What are the remote worker’s challenges?

Working remotely isn’t just sitting at home in front of a computer and acting like you’re at the office. It’s not just a problem of pure distance, work or organization, it’s also about making up for a number of shortcomings. In the end, the employee finds himself with challenges that affect his work as much as his life and personal balance.

1°) Adopt the right collaborative practices and tools

I won’t go into more detail on the subject I’ve dealt with here through the use cases of remote work collaboration.

Working alone in your corner requires some adjustments but it is far from being insurmountable. Working together, on the other hand, is a much more sensitive subject.

And be careful not to fall into the trap of saying “but we’re already doing it in the office so it’s fine”. In most cases, in the office, we don’t collaborate well and we use the tools at our disposal even more poorly because we have the means to compensate by regular informal physical contact. From a distance, we lose these contacts and we realize that collaborative practices and the use of tools that allow them are at best perfectible and at worst totally dysfunctional.

2°) Loss of informal exchanges, of “off” conversations, of context

If you look at what you exchange with your colleagues in the “necessary” exchanges for your work you will realize that only the ” necessary ” things are said, not necessarily the useful things. I’m talking about email exchanges, physical or virtual meetings on projects or anything with, in theory, a precise agenda, information put in the CRM, project management tools, HR tools etc.

Useful things are learned outside. By going to see a colleague at his or her office, by an informal discussion in a corridor or at the coffee machine, by nodding or winking from a distance (even during a meeting), by observing people’s attitude and reaction, by chatting.

The useful things are the contextual elements that make it possible to exploit the rest, once we get rid of the political correctness, double speak and that we add the dust cleverly hidden under the carpet in the formatted exchanges that we only talk about between people we trust in a select committee.

That’s what we gleaned as information from a client, it’s an internal dysfunction that nobody talks about but that a colleague warns you about, it’s a crucial piece of information that your n+2 keeps jealously to himself but that by chance someone heard on the corner of a corridor and thinks it’s useful to share it with you, it’s knowing that so-and-so isn’t at his best at the moment…and I’ll go on.

Give it a try. Be satisfied with the information obtained in planned and organized exchanges and cut yourself off from the rest. It’s as if one of your senses has been taken away, if not more.

In short, at a distance it is essential to give oneself the means to pick up this information, the weak signals again. By maintaining regular exchanges by chat (and not only for “necessary” exchanges), in pairs and/or in groups, by setting up video conferences for coffee breaks between colleagues, by making the best use of a corporate social network in its ” engagement ” and ” social ” dimension.

Here again, be careful not to take the easy way out: only 7% of communication takes place through words, 93% through what is known as non-verbal communication. The further away you are and the longer you are, the more important it is to hear at least the voice of people and ideally to see them in person. Chatting is easy, but use the phone and video is better.

At a distance, if we are satisfied with the “necessary” exchanges, we lose most of the information necessary for our work.

3°) Be work minded

Work is not a question of where or when, but a question of state of mind and attitude. As I said in my article on personal organization in remote work, this covers a lot of things because attitude is conditioned by a number of factors

1°) A dedicated place.

2°) An uncluttered and organized workspace

3°) Dress as close as possible to what you’ d wear to work

4°) No interruptions (easy when you’re alone, complicated with the family)

5°) Strict adherence to schedules (start on time)

Generally speaking, when you sit at your desk, all the signals should say “you are at work” and in the same way, when you move to another part of the house everything should say “take a break and change your mind, you are no longer at work”. I even know people who go so far as to change their clothes after their remote work day.

4°) Not to be phagocytized by your work

Contrary to an idea that is too deeply rooted in people who think that an employee who is not monitored will do everything to do as little as possible and hide their inability to be leaders behind a willingness to control everything, the real risk with the remote worker is that he or she will do too much.

This can happen because he loves his job and the fact that he doesn’t have to go home at the end of the day means that he simply forgets to leave his desk or even comes back to it as soon as an idea pops into his head. Especially if he lives alone and no one comes to remind him of dinner time.

It can also – and often – happen because he feels guilty about being working remotely. In a company where the culture of presenteeism is strong, where the management is visual and rather in “control & command” mode, the remote worker knows that he is not trusted, that he will always be suspected of not doing enough, of cheating. So he tries to be more blameless than blameless, to prove that he can be trusted and in the end he does too much.

This can happen, quite simply, because in teleworking you can lose your bearings. Life is no longer regulated by commuting to and from work; you can live several lives (professional and personal) in one room or almost in one room, without leaving your armchair, and lose your sense of time, so to speak.

Even if we can still find people who think that an employee who overworks is rather good news, it is no longer necessary today to explain the negative consequences in terms of psycho-social risks, burn-out etc.

Some simple practices to avoid this:

1°) Stick to your working hours (finish on time)

2°) Don’t forget the breaks and take them in another room than the one where you work.

3°) Keep friendly and informal contacts with colleagues…and friends.

4°) Ideally have different working environments for the professional and the personal (not the same computer / not the same account on the same machine…)

5°) Taking care of oneself

The consequence of the risk of doing too much and losing one’s bearings is the risk of forgetting oneself. Consequences in the long run: deterioration of physical fitness, self-esteem, general letting go….

1°) First, work on a real desk, on a chair made for that purpose and with a screen at the right height. If you work on a laptop put it on a stand and use a separate keyboard and mouse.

2°) Do a sports session every day. 30 minutes in the morning before starting, in the evening after finishing, or during a break.

3°) Pay attention to the meals: make real meals at the right time and at the table. Eating in front of your screen is a real mistake at the office, it’s really dangerous at home. And since we don’t have the question of travel anymore, take the time to really cook and ban at all costs the dishes prepared. Last point: adapt your calorie intake to your decreasing physical activity.

4°) I was talking earlier about the need for appropriate attire. Needless to say that working from home doesn’t exempt you from taking a shower in the morning, shaving etc… working from home doesn’t mean living like a caveman because you don’t see anyone.

5°) Maintain the social link with others.

6°) Go out for a walk after work.

Needless to say, this is all the more critical when the remote work period is long, when it is imposed and not chosen. Needless to say also that managers face even more challenges, which will be discussed in another post.

Photo : Challenge managérial by Sergey Nivens via Shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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