• Adam Rifai

The 3 Critical Components of Effective Remote Working

  1. Establish a remote workspace that works for you

  2. Enable active communication within your team and external parties

  3. Change Enablement


Humans have proven to be prominent adapters. We don’t only adapt amidst challenging times, but also throughout when things are smooth sailing. Often things that were new and exciting quickly become familiar and commonplace. This gives us hope to drive change from a system that has worked for so long and allowed employees to get comfortable in a working routine.


You know the routine I’m talking about. Waking up, listening to a new podcast on our commute, spending our break time with co-workers, and ultimately spending after office hours with our family at home or with our colleagues at happy hour. Mix-in the occasional workout we keep telling ourselves we're going to finally do, and I'm pretty sure I've summed up the daily routine for most people.


Believe me, I'm guilty of it too, but the first step to enable change is awareness.

We also have tendencies to focus on the negative when faced with change and inaccurately forecast how we and others will feel in the future.


We were recently hit with a pandemic, and to avoid releasing "just another COVID blog" to the world, I want to focus on the future. We've already learned that remote workspaces are something every business needs to at least consider. As we start to see industry leaders, like Microsoft, making Work from Home more commonplace, we will see positive ways to adapt to adverse situations.


So how do we get the best out of this situation, avoid focusing on the bad, and better predict our future?



Establish a remote workspace that works for you


You may have already accomplished this and find yourself quite productive in your home office. But if you're like me, you might find it sometimes difficult to stay on task for long periods as opposed to working in the office. There are a few things I considered to enable myself to work from home more effectively.


The first thing I had to consider was my actual workspace. Ensuring I have adequate desk space and easy access to any materials I need to do my job. Adding a workspace to your home may be difficult if you're limited on space. Not everyone has the luxury of a spare room to add a desk and create their own office. Some people share their home with other working family members or roommates. So not only do you need to create a workspace that works for you, but it also needs to accommodate those around you.


Personally, I have a desk in my bedroom, which is large enough to support my laptop, two monitors, and a few other work-related items. I also have the luxury of using my window as a whiteboard to track to-do lists and take notes saving paper and space. I share a condo with two other roommates, so I don't have the luxury of using a separate room for my office. This means there are times I am working in my room for significantly consecutive hours. It's important to remember to take breaks from your workspace because we are losing out on our commute and team lunches. But on the bright side, sharing a remote workspace with my roommates allows us to build an office atmosphere. Although we all work for different companies, we still get to feed ideas off of each other, have social interactions, and spend our break time with each other.



Next, you need to consider what made the corporate office work? Was it the social aspect allowing you interact and keep up with colleagues? Was it the change of scenery required for you to focus on work and not worry about other things? Is your home simply too quiet or too loud (pets and children can certainly be a distraction)? But they can also provide some emotional therapy boosting your mental health and productivity. Each thought has pros and cons; it's essential to focus on the good and find what works for you.


For me, I admire the flexibility a home office provides. Two benefits come to mind when I think about workspace flexibility. For instance, when you work in an office, you, more often than not, must arrive at 9:00am or earlier. Although you may not have any meetings or work due at that time, it's good practice that you showcase punctuality. Varying start times can make your co-workers question level of responsibility, dedication, and respect. Between you and me, we know that's not true. I agree that starting your day early is beneficial, mostly because financial stock markets open at 9:00am EST. Meaning businesses all over the world are making decisions that impact everyday life around this start time.


Nonetheless, we are certainly trending to eliminate the 9-5 mentality, and remote workspaces strongly support this. My workspace set up is always readily available, so my work hours can follow an as-needs strategy. My number one priority has become "get sh*t done". This includes getting up at 6:00am to finish up work for a 9:00am meeting, followed by catching up on some sleep post-meeting, then getting back to work for the day. It also includes finishing up some work before I go to bed because my bedroom and office are the same room now.


