2021 Remote Working, Challenges and Opportunities 


Happy New Year  

Happy 2021; we were all thrilled to finally say goodbye to 2020 and start looking forward to the next 12 months.  2020 was the most challenging year for Canada in a century. Clearly, COVID-19 has dominated our lives; however, there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel with the rolling out of vaccines around the world. One of the many challenges is that everyone is already exhausted, stressed, bored, frustrated, and worried.  The next few months maybe even more difficult than last year. Getting through the winter will be the most demanding several months for leaders and team members. 2021 will be the time for the real leaders to step up and lead their teams.  One of the many changes in 2020 was the dramatic increase in working remotely and quickly forming distributed virtual teams. Working away from the office has been an increasing trend in the last ten years. However, the arrival of COVID-19 caused an unprecedented increase in this trend.   

Remote Working Has Many Advantages

  • Motivated team members can build work into their lives
  • Team members can highlight their skills in new and exciting ways
  • Motivated team members can take on new responsibilities and potentially more income
  • Zoom became the new boardroom
  • Lower overhead costs with no need for office rental and related facilities
  • The ability to work with team members located outside of your local area
  • No wasting time commuting to and from work
  • Flexible hours 
  • Relaxed dress code
 

Remote Working Has Challenges

  • Balancing family and work priorities
  • Lack of social contact
  • Keeping up to date with “water cooler” discussions about what others are working on
  • Not being aware of current company priorities or new initiatives 
 

How Can We Improve the Work Experience?

  • Everyone must work at keeping a sense of the team and ensure that each member feels that they are important
  • Every day set a schedule to include family and personal time; routine helps us physically and mentally
  • Essential to keep and foster close personal relationships 
  • Devote one 30 minutes slot per week for each team member, discuss work and any personal   issues they are comfortable to discuss
  • Schedule networking coffees over FaceTime, which is more personal than Zoom
  • Be alert to non-verbal signals, such as disengagement that may indicate that a team member is struggling
  • Encourage outreach to mental health professionals, check out,       www.canada.ca/en/government/publicservice/covid-19/covid-19-mental-health-work 
  • Add new well-qualified team members from outside of your local area
 

Remote Working What’s Next?

As vaccine becomes more available and the number of infected people is reduced, a series of remote and hybrid working combinations will become available. As a leader, always show empathy, including by acknowledging our own vulnerabilities. All options must be considered, and team members should be encouraged to participate in an open and frank discussion of the future combinations.  As the combinations are evaluated, team members who may continue to work remotely must be supplied will all the necessary support to remain efficient. If some team members work in different time zones, that must also be considered. Leaders should think about office-based benefits, such as Friday lunches, coffee breaks etc. Remote based team members should be compensated for missing these team building events. Leaders must always be on the lookout for team members and themselves getting “burnt out.” Vacation time must be planned, so everyone is encouraged to have a “holiday” away from work.  If you work as a team and develop different working options, 2021 will be a successful year for you and your team.

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