15-Q&A About Remote Work
Coronavirus pandemics are expected to fundamentally change the way many organizations operate in the foreseeable future. Governments and businesses around the world tell people with symptoms to self-quarantine, and everyone else to social isolation, so remote work is our new reality. How can company leaders, managers and individual workers make this sudden change? Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley has spent two decades helping companies learn how to manage dispersed teams. In this edited Q & A, she came from a recent HBR subscriber video call, where listeners can ask questions, and she provided guidance on how to work efficiently at home during this crisis, manage virtual meetings, and lead teams.

Is the organization ready for this sudden change?

The scale and scope we see is unprecedented, and organizations with 5,000 or 10,000 employees require people to work quickly from home. So no, there is no organization for this.

The first thing leaders and personal managers can do is prepare their employees?

Build the infrastructure correctly. Do people have the necessary technology or ways to use it? Who has a laptop? Is it easy for someone with [owning a laptop] to enter their organization? Will they have the software they need to work, hold conference calls, and more? What about employees without laptops or mobile devices? How do you ensure that they have access to the resources they need to work? The direct manager must very quickly ensure that every employee has full access, so no one feels left behind.

What should people who are not used to working remotely be psychologically prepared for?

Set rules and manage the day with discipline. Schedule start and end times. Rhythmic. Take a bath and get dressed, even if it's not what you usually wear. Start a day of activities. If you are accustomed to physical exercise, make sure to incorporate it into your daily life. If you are an outgoing person and are used to having many contacts and collaborations with others, make sure that this still happens. Ask yourself: How do you protect yourself from loneliness or isolation, stay healthy, productive and vibrant? Create for yourself.

Keep in mind that you may actually like working from home. You can play your favorite music. You have the flexibility to think about your time. May be interesting. As for managers, they need inspectors. Make sure you not only set them up, but also your own rhythm and connection with others. Q: "What can I do to ensure this sudden and rapid transition is useful to you?"

How should these check-ins take place? As a team? One to one? Over the phone? Or video chat?

First, you should have a group discussion about the new situation. Say, "Hey guys, this is a different world. We don't know how long this will last. But I want to make sure everyone feels like they have what they need." Next, the team should be launched to launch this new Way of working. Figure it out: how often should we communicate? Should it be video, phone or Slack / Jive / Yammer. Should you not use one of these social media systems? What is the best way for us to cooperate? You have to help people understand how to work remotely and give them the confidence that remote work will work.

After solving these issues, meet with your group at least once a week. In remote environments, the frequency of exposure will not decrease. If you are used to meetings, continue to attend meetings. In fact, the connection between the entire team and its members should increase. New hires, people working on key projects, and people who need more contact will need additional one-to-one. Also keep in mind that there are some fun things you can do virtually: happy hour, tea break, and lunch together. All of these can help you stay in touch with the office. There is a lot of research that shows that virtual teams can be identical to co-located teams in terms of trust and collaboration. It just needs discipline.

How does working from home affect mental health? What can employers do to ensure people stay focused, engaged and happy?

In remote work, people lose conversations with colleagues' unplanned water dispensers or cappuccinos. These are actually important and important parts of the working day, they directly affect performance. How do we create them virtually? For some groups and individuals, this will be continuous instant messaging. For others, this will be a live phone conversation or video conference. Some people may want to use WhatsApp, WeChat or Viber. Managers can encourage those types of touchpoints to promote mental health. People will not be able to solve these problems organically. You have to train them. Another suggestion is: exercise. This is essential for mental health.

What are three things leaders can use to build a good remote culture?

There are more than 10,000 English-language books on Amazon that cover virtualization and how to lead remotely or remotely. Why is that? Because this is difficult to do, managers must work actively. First, make sure that team members constantly feel that they know what is going on. You need to communicate at the organizational level, because when they are at home, they feel like they have left their motherhood. They want to know what is happening to the company, customers and common goals. It is important to communicate around these. So you send more emails and share more.

In the meantime, people will also start to feel nervous about revenue targets and other deliverables. You have to make sure that they feel okay. Another thing is to make sure that no one feels like they have less access than others. At home, people's imaginations are going crazy. Therefore, you must have equal access and use by everyone. Finally, when you have a group meeting, try to be tolerant and balance talk time so that everyone can see and hear.

How will these changes affect productivity?

