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What Remote Work Has Taught Us In 2020 & How To Use It In 2021

What Remote Work Has Taught Us In 2020 & How To Use It In 2021

2020 was tough on everyone. The pandemic led to strict lockdowns that prompted businesses to make drastic adjustments in the way they operated. If they weren’t already using the internet as a sales and marketing medium, they were forced to pivot in just a short time. Many businesses had to close down their brick-and-mortar shops and start selling their products and services online. 

The way businesses sold their products was not the only thing that changed. Because the virus can quickly spread from person-to-person, many companies transitioned to remote working to protect employees. With most of the labor force working away from the office, both employees and management were forced to learn valuable lessons about remote working effectively. 

Pandemic Learnings to Leverage in 2021

Here are some of those lessons that will come in handy in 2021 and beyond.

  1. Maintaining a Schedule Is More Important Than Ever

After working remotely for several months, many people realized that they needed to maintain a schedule and stick to it. That’s because, when people were given flexible working hours, slackers tended to slacken off more, and the workaholics worked even harder, leading to many cases of burnout.

When people don’t have fixed working schedules, it’s easy to get carried away with doing a lot (or end up procrastinating and not doing anything at all!). 

Even when there are specified remote work hours, not everyone can strictly follow those. An employee who’s used to working 9-5 in an office setting is more likely to stick to those hours because their workday is already extended by commuting time. On the other hand, an employee who works the same hours remotely is less likely to observe those the same hours since they’re at home anyway. 

So how can one retain work-life balance with remote work? Both management and employees need to adjust to the new normal. Employees need to stick to a schedule and resolve to start and stop working at the appropriate times. If they are given flexible working hours, they should create their own schedule and stick to it strictly. 

Management also needs to implement measures to ensure employees are sticking to the schedules they have set for themselves. For instance, they can use an employee schedule template to distribute tasks and ensure coverage. They may also use a timesheet app so their team members can log in and out remotely. Managers should check the logs to ensure everyone is working the right amount of hours. They should also come up with ways to measure each employee’s output every day to ensure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.

  1. Importance Of Location & Personal Workspace

Many office-based workers never understood the value of having a personal workspace until they started working remotely. We really can’t blame them. When people actually started working from home, they realized the importance and started reflecting in their policy. Without one, it can be hard to differentiate between work time and personal time. 

Having a specialized, quiet workspace at home promotes productivity. Tech companies Squarefoot and F5 acknowledged this fact when they urged their employees to post pictures of their home workspaces on their Slack channels. This also had the side effect of building employee camaraderie and engagement.

When people work at home, they tend to be easily distracted. A strategically located workspace will help them concentrate on their tasks, increase efficiency, and ensure that they meet their deadlines. 

  1. Connecting With People Is More Important Than Ever

Thanks to remote work, people now understand the value of human connections more than ever before. A November 2019 report from Gallup found that loneliness was already a problem for almost 25% of remote employees. 

A similar study by Buffer discovered that loneliness was already the second-biggest struggle for remote workers even before the pandemic.

Those feelings of loneliness only worsened during the pandemic. An April 2020 survey by Indiana University researchers found that loneliness symptoms were high among its 1,010 respondents. The study claims that "...both loneliness and depression were much higher than (what) had been reported in other recent studies of mental health in America before 2020."

These findings show that staying connected with remote employees helps ensure that their mental and emotional health is stable. When employees maintain their health, they are happier and more productive at work.

Many companies hold regular meetings and team-building activities for their online teams to help keep everyone connected. The Society for Human Resource Management, for instance, sponsors virtual HR happy hours where employees show up online wearing funny hats. The events are a hit. 

  1. There Are Endless Learning Resources Available

Working remotely made both employees and management realize that there’s a vast database of resources anyone can access, thanks to the internet. With a simple Google search, everything is just a click away. This is great news for people wanting to learn something new and upskill their knowledge. 

Bob Burke, chief executive of Repair Clinic, a company that offers step-by-step tutorials, told the LA Times that his firm saw more engagement from 22- to 35-year-olds during the pandemic: “I think people now are realizing they can do a lot more than they might have thought. People are learning to be creative”, he said.

Companies can take advantage of this and encourage employees to develop their potential. Employees can also get ahead by using their free time to develop skills that they can use at work.

  1. Some Meetings Really Can Be an Email

Companies this year had to become more creative to keep their remote employees engaged and ensure that their business processes were running as usual. They had to use all available platforms to stay connected as a team and transcend physical distances. 

Those platforms include email, which has played a crucial role in many companies’ transition to remote working, as well as team collaboration tools like Slack, and video conferencing tools like Skype and Zoom. However, in an effort to stay connected, some teams have gone overboard with virtual video meetings. This leads to not only wasted time and a loss of productivity but also a very 2020 phenomenon known as “Zoom fatigue”. 

Companies should continue to use email as the primary mode of communication as remote work continues to be the norm. They should also enforce email guidelines to ensure professional emails are sent even if workers are not in an office setting. And before you schedule a meeting, ask if it’s really necessary. Some team meetings really can be replaced by an email! 

  1. Internal Communication

Remote working arrangements gave internal communication a boost as management tried to find ways to reach employees working at home. Apart from email, companies used other platforms to keep the lines of communication open. 

For instance, the George Washington Law School in Washington D.C. took advantage of the school’s intranet to give faculty members equipment recommendations and other instructions to prepare for the shift to online learning. In another industry, commercial real estate firm Squarefoot urged employees to meet their new co-workers via video conferencing.

Companies also became more conscientious about their employees’ well-being. Many businesses now roll out company-wide surveys periodically to know how their employees are doing.

Businesses should continue to acknowledge the value of proper messaging to help remote workers adjust to the new setup. Remote workers should also take advantage of internal communication to air their concerns professionally. 

  1. Security Threats

Remote work has brought to light the advantages and limitations of virtual private networks (VPN) technology, which is prone to hacking. Identity and information theft can happen when remote workers use their devices and public networks to access company information. As a result, companies are starting to look at modern technologies such as Zero Trust Network Access as an alternative to traditional VPN. 

According to Varonis, a completely remote team may be susceptible to websites that mimic the login screens of office software such as Office 365. These sites steal credentials and authentication tokens to impersonate legitimate users and login into their accounts. 

With real security threats associated with remote work, companies should invest in cybersecurity solutions to keep their information safe. They should also make their employees aware of such dangers to minimize the risk of security issues.

Bottomline

Remote working during the pandemic did not just change the way companies and employees operate. It taught them valuable lessons, too. 

It made people realize the importance of maintaining a schedule and having a dedicated workspace. People realized connecting with others was essential and that while the internet may be a treasure trove of information, nothing is a substitute for human-to-human interaction. Remote work also boosted internal communication and highlighted just how many meetings could be replaced with an email. It raised awareness of cybersecurity issues, too.

So what now?

The world has changed a lot, and many things will never be the same again. The key to survival in this constantly changing world is also constantly adapting to it.

Owen Jones
Owen Jones

Owen Jones is the Senior Content Marketer at ZoomShift, an online schedule maker app. He is an experienced SaaS marketer, specializing in content marketing, CRO, and FB advertising.

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