Where We Work Matters

Offices and workplaces have evolved a fair amount over the years, but this year, workplaces have changed dramatically for millions of people without much warning, and now, after nine months there still isn’t an end in sight. The experience has been drastically different for people depending on their space at home, the type of work they do, the number of people (and especially little ones) at home, and many other factors.  Essentially every company which can theoretically work remotely has had to weigh the pros and cons. Over the last decade, many companies have previously experimented with remote work and despite challenges, have identified some major benefits such as more flexibility, increased job satisfaction, lower stress, and cost and time savings. Studies have also shown lower attrition rates with employees, less sick time and vacation time used, higher productivity, and higher job satisfaction overall. The problem with our current pandemic-forced remote work is that a few of the key factors in these positive benefits are missing: choice, space, and duration.  Let’s dig a little deeper. The main argument over the years has been focused on whether workers are more or less productive while working remotely. One of the most commonly quoted studies is a Stanford Study by Nicholas Bloom. That research was based on a randomized control trial including 1,000 employees of a company called Ctrip, a Chinese travel company. Over a nine-month period, they saw a thirteen percent increase in performance as well as a fifty percent drop in employee-quit rates. The experiment was so successful that Ctrip rolled out working from home to the whole firm.  Other experiments have also shown increases in productivity and employee satisfaction. There were some important caveats to note though.  Ctrip is mostly a call center which doesn’t necessarily translate to all types of work More than half changed their mind about 100% remote work. Bloom is quoted saying, “They reported feeling isolated, lonely, and depressed at home. So, I fear an extended period of working from home will not only kill office productivity but is building a mental health crisis.” They found that the best results happened when people had a day or two at the office a week. Bloom also pointed out the importance of face to face interaction. During this forced separation, using video on calls is critical. Overall, there seems to be a consensus that there are benefits to be had from remote work but that it doesn’t lend itself to all types of work. Remote work policies, when possible, should be thought out and executed based on the needs of the company, culture, and type of work being done. Furthermore, each employee needs opportunities to interact with coworkers. Thus, the benefits of remote work may diminish or disappear with an all-or-nothing approach.  Since many of us have limited choices about whether or where to work during this pandemic, it makes finding new ways to collaborate with teams and engage with coworkers that much more important. Hopefully the situation this year will encourage all of us to think outside the box, discover new, and possibly better ways to work, and keep our engagement alive and well. Author: By Jared Forbes   Image credit: https://cms-assets.themuse.com/media/lead/_1200x630_crop_center-center_82_none/7927c225-0777-468c-8abc-0da12a84c1cb.png?mtime=1584540189

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remote communication tips

Virtual Project Management Tips to Get Your Company through COVID-19

Author: Luke Bradshaw As individuals and organizations alike feel the impacts while dealing with a Covid-19 reality, managing projects and teams of people have presented new challenges. Whether it’s a major tech company in Silicon Valley or a local church, new ways of communicating and organizing people and projects are needed. Implementing virtual project management strategies effectively can make it possible for companies to conduct work across the globe, while enabling employees in different locations and cultural backgrounds to all work seamlessly on the same projects. Considering the benefits an organization can get managing virtual project teams, here are some virtual project management tips to help you handle the new COVID-19 reality: Schedule regular meetings Scheduling briefings or huddle groups at the same time on the same weekday contributes to creating a healthy routine. Routines provide team members with something they are used to and familiar with, which in return puts the team at ease and reduces stress. Additionally, look towards choosing video calls over phone and email. With virtual teams, regular video calls are a great way to avoid misunderstandings and connect team members on a more personal level. Establish communication tools The importance of establishing multiple communication tools is vital. First of all, your team has a way to communicate something that is urgent to the right person immediately. Secondly, it unifies processes such as what to use for conference calls, screen recordings, and so on. It is clear what tools is used for what, which contributes to creating that internal feeling of togetherness. The nature of virtual teams makes them a bit trickier to manage over a long period of time than a collocated team. Communication difficulties or scheduling conflicts can cause important information to get lost in the shuffle and forgotten. Furthermore, it may be difficult to know who is working on various tasks at any given time or when different team members are available. Too much ambiguity in a virtual team usually results in a diffusion of responsibility when it comes to getting things done. Therefore, it’s critical to have a well-defined system in place for tracking progress, workflow, and expectations, which will enable team members to be as efficient and effective as possible.  Use project management tools Traditionally, project management has involved translating brain power onto pen and paper and loads of spreadsheets, emails and various messaging platforms. While these methods still work for some, tracking projects through these means when working with virtual teams can be messy because there’s so much backtracking to do and important information can get lost. Interactive, web-based project management tools help keep track of those tasks and projects in one place, allowing organizations to plan entire projects from beginning to end, manage project schedules, and collaborate in virtual team settings. Online project management software has become fundamental for businesses to optimize their processes and be more efficient and effective in carrying out their tasks. Build trust and relationships Even if a virtual team has the best processes and tools in place, it will still fail to deliver positive results if team members don’t trust one another. A lack of trust can manifest in a variety of ways. In most cases, the root problem is a lack of strong, genuine relationships within the team. When employees lose trust in each other or a virtual leader, team members can become disengaged and self-oriented, which makes any form of collaborative work difficult. Investing in creative ways to promote team-building exercises and help build trust for virtual teams will create better outcomes and more team confidence.  

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