’s situation will help motivate productivity in spite of the situation. That vulnerability of opening up and being heard will also be able to create trust, originally defined as “a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another.” With this definition, we can infer that trust implies that each party has positive expectations of the other. Nobody is looking for somebody to fail or have a ´gotcha´ moment. Everybody is on the same side and looking to get the job done well. 

Lastly, we will leave you with some best practices as you navigate remote work, remote team management and much more!

  • Give workers autonomy
  • Clearly define team goals and each person´s contribution
  • Community your strategy
  • Prepare a work plan in advance
  • Consider looking into apps that allow employee feedback like PllEv and Vevox
  • Follow examples from businesses who handle remote work well. See list here
  • Revisit healthcare plans
  • Schedule one on one check ins with employees or team members
  • Use this time to revisit training in health, safety, cybersecurity, management, etc. The more resources and support your team has to move forward, the better. 

SOURCES
“The Future of Remote Work after COVID-19: 3 Common Predictions.” Eko, www.ekoapp.com/blog/the-future-of-remote-work-after-covid-19-3-common-predictions.

Slack. “Report: Remote Work in the Age of Covid-19.” Slack, slack.com/intl/es-ve/blog/collaboration/report-remote-work-during-coronavirus.

Stahl, Ashley. “What Does Covid-19 Mean For The Future Of Work?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 June 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/06/15/what-does-covid-19-mean-for-the-future-of-work/#5d28220d446f.

Written by Knowledge @Wharton. “What COVID-19 Teaches Us about the Importance of Trust at Work.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/covid19-trust-virtual-working/.