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Author: David Haesaert

In the midst of COVID-19, many of us are working from home for the first time. For most people, this comes with several evident benefits: working from home gives you the flexibility you need to plan or make arrangements at home that are convenient for your needs. The time you save on commuting can also be spent on other activities you value.

But when you’re not used to working from home and circumstances force you to, it can all sound a bit scary. You might ask yourself questions such as: will I still be productive and effective? How do I stay in touch with my co-workers now that I can’t just walk over or have a coffee and chat? While these are valid concerns, I want to share my thoughts on how to stay productive and motivated and discover the many benefits of remote working!

Setting yourself up for remote working success

When working from home, you will need to ensure you are set up for success. Make sure you have a good working environment and work station with minimal distractions. If you plan on sharing your workspace with someone else, just make sure you have clear arrangements in place so you can work together effectively.

Tracking your productivity should not be very different from how you would do it in the office. Measuring productivity does not always have to be measuring the time you spend on a task. It can give you much more satisfaction to see what results you have achieved regardless of time. Set a realistic target for yourself, track how you progress and re-evaluate when needed. It is also important to acknowledge that what you have done is useful, productive and valuable.

Overcoming challenges in communication

Effective and clear communication is even more critical when working from home. Communication has various elements, and the non-verbal aspect is especially important. Non-verbal signals and body language can for example help clarify how a person is really feeling. When these non-verbal signals aren’t possible because of physical separation, meaning can be lost. That’s why it’s important to build in checkpoints to make sure everyone understands what is being discussed.

Ensure everyone has the opportunity to ask questions during a group discussion, or reach out by private message if they’re not comfortable speaking up in a group setting. This way they don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed, and the speaker can offer clarity directly when needed.

When implementing systems of remote communication, it is important to remember the following:

  • Systems should be similar to your normal communication channels where if possible.
  • The messages should not be very different; from what you normally would receive – the methods of delivery just might vary a little bit.
  • Whatever changes the company implement during this pandemic should be sustainable – not just a short-term change.
  • Try to maintain the same level of communication you would normally have to help keep up the team culture.

The role of the team leader

A common challenge for team leaders is how to maintain employee morale and motivation when working remotely. Employees still need to feel they are part of a company, team or community.

It’s important to acknowledge the results produced by your team, regardless of how long the work takes. Do regular check-ins and see where your team is struggling and might appreciate adjustments or delegation. For example, an activity might not be allocated to the right person. It is important for everyone to have a mutual understanding on what is happening.

Make sure you live by your company values and demonstrate them in your actions. Trust your employees will do the right thing when working remotely. They are skilled and dedicated to doing their job. In challenging times like these, taking steps to create a positive environment is crucial. For example, in your teams, you might want to do some collective thinking on what you’re all thankful for.

How CGI is staying connected

At CGI, we have a daily check-up call in the morning where we share our plans for the day and other light-hearted updates. It’s a positive environment where we can just chat and share ideas.

Where possible, we use video conferencing to stay visually connected as well. In our first week of working remotely, several team members showed us around their home, including their collections of Star Wars memorabilia and childhood pictures!

We also have our team WhatsApp group, where we share daily jokes and memes. It’s small steps like these that help us stay connected even when we’re not in the same office.