President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation yesterday on the progress in the national effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. He said, “All employers must allow their staff to work from home wherever possible.”
Remote work is no longer just a temporary safety measure. In many organisations, it is now the new normal. Tamara Parker, CEO of Mercer South Africa, said, “While working remotely makes sense from a safety perspective, it is creating new challenges, for the employee we are seeing a rise in employee stress, workload, and loneliness. While there is strong evidence that remote work often improves employee productivity, researchers have also found that coordination issues and interpersonal conflict can emerge if virtual team dynamics are not managed well.
Parker recommends that employers facilitate a discussion with their team by addressing the following 3 questions:
- How has the remote experience been like so far? Ask your employees to share their reflections and identify common themes. Remind your team that all reflections are valid, valuable, and will serve as the basis for making positive changes.
- What would our ideal remote work experience look like in the future? This process requires psychological safety and mutual respect. To produce a new vision, everyone must feel comfortable sharing their ideas and thinking creatively. You can promote a welcoming environment by establishing guidelines at the start of a session.
- If we want to achieve these ideals, what actions should we take? Once your team has a clear picture of the ideal future state, the next step is to start developing a plan to get there. Share ideas around innovative opportunities, things that have worked during the pandemic, unique situations, and any other ideas that come to mind. Every idea, practical or idealistic, widens possibilities for the team to explore.
Researchers have found that mutual trust and shared leadership are critical for remote teams. In a world that has become increasingly complex, unpredictable, and isolated, the best solutions will emerge from collaborative processes that encourage us to turn to each other and share our ideas, observation, and support.