Remote Working: What’s It All About?
With the explosion of video conferencing, it’s likely that you’ll spend a significant amount of time online when remote working in your own version of a mini stage—occasionally with a large audience. There are several worthwhile accessories that you should consider from the outset to help you be more productive and look more professional
Here are some suggestions and resources to help ensure you’re making a good one in your virtual work environment.
Having a second monitor can be very helpful as it allows you to use more programs at once, compare and contrast materials, and avoid the problem of hunching over a laptop all day
For video calls, you should always use a headset, be it earbuds or an actual headset with a microphone built in, rather than relying on the built-in speaker in your computer.
A GOOD CAMERA
Most laptops these days have good built-in cameras, but it can also be worth buying an inexpensive HD webcam that you can clip onto your monitor. Or, you can have your camera freestanding on a camera stand, which may offer better video clarity or control over the location and angle. Logitech has some great models.
Room lighting is an often overlooked factor in remote work communication. There are several inexpensive lights you can buy that go next to your laptop or even clip on the screen that can make a noticeable difference in your appearance. Ring lights aren’t just for Instagram influencers—they’re an affordable, easy way to ensure great lighting for your day-to-day calls.
WORK STATION OR STANDING DESK
For the sake of your long-term comfort while working from home, it’s important to ensure that your workspace is a place where you are comfortable working for long periods of time.
Ideally, the background that shows up when you’re on a video call should be clean and free of clutter and should establish that you are in a professionally organized space, even in your home. While working from home is becoming more normal, it could send the wrong message if an unmade bed with a pile of dirty clothes on it appears in the background when you join a video call.
BLUE LIGHT GLASSES
Finally, you may consider investing in glasses that filter out blue light from your computer screen. Depending on your vision needs, you can get these either with prescription lenses or without. Wearing glasses that filter out blue light can help protect you from eyestrain when you are staring at a screen all day and have also been connected to higher-quality sleep when worn in the evening
Getting the Most out of Remote Work
If you’re working remotely for the first time, it’s essential to set expectations for your new colleagues about when you are and aren’t working. While everybody deviates slightly from day to day, it’s helpful to clarify to your manager and coworkers if, for instance, you prefer to work from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day with an hour at 12:00 p.m. for lunch.
What you don’t want is to be unreachable when people expect you to be working. Nothing erodes trust faster in a virtual working environment than when someone is unavailable or can’t be found easily at a time at which they have designated they will be working.
Many employees are getting their first dose of remote work during a time of isolating social distancing, stressful economic turmoil, and, for many, inability to get childcare. It’s no surprise that many of these workers quickly felt exhausted and began to worry they would not stay motivated while indefinitely working from home.
One way to tap into motivation is to identify which aspects or tasks in your role you enjoy more than others, especially those to which you can apply your skills. If you find it invigorating to compile data in spreadsheets and draw meaning from the results, for example, you might consider finding a way to consolidate that work into blocks of time so you can look forward to that type of work, spending uninterrupted quality time on what you enjoy most.
Whatever you do for work or want in life, motivation is easier to come by if you can somehow tie the two together. Next time you are feeling unmotivated at work, spend a few minutes thinking about or writing down things that are important to you in life or goals you want to accomplish. Just the process of putting your work in the context of your broader life journey can make a noticeable difference and highlight how you can connect to those principles in new ways in your role.
As part of your working week, it’s also essential to prioritize your health and well-being. Making time in your schedule for quality sleep and exercise won’t just make you healthier, it will also improve the quality of your work.
To begin, it’s crucial to prioritize high-quality sleep. While some people struggle more with sleep than others, there are steps anyone can take to combat these problems. One easy step is to form a consistent bedtime routine. For one week, try setting a bedtime for yourself and sticking to it. An hour before that bedtime, put away your phone, laptop, and other personal electronics, and try reading a relaxing book for thirty to sixty minutes.
You may also find it helpful to try incorporating consistent daily exercise into your routine and schedule. You don’t need to train for a marathon or lift weights every day, but even doing a short yoga video once a day, going for a brisk walk during your lunch break, or doing a few jumping jacks before your morning coffee leads to an endorphin release that can help improve your mood and mental focus.
Finally, it’s vital to find an outlet that helps you reduce your stress levels. It’s important to recognize when you’re feeling stressed and know what activities can help you relax and refocus.
It Starts with Culture
Building a world-class culture requires authentic leadership. An organization’s leaders must have self-awareness; they need to possess knowledge of who they are and what they value most. To build a great culture that you can effectively lead, it’s important to draw inspiration from your own personal principles and priorities.
don’t believe you can build a lasting culture that’s not a reflection of your own personal values in some way, because if it isn’t, you won’t be able to authentically lead it
First, successful companies have clear, forward-thinking vision. They have a clear picture and story about where they’re going, and they can articulate that vision in a way that excites their stakeholders, both internally and externally.
