We had an exciting start into the year within the MedUP! project as we had the opportunity to implement peer exchanges between representatives of social enterprise support organisations between the MENA and Europe. In January and February the European peers were travelling to their counterparts in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the OPT.
After these inspiring and fruitful exchanges, we were excited for the next set in which the MENA peers would travel to their respective EU peers. Unfortunately, the exchanges had to be postponed indefinitely because of COVID and virtual avenues had to be explored. As part of this, we discussed which topics would be of interest for the peers and help them cope with the new reality that the COVID situation created. From this conversation, the topic of remote work emerged and a webinar was developed. Below, read more about the insights shared by our expert in remote work.
Working from home during a pandemic is an extraordinary situation for all of us. Finding yourself at a kitchen table, surrounded by family and distractions, can indeed be challenging also for those more accustomed to remote working. Anxiety and overwork can be very common features of this new work style as the line between professional and personal life becomes increasingly blurred. How to adjust to such unexplored conditions?
1) Work Set-Up: Intentionally create an adequate remote work setting
Be creative about setting up your work space, not just in terms of physical space but also in terms of setting up boundaries with your loved ones about when you work and when you don’t, in order to separate personal and professional life. Set some rules for yourself. For example, you could include in your work calendar, at the end of the day, some time for your family, yourself, personal activities. Or you could stop working from your phone, creating some ‘work-free areas’ and avoid for your job to become the first thing you think about in the morning and last one in the day.
2) Communication: Ensure transparency and asynchrony
Internal communication can be one of the first big problems when we shift to remote work. Try to adopt asynchronous communication and restrain from the urging of jumping in a Zoom call. Asynchronous work implies that we are not forced into lots of online meetings (often clashing with our home or family settings), we can work across time zones and we don’t expect our colleagues to respond immediately. Moreover, by encouraging responses in a written form people gives the freedom to respond when they can. It is also the case of being empathic about how people react differently in person or via video, with or without the camera. Try and be sensitive about written communication and use tools like emojis or gifs that can substitute the in-person expressions. Remember also that asynchronous communication can help shifting the operational mindset to a more democratic system, from ‘the loudest person in the room gets their point across’ to the ‘sit back, let’s mull over the points raised during a meeting and give them some more in depth thinking’.
3) Time & Task Management: set up tools promoting accountability
Promoting tools like Twist, Slack or Microsoft Teams allows people to have conversations and not miss out of the human interaction, while encouraging participation in the organization’s work. To ensure collaboration, easy access to documents becomes very important and the use of platforms like Google Sheet or Doc can make the difference. If a new person joins the company, it can be a good idea to pair them up with a mentor in their same time zone that can guide them in the first few weeks, in addition to sharing key organization’s documents. In order to avoid losing a strong coherent culture, make sure to be very vocal about the organization’s shared vision even in a written form, to reiterate the company values and to reference key documents.
4) Fun & Connection: Be intentional to create ways to socialise, even if virtually
Infuse some social life into every day’s work: once a month you can set up random meetups where you get assigned to other three colleagues in the company with prompts to talk about non-work topics. You could also launch channels on Slack or other tools about hobbies, travelling, gardening and other personal life areas, where people can interact as they would over a coffee or by the office printer.
Remote work also has some interesting silver linings, as it can:
- Allow employers to access to talent anywhere in the world;
- Provide more time for personal life;
- Re-introduce the possibility to live away from urban and highly populated centres;
- Create job opportunities for people in underprivileged settings.
Do you need some more convincing about the potential of working remotely? Check out Na’amal, an organization working with refugees and members of vulnerable populations globally to prepare them for dignified remote employment with skills training and mentorship. Na’amal then connects them with remote employers for paid internships and eventually permanent employment.