Feeling fatigued and exhausted from working remotely? The struggle is real. The world is facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19, and businesses have had to convert to home-based working models overnight, whether they were prepared or not. Analysts at McKinsey believe that the pandemic will significantly accelerate organizations’ shift to the digital business models that many viewed as less critical before the COVID-19 crisis. With no perfect road map to show the way, companies are coming to terms with this new ambiguity by driving empathy-centered innovation within their digital communities.
Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work found that the top three issues that plague employees working from home are collaboration, communication, and loneliness. It’s now a vital time for organizations to provide clarity for employees on some of their most fundamental human needs – how they add value to the world, how they connect with their colleagues to collaborate, and how they strike a balance between work and home lives.
Make space and adding value in a digital world
Create digital workspaces that empower people to adopt better, more useful digital technologies that properly serve customers and employees. This may sound like an obvious requirement, but the learning curve and confidence level individuals have using these technologies differ for everyone. Making employees comfortable with digital tools that help maintain productivity is not only essential to keep business going—it’s equally vital to maintain every employee’s motivation and energy.
There’s a natural pull, even in these times, not to figure out how to operate in this new world but how to replicate the old world in the new conditions…the longer this goes on, my optimism increases because I think people are being forced to figure out innovative ways.”
(Leslie Perlow, professor of leadership at Harvard Business School; in the NY Times)
Connecting and collaborating within your organization
Healthy teams are evolving within the new conditions, moving from a “solving problems” model to “growing solutions in rapid, iterative cycles.” To accomplish this transition, each team has to experiment with the best software and technology to build a collaborative platform inclusive of a diverse range of community member voices.
When product teams want to get something done together—whether it’s writing copy, reviewing specs, or analyzing customer feedback—they open up a tool like Jira, Asana, or Trello and work through things together. Other collaboration tools we use and recommend include:
- InVision for prototyping and sharing design work
- Framer and Hype for building animated and interactive prototypes
- Sketch for crafting robust, scalable design systems
- Zeplin and Sketch Measure for efficient handoff to developers
- Mural for organizing virtual workshops and focus groups
Breaking the pattern of always being available
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you need to be always working, reports Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times. She talked with executives and researchers about this and other tips that make working from home more manageable, including:
Designate time for work and nonwork: Organizations must recognize their employees as holistic human beings that need separation in their lives between time for work and personal time for themselves and their very homebound lives. When everything is happening in one location, it’s more important than ever not just to create rituals to start and end the workday, but also to create breaks of “life” to pepper throughout the typical work hours.
Judge performance, not hours worked: Managers should be clear about expectations for work assigned and be more flexible about how it is accomplished. Allow new patterns of efficiency and creativity to emerge, document them, and learn from them as a team.
Connect colleagues: Remember voice calls? They are making a comeback as people crave human connection during the pandemic. While Zoom and Google Hangouts are popular replacements for meetings with multiple colleagues, the phone is more natural for one-on-one conversations and doesn’t buffer like video. “Voice is the new killer app,” says Chris Sambar, AT&T’s executive vice president of technology and operations. “It’s been a real surprise.”
Even with the advantage of digital tools and platforms, it’s imperative to acknowledge that employees are balancing unique situations with competing priorities and concerns. Empathy requires us to recognize we are all making sense of what life during a pandemic means, and organizations must set their expectations around productivity around this fact. With remote work becoming the norm for the foreseeable future, it’s more important than ever for colleagues to communicate, experiment, and discover the best approach for their teams.