Remote Work and Job Holders: Adapting to the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the remote work revolution. As more organizations adopt flexible and hybrid policies, the future of work is location agnostic. For individual employees accustomed to office-based roles, adapting workflow and work style to excel remotely presents new opportunities and challenges. This guide examines best practices for transitioning to and succeeding in a remote or hybrid job in the years ahead.

Preparing for the Remote Transition

Even employees who handled workplace disruption well during the pandemic may require reskilling to thrive long-term in permanent remote arrangements.

Mindset Shift

  • Adopt a growth mindset. View remote work as a learning opportunity, not a hindrance.
  • Embrace adaptability. Be willing to try new approaches to get work done.
  • Strengthen self-discipline. Without physical oversight, you must self-motivate and structure days effectively.
  • Enhance communication skills. Convey clarity, empathy, and context virtually.
  • Avoid isolation. Make an effort to connect with colleagues regularly.

Workflow Analysis

  • Audit how you spend your time currently across core responsibilities and meetings.
  • Identify activities that can transition seamlessly online vs. those requiring process redesign.
  • Assess what technology platforms and tools you utilize daily and whether alternatives could aid remote efficiency.

Work Environment

  • Designate a dedicated home office space conducive to productivity and video calls.
  • Equip your workspace with necessary ergonomic equipment and tech tools.
  • Establish childcare if managing parenting and professional responsibilities simultaneously.

Time Management

  • Block your calendar proactively to create structure. Assign set hours for collaboration, focused work, etc.
  • Minimize unnecessary meetings. Consolidate recurring meetings where possible.
  • Define a cut-off hour to stop working each day. Without a commute home to transition, days can drag on.

Optimizing Daily Work Habits

Succeeding remotely daily requires adapting habits and schedules to better align with distributed teams.

Communication Rhythms

  • Establish regular check-ins via video chat with managers and colleagues so you don’t lose connection.
  • Don’t just email or message. Pick up the phone periodically to have meaningful dialogue.
  • Ask clarifying questions on assignments to prevent misalignment. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Overcommunicate the context and status of projects so managers have visibility.

Focus Time

  • Block periods as “focus time” on your calendar when you can work distraction-free.
  • For deep thinking and analysis, tackle these activities during your peak energy hours.
  • Limit distracting apps and disable notifications during focus time.
  • Use noise-cancelling headphones and adjust lighting or music to create a focus-friendly environment.

Meeting Diligence

  • Prepare an agenda for every meeting and assign action items with owners and timelines during each meeting.
  • For recurring meetings, rotate facilitation responsibility to keep participation equal.
  • Stick to meeting start and end times. Don’t let sessions drag.

Remote Worker Etiquette

  • Eliminate distractions and close distracting apps/tabs when meeting remotely.
  • Frame video calls at eye level and ensure proper lighting on your face.
  • Mute when not speaking to avoid background noise disrupting calls.

Avoiding Burnout and Maintaining Work-Life Balance

The always-connected nature of remote work makes separating professional and personal time tricky. Employ these tactics to avoid burnout.

Designate Work Hours

  • Discuss expected online hours with your manager and communicate periods of focus time vs. responsiveness.
  • Be disciplined in logging off outside designated work time and not overextending days.
  • Disable work email and chat apps on personal devices after hours if needed to maintain boundaries.

Take Regular Breaks

  • Schedule short breaks for moving, stretching, or refueling as you would in an office. Don’t sit for 8+ straight hours.
  • For mental health, occasionally step away from your devices and get outdoors.
  • Avoid working through lunch. Use the time to recharge by eating away from your computer.

Leverage Flexibility

  • Adjust your schedule when needed to accommodate personal obligations. The beauty of remote work is flexibility – take advantage of it.
  • If your role allows, condense hours and take occasional half days for activities that boost your happiness outside of work.

Maintain Human Connections

  • Don’t isolate yourself from family, friends, and community. Make an effort to socialize offline regularly.
  • If feeling lonely, check in with coworkers about non-work topics. Relationships require care.
  • If your company permits, occasionally work from coffee shops or co-working spaces to vary your scenery and introduce human interaction.

Unplug After Hours

  • Define an evening cut-off time for work and stick to it except in rare critical circumstances.
  • At night, physically separate yourself from your workspace to transition mindsets.
  • Establish device-free zones or times at home to fully disconnect from work.

Adapting Your Leadership Style for Remote Teams

Leaders must adapt approaches to continue driving engagement, productivity, and career development for remote team members.

Communication & Visibility

  • Have regular 1:1s and be available to answer questions in real-time over chat or video call. Availability builds trust.
  • Schedule informal virtual team gatherings to connect on non-work topics and recreate “water cooler” bonding.
  • Send weekly status emails recapping recent team achievements, priorities, and recognition.
  • Upload and share recordings of meetings asynchronously if people miss live sessions.

