After two years of working from home, some companies are now requiring their employees to work full-time at the office. They think that working from home is ineffective. It's a problem because many workers might quit if they have to go back to the office full-time. From my own experience, many candidates considered applying to our company because we let them do hybrid work.
Is it true that working from home is ineffective? Well, face-to-face meetings are more effective in terms of articulating messages, anticipating responses, interrupting, and laughing. However, we get it at the cost of commuting, which causes some inefficiency. For example, we frequently missed important meetings because they were held in different locations, were unable to hire the best talent because they lived in another city, and spent more money shopping in the business district.
Two weeks before the pandemic, our company realized that the pandemic would last a long time and things wouldn't be the same again after it ended. So we decided to change everything to allow for full remote work during the pandemic and hybrid work after it was over. We even discovered that some tasks can be completed more efficiently online. As a result, our company's productivity and revenue are increasing significantly during the pandemic.
Based on our experience, we must optimize our online work practices to make the most of hybrid work. To do so, we must be committed, change the way we communicate, and use the appropriate collaboration tools.
The first and most basic requirement for online work is commitment. At least three things must be committed. Online work cannot succeed without these.
- Ensure a good infrastructure and environment. Tell the family members that we need to work. Even though we're at home, we work. Set up a quiet room where you can work in comfort. In a noisy place, wear a headset and use an app that blocks out noise (e.g. Krisp). Make sure your internet connection is fast and reliable. We could be more productive if we used a tablet to draw on an online whiteboard and added a second monitor to help us see better.
- Adopt a result-oriented method. Focus on the results, not process. Divide tasks into short-term plans, come up with ways to measure progress, and agree on a schedule for working together. We should perform a daily checkpoint. Use a virtual board app like Trello to share progress and keep track of it; make sure it's always up to date.
- Be dedicated. Stay focused throughout the meeting. Don't hold other meetings or do other things during the meeting. We won't do it in the offline meeting, so please don't do it in the online meeting. Don't do other work in the working hour, because that will slow us down and make us less productive.
Communication is essential for a successful working relationship. Changing our communication style may result in a faster response and more effective interaction.
- Be responsive and respectful. During the workday, we should always check our email and chat apps often. Answer in one hour. If someone calls while we're in a meeting, let them know and tell them you'll call them back later. Send a message to see if the person is available before we call. Messages can be sent at any time, but the person who gets them only has to respond during work hours.
- Use effective media. Use email for more formal correspondence and keep the right person in the loop. Send a group message through messenger apps to let everyone know, but use a direct message for urgent matters. If you need to talk about something in-depth or for a long time, call instead of chatting. Use video calls when you want more interaction or to meet someone for the first time. Important meetings should be recorded, and virtual notes should be taken that can be accessed by other people in the future.
- Prioritize interaction. Turning on the video will help us see how people react and will make people pay more attention because they will feel like they are being watched. When the microphone is on, people are more likely to laugh, ask questions, or even interrupt. It needs more bandwidth, but good communication is about being effective, not efficient.
In terms of collaboration, online work has a real advantage compared to offline work.
- Use co-working tools. Ten people can't write at the same time on a single whiteboard, but they can work on the same online board at the same time. Use Microsoft 365 or Google Docs to let multiple people work on the same document or spreadsheet at the same time. An online dashboard will show you how things are going in real-time. Always work with an online document instead of an offline one to keep older versions of the document and to avoid losing content.
- Increase team engagement. Use an online poll, quiz, or Q&A app like nahtuh.com to get more people involved in meetings or webinars. When we work online, it's easier to get the opinions of hundreds of people at the same time. Playing icebreaker games and having fun with casual games can help the team get closer together.
- Ensure key-person attendance. Invite the right people so we can make a decision. Ask someone to come to the meeting for a while to clarify something. Don't include people who aren't needed because it will waste their time.
When a face-to-face meeting is more effective
Face-to-face meetings are still more effective when we need to build rapport with a new person or handle sensitive issues. This way, we can pay attention to intonation, body language, and a person's style. It is also inevitable for certain tasks, such as public service or when we need to comply with the security policy.
We may also need to hold face-to-face meetings on a regular basis to strengthen team bonding. Facilitating good relationships among team members is critical for creating synergy and reducing potential conflict.
We can have the same productivity as when we work offline if we are committed and change the way we communicate. Furthermore, by utilizing the appropriate collaboration tools, we can increase productivity by gathering broader opinions, working simultaneously, and involving key people as needed.
Hybrid work is clearly a model for future work. Combining online and offline work will boost productivity while allowing us to spend more time with our family and friends. Sure, we need to change our communication and collaboration habits. But isn't the payback worth it?
So, what do you think? ...