Productivity need not be reduced at all. Since the annoyance of commuting and office has disappeared, it can be maintained or even enhanced. Of course, you may be at home with your partner or child and these issues need to be addressed. Another issue may be your ability to resolve issues quickly when you cannot meet in person. This may cause delays. But beyond that, I don't think productivity will drop. There is strong evidence that it should not change.

If social alienation policies last for a while, how do you measure employee productivity and ultimately review it?

I say this to every manager: You must trust your employees. In this era and age, we must listen to Ernest Hemingway's advice: "The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them." You can't see what people are doing. But equip them the right way, give them tasks, check them as usual, and hope they are produced the way you want. You cannot monitor the process, so your review must be results based. But there is no reason to believe that in this new environment, people will not do the work they are assigned. Remote work has been around for a long time. Today, we have all the technology that requires not only work but also collaboration. We have enterprise-wide social media tools for storing and capturing data,

Let's talk about virtual meetings. In addition to general suggestions to clarify your purpose, distribute the agenda, who will be called, etc., what are the best practices?

First, you must have some clear ground rules. Say, "Man, when we have a meeting, we do it in a good way, we turn off the phone, we don't check email or perform multitasking." If I have the ability, I highly recommend video conferencing. When people can see each other, they do make a difference. You then believe that people will follow the basic rules.

Second, because you no longer need a chiller conversation, and people may just be learning how to work from home, check it out within the first six to seven minutes of a meeting. Don't discuss your agenda items directly. Instead, ask everyone: "How are you?" First, choose the person with the latest or lowest status, or the person who usually speaks the least. You should also share to model behavior. Then, introduce the key things you want to talk about, and then simulate what you want to see again, whether it's a connection, asking a question, or even just using your favorite technology, such as Zoom or Skype for Business.

The last thing is that you must follow up on these virtual meetings with redundant communication to ensure that people hear your voice and are happy with the results. Suppose you have a video conference on a topic. You can follow up via email or Slack message. You should have multiple touchpoints through various media to continue the conversation.

How do you promote highly complex or emotional conversations when people are not face to face?

You can only propose one or two of these topics, because you don't have time or opportunity to do everything after the meeting. You cannot just follow up to the people's office. Therefore, please carefully consider what you have proposed and when and how. But you can still have these conversations. Allowing people to disagree to enhance team thinking is a very positive thing. Sometimes, in a virtual environment, people are not psychologically safe, so they should probably not shout out. As a result, you may even want to create or establish a little disagreement-always on work, tasks or processes, and of course, never involve any personal issues.

Given the various daycare and school suspensions, how do you discuss children and childcare?

Leaders should prepare for the conversation and help people think about these issues. The blurring of the line between work and family suddenly came to us, so managers must develop skills and policies to support their teams. This may require more flexibility in scheduling employees' work hours. You don't have to have lunch at 12pm. You might walk the dog at 2pm. Things get smoother and managers just need to trust that employees will do their best to get the job done.

We've discussed internal communication, but what advice would you give to a customer-facing person?

We have been seeing virtual sales calls interact with customers. You did exactly the same. Here, the use of visual media is even more important. Do anything face to face, and keep doing it. Maybe you can't drink and dine. But you can do many things. Be creative.

What do you do in an organization with both blue-collar and white-collar workers? Or those improperly equipped colleagues?

Organizations must find a way to support these workers: some kind of collective action to help them, because otherwise you will completely isolate the people who are critical to your operations. I will form a working group and find solutions to keep them in touch and ensure that they are still valued. Include them in the plan.

What can you do if you feel that employees are struggling instead of focused and lonely despite their best efforts?

When you see these signs (such as fewer emails or more suppression in group conversations), talk to them. Increase connections and encourage others to do the same. Find out where they are. And get what they need. The organization should also ensure that employee assistance services are available at this time. When you suddenly cancel people's regular activities and connect with others, and are open, some people will struggle and need extra help. I would add that every CEO of every organization now needs to give people more attention through videoconferences or audiotapes to make people confident, calm them down, and become healers or hope masters.

Do you see this crisis changing the way all teams and organizations move forward?

I think this will expand the scope of their performance. Organizations, teams, and people will experiment more with virtual work. Many of them have always wanted to test it to increase their influence or workforce. It's not that people will adopt this new way of working permanently, but that this experience will expand everyone's capabilities. If we find this mess is small, it is that we are developing certain skills that may help in the future. That is my greatest hope.

News References: https://hbr.org/2020/03/15-questions-about-remote-work-answered