Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 July 2020

Working from home has its challenges but there are ways around it

The Covid-19 crisis has forced companies, with or without remote working plans, to keep business in operation

Many offices in the UAE are trialling remote working. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Many offices in the UAE are trialling remote working. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

The Covid-19 crisis has forced many companies to switch their work systems. Employees and students from around the world find themselves seeking work and education online, many for the first time in their lives. This has brought on a lot of stress to managers who have not adopted a remote working system or never planned on how to react to such a scenario.

My team have had the option to work remotely for years, and the Covid-19 outbreak did not have an adverse effect on our workflow. And though it is always best to have a remote working plan prepared, should a crisis like this one arise, or to provide employees with an option that would bring in a sense of balance to their lives, it is understandable how some companies find it hard to have a strategy for every scenario.

Though a remote working system has worked for me, it does come with its set of challenges. As a manager, it may be hard to have direct access to your employees and supervise them in specific projects, especially if they live in other countries. Working from home is also very distracting and you might find it hard to confine yourself to your home office and focus only on work, without attending to other things or your family.

Working remotely may prevent your team from getting to know each other, or to build a strong bond, especially if they are located in different cities or countries. But perhaps the biggest challenge is the social isolation that comes with it, which may result in your team feeling no sense of belonging to your company or loyalty.

Nevertheless, as challenging as it is to work remotely, from my experience there are some steps that could be taken to help ease the process:

Set a daily routine: A daily, structured routine helps keep everything in check and provides a sense of balance. I have a daily check in with my team where we have a call in the morning, an hour after our day starts, and discuss the overall progress of work, the plan for the day and answer any questions that they may have. Applications such as Slack has helped me keep track of their work. If your team is big or are at different locations, and it is more efficient for you to speak to them all at once, whether through a video or audio call, apps such as Microsoft teams could assist you.

Don’t rely on emails only. Emails are great and one of my favourite modes of communications, but they are not very personal, and do not always provide a quick response rate. They also do not provide you with the opportunity to get to know your team better. I always advise to mix it up between audio calls, emails, chat and, most importantly, a video call. If possible, hold your meetings via video calls.

Be there for your team. An abrupt change in work routine could negatively affect your team members and hinder performance. It may raise fear and concerns in regards to salaries or employment. This is why being there for your employees and ensuring them that you are there to address concerns or any questions that they may have, will help keep calm and stop the spread of unfounded rumours. I’ve seen first hand how fast rumours spread in companies when a chief executive or a manager does not address their team at difficult times. Not only do rumours spread lies, but also fear, anxiety and stress, none of which you want your team to be experiencing at a time like this.

Simple work routine changes such as moving from one office location to the next could bring in a lot of stress. Working remotely is not a piece of cake, but could be managed with the right steps in place.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi

Updated: March 22, 2020 08:05 AM

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