The change from a traditional office setting to permanent remote work is at its height. In the COVID-19 era, many companies have moved their operations to a work-from-home setting—establishing an unprecedented new normal in society and the modern workforce.
The uncertainty behind such a change can be mind-boggling for the former cubicle dweller. You may not have the skills upfront to handle such a drastic transition. So if you were an office worker that’s been thrown into a virtual setting, what’s next? Read on to find out.
Is Permanent Remote Work Actually Permanent?
According to a Small Business Trends survey, 67% of businesses are planning on permanent remote work, or at least using it as a long-term strategy. That’s an alarming statistic considering that few people (only 3.6% of Americans) worked remotely full-time during 2019. Yet due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers want to maintain a remote business model to keep employees, clients, and vendors free from possible contamination.
Even some of America’s (and Canada’s) biggest companies have backed the move. Square, Facebook, Twitter, Box, Slack, and Shopify are just a few of the firms that have backed a permanent work-from-home policy. Yet individuals without remote experience shouldn’t feel like an outcast due to the widespread reaction.
In an effort to keep employees safe and with ongoing fear before a vaccination is developed, the switch to remote employment is a sound one. Not only can individuals embrace a work-life balance, but they can also avoid a commute, sleep in, and circumvent the other hindrances of typical office workspaces.
In short, remote work is here to stay. The difference is whether employees of all ages choose to accept this as the standard of work going into the future. Early adopters will prosper; laggards will flounder. Thus, transitioning is in your best interest, even if you’ve only worked at home for a short time. But if you feel like you’re out of your comfort zone, you have plenty of time to adjust and adapt. Just think of your current situation as an onboarding and ongoing process. Not only will this reduce stress, but it will also give you time to learn the various programs and tools you need to excel in permanent remote work.
If you’re fresh to virtual employment—or perhaps you thought the change would only be temporary—you may have ignored or put off the transitional phase. This means that instead of learning new technologies or putting together a streamlined home office, you waited. And to that degree, no one can fault you. But since the outlook of returning to the office appears bleak, you’ll need to improve your skills to succeed in the remote world. Here are a few considerations that will make you the quintessential remote employee.
Learn the New Technology
Like it or not, your office job may or may not have exposed you to the technologies necessary to become a successful remote worker. If you have experience with collaborative software, you’re ahead of the curve. If not, you’ll just have to work up to it. But because permanent remote work is a foregone conclusion, you’ll revel in the fact that you know the ins and outs of certain programs. Or at least once you’re up to speed.
Slack (or Discord or Microsoft Teams or…)
Collaborative software platforms are how remote teams get things done in 2020 and beyond. Fortunately, these aren’t all that difficult to learn, even for the technological novice. So if you’re dreading the thought of not being able to walk over to accounting or the marketing department to get the information and answers you need, don’t stress.
Nearly every collaboration platform has a tutorial that will give you a simple breakdown of both simple and advanced features. Need to send a PDF file? No problem. Want to start a new channel to discuss “water cooler” type subjects? You can do that, too. The idea is that online teams aren’t all that different from in-person squads. You can collaborate, shoot the breeze, and complete projects, albeit from a different perspective. The idea here is to embrace and harness the power of such programs. Once you do, you’ll wonder why you weren’t working from home the entire time.
Zoom (or Skype or Other Video-Conferencing Programs)
Video-conferencing isn’t just for giant corporate entities anymore. The technology has become so accessible that even solo freelancers or companies with five or fewer employees use it. Both free and paid options are available so companies can make a decision in tune with their budget. In addition, video-conferencing provides not only an outlet for discussing projects or holding meetings, but also a way to socialize and stave off the lonely times of quarantine and remote work.
As an employee, you only need to learn the basic technology to hold face-to-face meetings or join a virtual lunch break. Like collaborative platforms, video-conferencing programs have tutorials and lead you through each step of the process. The only things you might need include a camera, microphone, and headphones.
Set Up a Legit Home Office
Home offices are a lot like you’re dining room. They’re a great idea in theory. But if you don’t work from home and you don’t throw regular dinner parties, they collect dust. They sit unused and beckoning for attention.
The good news is that a home office—even a temporary or makeshift one—births results, success, and confidence. Plus, the possibilities are endless. Go on Pinterest to get some ideas or dress it up just like your cubicle at work. An interesting thought is that you subconsciously know what home office design and decor will make you a better at-home worker. You just have to analyze yourself and decide what makes you great at productivity and time management—the two major tenets of the successful telecommuter.
Regardless of the size of your home or whether you had an office to begin with, make a mental note that the basic idea of a home office is simply a place free of distraction. In college, you wouldn’t have studied in the living room of the frat/sorority house, and the same principle applies to your current life.
Therefore, you should make your home office inviting and warm. Keep it free of children or spouses/roommates/partners by putting a “Keep Out” sign or something of the like when you’re working. Ostensibly, this acts as a safeguard against distraction, although curious or attention-seeking housemates are a wildcard. Test the waters a bit, and you’ll find exactly what it is that keeps you on track and motivates you in a home office.
Take Advantage of Your New Freedom
Freedom. The word evokes a bevy of emotions. Whether it was getting your driver’s license, going to college, or buying your first home, freedom is one facet of life that’s inspiring. It means you can do whatever you want (within reason).
And that’s one newfound aspect of permanent remote work that you simply have to embrace. While you may have found a regimented environment kept you on task, you’re your own boss to some degree. You have to self-motivate, hit deadlines, answer emails, and even juggle family and relationships all at the same time. Yet this shouldn’t feel like a daunting task.
Time management and attention management are vital to your success. But within this two-dimensional plane, you can also find time to do the things that make you a better and happier person. Take a break to meditate, play an instrument, or fly a kite. You just might find that your ability to take breaks as you see fit—as long as you complete your work tasks—is one of the best things that ever happened to you.
Employers—especially those of the old-school variety—are understandably upset about the onset of remote work. Supervision and motivation are two of the caveats of a successful business model and with good reason. You can dictate what happens during the workday and whether workers live up to your expectations. If your team falls behind on a project, you can motivate them to pick up the pace.
Remember that the remote work environment doesn’t detract from success; it’s just a different way to get from Point A to Point B. If you’re an employer or manager dreading the switch to permanent remote work, relax. Everything’s going to be just fine.
Relax. There’s a Learning Curve
Not every business is ready to go from zero-to-launch in a remote world. In fact, many businesses may find the transition frustrating from both an employer and an employee standpoint. But that’s when you need to relax. Like anything else in the business world, new practices take a period of adjustment.
Fresh remote policies are constantly in the development stage. You might take months or even a year to finally put together a plan that fosters creativity, productivity, and other aspects beneficial to your business. In some ways, remote work is like starting anew. So stay on top of the latest trends and software. Tweak your policies accordingly. Between remote workers finding their foothold and embracing work-life balance, you’re probably in for an exciting new era in your business.
Resist the Urge to Micromanage
Businesses of old resorted to scare tactics and constant supervision to assert their ways. In some businesses, this may still be the case. But in the remote world, autonomy shines. Not only do you give your employees the benefit of the doubt, but you also put your trust in them to get the job done. Isn’t that the reason you hired them in the first place?
Supervision has its place as an employer, manager, or business owner. But if you can avoid the urge to micromanage, you might find results to a level you never expected. Humans are finicky creatures. But they excel when others put their trust in them. By taking a hands-off approach, scheduling regular meetings to see what’s up, and establishing a new status quo, you’re becoming not just a boss. You’re becoming the boss.
The uncertainty of your working future mixed with the COVID-19 pandemic is a scary combination. But with a few proactive measures coupled with an embrace of change, you might just turn into one fine remote worker or employer after all.
Have you recently switched from a traditional office job to permanent remote work? What transitions have you made? How have you made it work? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you!
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