Core values are the DNA of a successful person at your company. You need to get this right when you hire them, because if they don’t have or demonstrate that value, they won’t be a match for your organization. A core value needs to be worded in a way that is objective and evaluative, so you can easily measure someone’s behavior or performance against that value. Someone who meets all your core values is almost always a top performer when they are in the right role
Goals are the key metrics that allow you to hold yourself and your team accountable. Goals shouldn’t just be targets that sound impressive to your team or your customers. They have to build upon each other to advance the vision and values you’ve carefully crafted.
Finally, we have the key modifiers to vision, values, and goals. The first is consistency—repeatedly following procedures that are proven to work and committing to uphold the standards that are essential for excellence. We have several consistent processes that keep us on track.
The second key modifier is clarity, which starts with clarifying for employees what our vision, values, and goals are. Our employees can’t do the work we need them to unless they really understand those core concepts and how they fit into the big picture.
All this adds up to a full picture of an organization—what we value, how we’re performing, and where we see the company going in the future. Because we’re upfront about these key characteristics, employees can decide if this is the organization they want to work for in the long term. And just as importantly, it goes a long way in helping to find, recruit, and hire the right talent to execute these core components to perfection.
What Starts Well
CONDUCTING VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS
While interviewing over a video call has some drawbacks, it also offers particular advantages for hiring employees for a remote organization. In some ways, this virtual method gives you a better sense of how the interviewee will perform in a virtual work environment. If a candidate is uncomfortable or ineffective when communicating over a video call, that may not bode well for their chances of excelling in a role where much of their communication may be increasingly virtual.
Virtual interviews also give you a chance to get a sense of the candidate’s attention to detail in setting up their virtual workspace.
the necessity of setting up a professional workspace when working from home, and seeing how someone presents themselves in a video interview can be a good way to gauge how much thought and care they’ll put into presenting themselves professionally once they actually join your team. If an interviewee is speaking to you from a noisy space, has an ineffective headset or microphone, or joins the call with a messy background, that tells you something about how they might present themselves in the future as a member of your team.
HIRING FOR A REMOTE ENVIRONMENT
Hiring employees for a remote culture requires a specialized approach, including identifying and hiring employees with specific characteristics that make them particularly adaptable to working from home. Specifically, the most effective remote companies evaluate candidates to determine if they can maintain their professional performance and their personal well-being while working virtually.
It’s particularly crucial to consider two questions when evaluating potential remote employees. First, do they have the characteristics needed to work effectively in a virtual workplace? Second, will they be happy and fulfilled working from home over the long term?
The first question is related to innate personal and professional characteristics, while the second is related more to environmental preferences. Both factors determine whether a candidate will be able to fulfill their responsibilities and work well with others virtually. These are some of the essential professional characteristics to look for in remote candidates.
ESSENTIAL PROFESSIONAL CHARACTERISTICS FOR REMOTE EMPLOYEES
- Self-motivated: ability to work effectively and consistently without in-person oversight.
- Self-directed: ability to figure out problems proactively and avoid getting stuck.
- Strong communicator: communicating in a virtual workplace requires more care and clarity than in an office environment. Value people who can communicate clearly to others across different modalities and who listen well to others.
- Self-confident: ability to work consistently without frequent validation of their work and decision-making. Because remote employees can’t check in with management as frequently as in an office, they must be able to confidently execute their daily tasks without oversight.
- Accountable: tendency to achieve assigned outcomes, take ownership of tasks, and take responsibility when outcomes are not met.
Setting Your Team Up for Success
TEAM BUILDING AND VIRTUAL BONDING
Team building has been a staple of organizations of all sizes for years. But in a fully remote world, companies have shifted from in-person activities like trust falls and obstacle courses to virtual activities that bring the company closer together in an unconventional way.
These organizations will likely be turning to companies like Kristi Herold’s. Herold is the founder and CEO of the Sport & Social Club, a Canadian organization that historically coordinated recreational sports leagues for adults. Having built a brand based on bringing people together through play, Herold and her team made a quick pivot to facilitating virtual team-building activities for companies around the world when the pandemic hit. They launched a new offshoot of their business called JAM (workplayjam.com), which is entirely focused on remote activities.
JAM offers virtual games like bingo, trivia, digital scavenger hunts, and online escape rooms. They provide their own game hosts and arrange all the technology, so teams just have to show up and have fun. To add some customization for clients, Herold’s team can even design their games to specifically reference the client company—trivia questions that relate to the company’s history, bingo tiles that are named for departments and teams, and more. Herold’s team even offers companies onboarding-focused games for new employees. New hires can quiz their new colleagues on trivia about themselves, learn about their new organization, and shorten their learning curve in a fun, entertaining way.
While we don’t know how teams will handle their team-building activities in the future, it’s possible that this is another area where leaders will see many of their previous assumptions challenged and adopt new practices. Maybe it’s not always necessary to bring everyone together in one place to hold an impactful team-building exercise. There’s plenty of opportunity for virtual team-building companies to grab a bigger share of what is likely to be a fast-growing market.