Goal Setting

  • Co-create measurable goals and key results with employees that align with organization objectives.
  • Schedule bi-annual check-ins to review progress and adjust goals as priorities shift.
  • Request employees share weekly progress updates against OKRs via email or project management software.

Feedback & Development

  • Provide timely, specific feedback on work products and accomplishments. Don’t wait for formal reviews.
  • Ask targeted questions and observe signals in 1:1s to gauge engagement and morale.
  • Discuss career goals regularly and identify opportunities for growth like training, Stretch assignments, and skills development.

Model Work-Life Balance

  • Don’t expect responses to emails or requests outside normal business hours unless urgent.
  • Encourage employees to take time off as needed for mental health and avoid burnout.
  • Demonstrate you respect employees’ personal lives by not overworking constantly yourself.

Remote Work Challenges and Solutions

While empowering, remote arrangements present hurdles like collaboration struggles and communication breakdowns. Here are common challenges with actionable solutions:

Challenge: Lack of unplanned, casual interaction that fuels innovation and relationship building.

Solution: Host virtual coffee breaks, trivia sessions, and “water cooler” channels to socialize. Schedule in-person offsite gatherings periodically.

Challenge: Employees feel isolated, disconnected, or left-out from culture.

Solution: Create mentorship programs. Train leaders to foster inclusiveness virtually. Provide co-working space stipends.

Challenge: Communication confusion from messaging delays, misinterpreted tone, and lack of visual cues.

Solution: Establish etiquette guidelines. Train employees on clear virtual communication. Upskill workforce on technologies.

Challenge: Reduced innovation and creativity without in-person brainstorming and whiteboarding.

Solution: Use digital whiteboarding and design thinking software. Send collaboration kits containing supplies to remote workers. Occasionally gather onsite.

Challenge: Distractions at home disrupt productivity and work-life balance.

Solution: Offer stipends for proper home office set-ups. Clarify policies on working hours and availability expectations. Promote taking breaks.

Challenge: Ensuring equitable growth opportunities and visibility for remote employees.

Solution: Develop remote-specific guidelines for performance management. Leverage technology like virtual prototypes for remote workers to showcase skills and contributions.

Challenge: Monitoring productivity and engagement levels remotely.

Solution: Train managers on virtually observing signals versus micro-managing. Have 1:1s to understand obstacles. Set clear objectives and key results to track progress.

The Future of Remote Work

While remote and hybrid policies present learning curves, the model offers benefits for both employers and talent. Expect to see even more careers go fully remote long-term across most industries.

Remote Workforce Growth

  • FlexJobs identified a 159% increase in remote job listings from 2019 to 2022, noting the volume of permanent remote roles has steadily risen since the pandemic began.
  • An Upwork study found that 59% of hiring managers intend to grow their remote workforce in the coming years.
  • 74% of workers say schedule flexibility influences job selection, driving demand for remote and hybrid policies according to an Owl Labs survey.

Improved Access and Diversity

  • Location-agnostic roles expand access to opportunities for candidates unable to relocate for personal reasons.
  • Remote roles enable companies to attract talent from a much wider, global pool.
  • Eliminating geography restrictions helps organizations increase diversity.

Cost Savings

  • Companies save substantially on real estate overhead with decreased office space needs.
  • Employers also save on amenities, equipment, parking and other facilities costs.
  • Reduced business travel for meetings results in significant budget reductions.
  • Expanded talent pools accessed remotely increase hiring quality and retention, reducing turnover expenditures.

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Sustainability Impacts

  • Remote work results in fewer employee commutes which reduces carbon emissions.
  • Less business travel also decreases companies’ carbon footprints.
  • Downsizing physical offices cuts energy usage, waste, and pollution.

Preparing for the Future

To remain adaptable as remote work evolves, both companies and employees can:

  • Continuously upskill on virtual collaboration technologies as capabilities advance.
  • Assess what worked and what didn’t from initial remote experiences to refine policies and processes.
  • Budget for necessary home office equipment and workspace stipends as roles transition to permanent remote status.
  • Expand career development and mentoring programs to reach remote team members.
  • Measure remote worker productivity based on output and achievement rather than time logged online.
  • Update performance management systems to support equitable evaluation and growth for remote workers.

Conclusion

While remote and hybrid work arrangements present new challenges, the model is here to stay across most industries. With investments in technologies, management training, inclusion initiatives, and updated policies, organizations can reap benefits like talent acquisition, cost savings, and environmental impacts. Similarly, professionals can upskill and adapt personal habits and work styles to continue excelling as location-agnostic roles dominate the future workforce. With mindset shifts, resilience, and innovation, a new era of work is on the horizon.

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