A few months ago, I took the workspace flexibility a step further, bringing me to the second benefit. Who cares where you work from, as long as you get your sh*t done? This past June, I visited my brother in Vancouver; however, my stay was prolonged because of COVID flight cancellations. This meant I had to find another way to work remotely and still be productive in a brand-new setting. Now some of us may look at that as a challenge and an issue remote workspaces face. On the other hand, it attributes to the flexibility of working from anywhere, so long as I am still producing high-quality work. My sister-in-law did an excellent job of transforming their home into an accommodating workspace for us. Yes, working on the West Coast made 9:00am EST meetings challenging. Still, when you’re faced with a challenge, you’ll find that you’ll naturally discover a way to make it work.



Enable active communication within your team and external parties


Once you're comfortable with your workspace, it's important not to get lost in your work. You may want to refer to Krista Schaber-Chan's piece on The 4 Principles for Staying Connected as a Virtual Team for how to accomplish this. I will focus on why it's crucial.


Communication still is, and likely always will be the most important. How can you be a team without effective communication? The problem is, our days are so busy, do we even have time for additional touchpoint meetings, virtual town halls, or team socials? The solution is, make time. People often ask themselves; how do others find the time to go to the gym, cook, work, spend time with their loved ones? The answer is, they make time for the things that are important to them. This isn't to say that time management and sacrifice are easily accomplished. Still, you must enable yourself to make this change. And I am telling you that communication with your team is something you need make time for to get the most out of a remote workspace.


Remote workspaces might also mean reduced or no more client visits. This makes it more challenging to build meaningful relationships with clients but does not make it less critical. Meeting someone for the first time on a Zoom or MS Teams call is not the same, but you can certainly improve the interaction. For example, using video. It always helps to put a face to a voice, read body language and facial expressions, and information retention will see an increase when video is used.



Change Enablement


This type of change is large and requires a lot of focus. It affects the entire organization and its processes. But, as I mentioned earlier, the first critical component to keep in mind is a workspace that works for you. Meaning this change impacts everyone differently. If we rely on change management to come from the top, we will reap the benefits after the fact. Change needs to be driven and led from the middle but supported from the top.


Suppose businesses can enable their individual contributors to lead and drive change from the middle, rather than relying on leaders and executives to lead each time. In that case, they will be better suited for future challenges because their teams are more prepared and involved in the change. Involvement can go a long way for engagement and desire for change. Avoid making managers responsible for the change for their individuals and enable individuals to take accountability for their growth and development.


Now you might be asking yourself, as a change leader, “how do I enable my team for change?” Well change enablement, itself, has four critical components.


1. Active listening and observation

2. Be OK with failure

3. Let go of your ego

4. Identify and empower informal change leaders


Active Listening and Observation


Just like active communication is significant to a remote workspace, eye contact, body language, and facial expressions are important for verbal communication and getting your message across.


Be OK with Failure


Letting people fail is a crucial part of the change journey. The lessons learned from experiencing failure and making mistakes can pivot your people in the right direction for your change initiative.


Let go of your Ego


Replace ego with accountability. This will reduce the resistance to change, disengagement, and overall buy-in. Instead, coach your people on learning and personal accountability to drive better business results.


Identify and Empower Informal Change Leaders


Informal leaders can have a strong positive influence on their peers’ behaviour and pivot them in the right direction. They may not be in a leadership role, but they can be powerful change champions, and having their support is crucial for any change initiative.

If you would like to learn more about change enablement and other change management topics you can register for the Association of Change Management’s upcoming conference on October 22nd, 2020. Our very own Harbinger Krista Schaber-Chan will be speaking on Empowering People Through Change Enablement.



Forward-Thinking


I want to finish this off by adding a bonus critical component to keep in mind. Throughout this entire shift in your workspace, you need to continuously be forward-thinking. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What are the benefits of making these changes?

  • How will these changes make my job easier?

  • How will these changes impact me in the long run?

Ensuring that the changes you make are effective, impactful, and sustainable, you will see a positive outcome.


Author



Adam Rifai

Financial & Business Analyst / Associate Consultant

Toronto

Email | LinkedIn

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