Recent events have accelerated the existing trend toward virtual teams and remote working. Even after businesses emerge from lockdown this is a phenomenon that appears unlikely to unwind.
Effective virtual working is becoming an essential skill for today’s professionals. Whether you’re looking to perform in your current role, support colleagues or prepare for your next job, our ten-step guide to effective virtual working is designed to help you get it right.
1. Get your tech right
Wifi signal and access to power are the new hygiene factors underpinning the modern home office’s hierarchy of needs.
Think through the lighting and sound in
your home office so that colleagues and clients can see your face rather than a
silhouette. Arranging your workspace so that you’re facing the main natural
light will be your biggest friend.
Check your background and use a virtual
background if you’re uncomfortable sharing your home environment or just want
to hide any domestic untidiness.
Build a balanced daily routine
Setting the boundaries between your home
and work life become more important than ever when the physical boundary become
You’ll probably find more flexibility than
the standard office routine, but there are no bonus points for being at your laptop
within one minute of waking up or working all day in your pyjamas.
If you’re working at home with other family
members taking the time to have set lunch dates together can help balance the
demands of home and working life.
Learn to love video calls
Video calls are the closest remote working
gets to a face-to-face meeting and offers a more social experience than
telephone, email or chat technologies.
Remember that your moves and expressions
come across as heightened to other viewers on the call, so the body language
element of communication will be translated into how other interpret your
posture and facial engagement.
They also typically start and end on time
to make a welcome change to many office meetings that drift on beyond their
It’s harder to tell when your colleagues
are having a tough day when you’re not in the close proximity of the
office. Take the time to keep an eye out
for colleagues if you’ve spoken to them less frequently that normal or if
they’ve been unusually subdued in team calls.
The isolation of working from home effects
everyone differently so it pays dividends to be alter to your own state of mind
and how others are feeling. Emotional
intelligence in electronic and remote communication is particularly important
to ensure your intentions and feelings are accurately construed by others.
Talk to each other (more)
This one’s particularly for business
leaders and managers, but when you’re working remotely it’s more important than
ever to keep talking to your colleagues.
You’re going to have to make a point to have the informal check-ins that
happen when you pass colleagues in the corridor or at the water cooler.
Make a point of sharing successes and failures,
letting know people know how the business is performing and all the other
little pieces of information that we typically glean informally.
Don’t let your imagination run wild
#FOMO. You’re not alone. You’re not missing out. If you’re finding the adjustment tricky, you’re colleagues are in the same boat.
7. Productivity may actually improve
Home working lends itself to focussed activity, especially if combined with techniques such as Pomodoro for concentrated short bursts of activity.
It’s easier to take short breaks that really clear the mind in your own environment. A wander around the office is spotted for what it is. A couple of moments with your pets, hanging the washing out or watering the plants all provider a healthy diversion between work activities.
Plus think of the extra time you gain from not commuting. For many people that’s two hours a day extra time for family, friends and fitness.
8. Difficult Conversations
This is where we all need to be careful. You may have seen articles online of employees that claim to have been fired in group video calls. Extra sensitivity is required when addressing difficult issues online but the nature of the changed work environment may mean there’s no alternative.
Careful preparation and planned time outs can help manage expectations for both parties, and ensure that there’s time for reflection which helps all parties maintain dignity and composure.
9. Family Flexibility
One of the immediate benefits of flexible home working is the freedom to manage home and work responsibilities in a more balance manner. Time out for family activities can be juggled in more easily than when it has to be carved out of the normal office day.
However, ensuring all family members are aware (and respectful) of your working routine is essential to success. Having a calendar that holds everyone to periods of individual and family activity can help.
10. Client Facing Activity
It may be a while before you can get back
on client sites, so if you working life was organised around client-site
appointments and ‘shoe leather’ working of your client base – this is time for
a serious rethink.
We all need to be effective digital
communicators, applying our proven work processes through online channels to
deliver what our clients need. If you
hold out for a return to the old ways of working, your competitors will take
New challenges for sure. A barrier to doing business no way.
For organisations, how
you support your teams needs to form part of your revamped Employer Value
Proposition. For managers, the skills to support your team are needed now. For individuals, acquiring the skills to
make the most of the new world of work are critical. The rewards will accrue to fast movers. If you don’t want to get left behind, talk to