Back in February 2019, we wrote an article about the unstoppable trend of remote work. Companies were gradually adjusting to the idea of remote work. More and more employees started working remotely and were enjoying it too. We believed that it would take another five to ten years before companies would fully accept remote work as a normal, perfectly acceptable way of working.
Then COVID-19 hit the world and hundreds of millions of people suddenly had no choice but to start working remotely. The future was pulled into the present much faster than anyone could have anticipated. While X-Team is a big proponent of remote work – we've been working remotely since 2006 – we didn't think this was such a good change necessarily.
It's one thing for a company to switch to remote work voluntarily, but another thing entirely to be forced to do so. Remote work seems the same as office-based work, but it has unique challenges that companies need to address properly if they want their employees to be happy and productive. Because of the pandemic, most companies didn't have the time to create good remote work policies.
For one, remote work should be flexible. Companies that expect their employees to be online 🟢 for certain periods of time are doing it wrong. Even worse are the companies who ask their employees to install screen monitoring software, the biggest no-no in our books.
It shouldn't matter when someone is online, as long as they do their work and do it well. But this requires trust, asynchronous communication, and a proactive mindset from employees to always find more things to do even when you're waiting on other people's replies.
Secondly, meetings should be a last resort when working remotely. As many of us have noticed during lockdown, Zoom fatigue is a real thing. It's arguably more draining to have videoconferences than it is to have meetings in real life. That's because:
- Your mind needs to work harder to process non-verbal cues. We cannot relax because our minds are together but our bodies feel that they are not.
- You're on camera and feel as if you're constantly being watched. You're nervous to cast a glance away because you think other people will see it and think you're not paying attention.
- Small moments of silence are much more uncomfortable in video calls than they are in real life. People feel an urge to fill those few seconds of silence instead of taking some time to think.
While X-Team believes meetings can be a valuable way to communicate with people, we also believe there are far too many of them. Much of what is done during a meeting can be done via chat, Google Docs, or recorded video.
Thirdly, one of the biggest benefits of remote work is the ability to work from wherever you want. But the pandemic has seen us all locked up at home. For some people, remote work means working from coffee shops, beach resorts, even mountain tops. The freedom of remote work is what attracts so many to it.
Not only are most of us stuck at home these days, but we also have to walk around with masks, be careful who we meet, disinfect our hands whenever we come back home, etc. These are not normal times and they translate into anxiety that is sometimes blamed on remote work instead of the pandemic itself.
So if you're a new remote worker and you love it, amazing. We love it too! But if you're struggling with remote work, know that pandemic remote work is not the same as regular remote work. Here are a few resources that we believe might help you: