Charles Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ theory states that the species that adapt most quickly to changing environments around them, are the most likely to survive.
Humans have come a long way and what distinguishes us from other mammals is our ability to strategize, using our brains and our ability to adapt. We evolved through forming communities, learning how to form cultures, and influencing others with our folktales and stories.
The human spirit is a continuously baffling phenomenon. Before the pandemic, or even a few months into the increasing number of cases, if you’d asked companies about their work-from-home policy, they’d have said something along the lines of – ‘this isn’t for our team; it won’t work for us.’
But today, as employees work from the surroundings of their living room, a recent IBM survey reported that of the 25,000 people asked, over 50% said that they wanted to work from home after the pandemic. A culture shift is taking place. Twitter even went insofar as to announce that their employees could work remotely forever if they wish.
Remote work, it seems, is here to stay.
According to research by McKinsey, 80% of the people they asked said that they enjoy working from home. 41% say that they are more productive than before and 28% said that they are as productive. Many employees, liberated from long commutes and travel, have found more productive ways to spend their time and now enjoy greater flexibility in their personal and professional lives.
But what makes remote work tick for some teams and not others?
Emanuele (Manny) Faja, the founder of project management software, Bloo, explained the skills needed to thrive during the pandemic as a team, and the technology that managers can adopt for remote teamwork.
Home office, work mindset
Manny believes that just like a fresh startup idea, teamwork itself requires iteration as situations change. He believes that when team members work remotely, different skills are at play from when they’re at the office – as well as ensuring ownership of tasks is clear-cut..
“I think that a great team respects coworkers, takes ownership of their responsibilities, and works towards a common goal,” said Manny. “With remote work, I don’t think respect is an issue, but aligning on priorities and establishing ownership are often tough to tackle.”
Manny also explained that a lot of our time is spent on meta-work. Meta-work is the type of work that fuels other tasks. They are tasks like writing a to-do-list or reporting to superiors. It doesn’t directly contribute to output, and customers don’t care what you do, they expect results.
“That’s not saying it’s bad. But we certainly can manage better,” said Manny.
“Losing sight of the big picture”
At the office, requesting for a task to be completed or following up on a project is relatively straightforward – you could simply go and take initiative. But when everyone’s home, everything requires scheduling. Your team needs to master personal skills to stay on top of their responsibilities.
“The problem is that when teams don’t meet as often, they often lose sight of the big picture and focus their time on less important things than they should,” said Manny. “That’s when I think knowing how to prioritize right is important for remote teamwork.”
Manny explained that it is common for leaders to fall into a trap of uniform time allocation – where they give their attention to all stakeholder groups and spend time with everyone. He said that the ‘Lazy CEO’ will actually manage to prioritise time and productivity.
“The Lazy CEO will spend 50% to 80% of his or her time on the point of constraint, which is the obstacle that stops your organization from sprinting forwards and achieving amazing results,” said Manny. “While the Hard Working CEO will also be able to spend 5% or 10% of his or her time on that task. The Lazy CEO will discover and remove key blocking points for business five to ten times faster than the Hard Working CEO!”
New tools during Covid-19
Every crisis is an opportunity in disguise. The sudden shift to working at home has thrown many companies into technological disruption, pushing employees to learn tools and software they’ve never imagined. And while adopting new tools can be hard, the outcome far outweighs the challenges.
“In a pandemic, where change happens in a blink of an eye, you can’t afford to spend extra time on training people how to use tools,” said Manny. “The tools you decide to adopt should be simple enough that your team can train themselves.”
Manny explained that doing three things well can make all the difference. Namely, replicating daily conversations while at home, aligning progress and priorities while ensuring there is one clear, easy place to access files and communications.
“It’s important to use a project management tool to keep all work progress and tasks in one place, a video conferencing tool that is of high quality, and perhaps real-time chat tool for casual conversations,” explained Manny. “For our team, we use Bloo (obviously) for project management, Telegram as a real-time chat software, and Google Meet for any video conference calls we have. It’s straightforward, and there’s less chaos as the tools serve different purposes.”
For those leading the team, Manny also suggested some practices to make working from home as plain sailing as possible. Daily check-ins and frequent communication, he said, were the most vital to ensuring a productive and content team at home.
And while the pandemic continues to rage, we can’t deny the opportunity it breeds. Companies that were once afraid to change have adapted to the trials and tribulations that Covid-19 has brought. “I think it has changed the way many teams work,” said Manny. “Companies have started making remote work part of their policy, and it’s helped employees gain autonomy.”
Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by Bloo, a project management software that helps teams stay organised and work better together. Teams that use Bloo improve their collaboration and work process; They report having more clarity over their work progress as everything is in one place. Bloo has a 14-day free trial and a supportive team behind to help you get started – Check them out: www.bloo.io.