We know that remote and hybrid work has its challenges… But what are the solutions?
If you follow AIMS South Africa on LinkedIn you will see our previous post about the potential challenges of remote and hybrid workers (see here if you missed it). We also introduced our new service offering: Work From Home Readiness Surveys (see here). Surveys in themselves can be quite controversial because often the response to completing a survey is “Well, what are you going to do with this information?”. The answer is pretty simple here at AIMS South Africa: We use it. We use information from the WFH-Readiness survey to identify the challenges employees may have when integrating into a remote work setting. Furthermore, we will make suggestions on the best possible solutions to these challenges.
Below we outline some solutions to the most common challenges that remote and hybrid employees experience. (Please note that the challenges are not limited to the ones listed below. Different organisations, with different organisational cultures may have varying challenges).
- Communication and collaboration challenges may need assistance from tech.
To improve communication and collaboration amongst remote workers, it is suggested that leaders invest in good communication technology. You may already know them, for example, Zoom facilitates clear video conferencing, Slack revolutionises instant messaging and file sharing, and Microsoft Teams integrates chat, video meetings, and document collaboration. For seamless communication and collaboration, consider Google Workspaces with Gmail, Google Drive, Google Meet, and Google Docs. Additionally, Happeo is a powerful digital workplace platform that seamlessly integrates with Google Workspace, offering features like a social intranet, document management, and real-time collaboration. With these tools, your team can collaborate effectively, share knowledge, and foster a strong sense of community, even in remote work settings.
- Overworking and unplugging requires some self-management.
Establishing a consistent routine is vital for remote work success and to keep the overworking temptations at bay. As a leader, you should encourage employees to set dedicated working hours, adding these to their calendars, and avoid working outside these boundaries, even for small tasks. This practice allows employees to prioritise self-care and rest as needed. Put an emphasis on taking regular lunch breaks and scheduling after-work activities to foster work-life balance. According to Happeo’s data, only 22% of remote workers took three weeks off in 2020, with many taking even less vacation time. To address this, make sure you are touching base with your employees and discussing their holiday plans with them. Tell them that you encourage that they take some time off to rejuvenate. For day-today challenges, consider organising online lunch and coffee sessions as a creative break to recharge employees and provide a motivational boost. By adhering to these strategies, you can promote a healthy work culture, enhance well-being, and boost overall productivity.
- Engagement and motivation may force leaders to become creative.
Ensure employees are staying motivated and productive while working from home by encouraging them to set tasks and milestones to track daily accomplishments and long-term goals. Embrace activities that ignite passion and fuel growth, even in mundane tasks, by encouraging your team to engage in small, joyful activities like morning yoga or leisurely breakfasts. Incorporate gamification by introducing friendly competitions, rewards for targets, and challenges with prizes to drive motivation and adoption of new practices. Recognise achievements through bonuses, gift cards, or professional development opportunities to boost satisfaction and motivation, especially in challenging times.
- Mental health challenges should be top priority.
A 2021 study by the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) noted that 40% of fully remote and 38% of hybrid work are associated with an increased likelihood of anxiety and depression symptoms compared to in-person work (35 percent). This means that leaders need to prioritise the mental well-being of their employees who work remotely. If you’ve noticed a decline in an employee’s mental health, consider making free professional support available to them. Alongside professional help, make an effort to incorporate social interactions that bring employees joy. Schedule team breakfasts, dinners and team building activities. Encourage employees to schedule weekly Zoom lunches with their favourite co-workers or join local book clubs to regain social connections and feel part of a community. Additionally, organisations should have mental health first aid kits available to their staff with items that will help soothe anxiety and assist with the symptoms of depression. These can include stress balls and fidget spinners, scented candles, chocolate, a QR code to an uplifting Spotify playlist, and an adult colouring book with crayons to name a few.
- Routine and time management tools will assist with time management challenges.
Time management is not just a challenge brought on by remote work, but remote work may make it more difficult. Encourage your team to establish a routine. This is crucial for optimal brain and body functioning. Inspire employees to determine the business hours that work best for them and ensure they commit to them, whether following conventional working hours or prioritising family time. Each morning, employees should create a schedule outlining priorities for the day, focusing on time-sensitive tasks first and progressing to less urgent ones. Time management techniques like time boxing, allocating specific time slots for each task, can be beneficial. Leaders should invest in and encourage employees to utilise time management tools like Google Calendar, which offers convenient features for managing busy schedules. With Google Calendar, home office workers can easily plan meetings across different time zones, add and adjust time zones, and include world clocks, making it invaluable for frequent travellers or teams with significant time differences.
- Zoom Café’s a solution to loneliness?
Encouraging employees to maintain social connections while working remotely is important. Employees can do this by organising regular video calls with friends and family. Consider making coworking space available to employees for a change of environment. Foster team camaraderie by scheduling one-on-one Zoom coffee chats with teammates or engaging in conversations in dedicated Slack or other communication tech channels. If online relationships feel forced, spending time in a co-working space or coffee shop can provide a sense of connection. Embrace virtual celebrations to enhance togetherness and uplift spirits. Get creative with themed outfits for Halloween or organise an online cook-along for special occasions, sparking joy and fostering a sense of celebration among workers. Our Managing Partner at AIMS South Africa, Leonie Pentz- O’Connor along with the sustainability team introduced Zoom Café’s during the pandemic to connect with others and ‘check-in’. These are usually informal with a certain topic for the session, which encourages the team to participate and connect with one another.
- Anticipate and solve Wifi and resource problems before they arise.
As a leader, one should be ready to solve any problem that arises. Ensure that your employees are prepared with a backup plan for unforeseen tech problems they may face. For example, if an employee’s WiFi fails, they should have the option to join Zoom meetings via their cell phone. Additionally, make sure your team are aware of nearby locations with reliable WiFi that they can visit in case of emergencies. Ensure your remote team members have the necessary resources to connect from home, including access to up-to-date apps, software and for employees working in South Africa, a UPS for when load-shedding strikes. Consider reimbursing internet costs to support your team in obtaining the fastest available connection.
Be fully prepared for transitioning to a remote or hybrid work environment with our Work From Home Readiness Survey. You will gain invaluable insight into potential risk areas, which will require focused solutions. If you already have a remote or hybrid workforce, our survey can help you understand the current challenges they are facing.