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Friday, 4 May 2012

Remote Working 101—for New Virtual Workers! « The Virtual Team Builders Blog

Remote Working 101—for New Virtual Workers!

If you’re new to virtual working, the benefits are clear: the comfort of home, personal space, low to no commuting expenses and not to mention, reduced carbon footprints. However, it is imperative that new employees are also familiar with certain health issues that may arise from remote working—and more importantly, know how to tackle such challenges. So let’s start!
A problem first time virtual workers may experience are feelings of isolation—especially for those who now work remotely on a full time basis. According to a 2011 article from Cornell University’s School of Industrial Learning Relations, the lack of face to face communication and “less frequent opportunities for personal and professional relationship building”, may cause employees to feel extremely secluded and lonely. Such emotions may lead to a loss of productivity and interest.
Another virtual work issue to watch out for is inactivity. Sure, you may occasionally get up from your at-home workstation for a coffee or washroom break, but compare this to a traditional workplace. In the latter, any form of face to face interaction requires the employee to get up and walk around the office space—whether it’s to say hello to a co-worker, to head to a meeting, or just head out to lunch. Moreover, some traditional workplaces even provide exercise equipment for employees to use during breaks.  It is clear that compared to traditional workplaces, there is less physical activity involved in remote working.
But don’t worry, these problems are all solvable!  Any new type of working style will definitely require some getting-used-to. So here’s some homework for you home-workers (team leaders too!) that is sure to help you cope with your new virtual situation.
#1) How to avoid isolation
Team members: Try to incorporate social behaviour into your work. If you discover that certain team members live within the same city as you, organize an informal get together. Go out for a coffee…or Cosmic Bowling—whatever matches your corporate culture.
For those team members who are globally dispersed, or just too far away to meet in general, set aside time for laid back group video/audio conferences. Talk about things that aren’t related to work. Get to know each other—alternatively, you could also play multiplayer online games, some of which allow up to ten members. The benefit of virtual working is you can harness the connecting capabilities of the internet itself to do just that—connect!
For managers: The same Cornell University article suggests that managers should have “informal check-ins” with their virtual workers. This means, managers should engage non-scheduled web calls with employees just to catch up on how things are coming along—and to also inquire if the individual needs additional support. This fosters an encouraging and supporting relationship and lets the employee know that the manager is always available when they need him or her. This reduces the virtual worker’s feeling of isolation, as the individual knows that his or her team leader will always look out for their interests.
#2) How to avoid inactivity
Team members:  An easy way to be an active virtual worker is to step out of the house for lunch every other day of the week. Note: this doesn’t mean buying lunch every other day! It means you take your lunch out with you. Although the short walk to your kitchen may sound alluring because of the little effort involved, it may be more rewarding to just leave the house (with your lunch) and take a 10 minute stroll to your community park. Breathe in some fresh air and enjoy your lunch. This way, you’ll be relaxed and ready to get back to work. The scene change may also be refreshing from staring at a computer screen all day long. However, if weather does not permit going outside, try to recognize fitness opportunities in your regular workday. For instance, if you need to go to the washroom, go to the one on a different floor.
Team leaders: encourage employees to find time for fitness. Add fitness to the work mix—even if this means at-desk stretching routines.  The benefits of a healthy worker are endless. Not only will the individual be physically and emotionally well, he or she will also be more productive and enthusiastic about the work they are doing.
So for all you new virtual workers, this new working style may at times feel overwhelming, but just know that there is always a solution to every problem. And to the seasoned virtual worker, let us know what other tips you would give virtual work freshmen. We would love to hear from you!

Remote Working 101—for New Virtual Workers! « The Virtual Team Builders Blog

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