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Where Are We Now? Five Thoughts for the Second Week of the Remote by Design Era

Jitin Agarwal

VP, Enterprise Products, EPAM
Blog
  • Remote By Design

What a difference a week makes! Remember back when we first became remotely serious? A week now feels like a lifetime. It reminds me of when I was in the startup world. We operated in “dog years,” and one year seemed the equivalent of seven. Today, we’re in the era of dog weeks, where seven days can seem like seven weeks, or even seven months.

So here we sit, week two in the work-from-home experiment, and five new thoughts about remote work come to mind. Feel free to use them as guidelines as we move forward. Let’s review…

1. Design Your Workspace for the Long Haul

Have you considered (really considered) your remote work setup? What does your “desk” look like? Your seating? The lighting situation? What about your computer and peripherals? You’ve surely thought about your remote work environment… but have you considered what would be optimal? Have you taken steps to make it so? If not, now is the time.

When we were just a few days into working remotely, most of us assembled some jerry-rigged accommodation to get by. But after a week or more into living remotely, MacGyver-ism is perhaps not the ideal operating model. When your home is also your office, you must intentionally design things to make your space work.

There are significant ramifications to your work setup. It has ergonomic, psychological, and productivity impacts. For example, if you hole up in the middle of your kitchen, with all the typical kitchen traffic that most households have, then you're setting yourself up for productivity failure. It's hard to have a business conversation with your kids, dog and significant other running around in the background. Yes, in the first flush of universal remoteness, all of your business colleagues were willing to make accommodations—after all, they likely needed your forbearance as well—but eventually that gets old.

In other words: Take the time to get your home office situation together, if you haven’t already. If you need a model for inspiration, think back, if you can, to your “office” setup and adapt it to your current environment. 

2. Balance Yourself

In my last post, I specifically avoided talk of work-life balance—the ratio of time spent working to time spent living—because we were all busy getting acclimated and adapting to the situation.

Now, however, the idea of balance steps to center stage. We’re not talking about a short-term thing where you can, and must, tolerate imbalance. The question you must now ask yourself: How do you reestablish balance?

I believe you must do a candid assessment of what real balance looks like for you, and what steps must be taken to drive toward it. This must be done if you’re to adapt to the new normal. And it’s not a one-and-done type solution; you’ll need to iterate the way you work, become more self-aware, and design the end-to-end work-life experience better. Ask yourself: “How do I do this repeatedly, at scale, and reliably?” The fact is, we could all be WFH for the next four to six, eight, or even more weeks. Radical life imbalance won’t be sustainable forever. Nor should it be. Nor does it need to be.

In other words: Don’t let work capsize your life. Work to find a sense of balance. If you need inspiration, consider a time when you took your laptop on vacation. You made sure to establish boundaries around your work, to ensure you enjoyed your time off, while still keeping in touch with the office. Apply that approach but in reverse, ensure you keep in touch with the rest of your life, while you WFH.  

3. Migrate to the Self-Service World

Remote By Design™ means that you have to become much more self-service oriented. Before, you could bridge the distance between your colleagues by simply walking over to get answers, information, ideas. Now that we’ll all remote, it’s a self-service world. You’ve got to be able to go find your own answers. You need a working model where self-service is the default.

Companies must now find a way to help their employees quickly become accustomed to self-service. The new normal, like it or not, requires everyone to be individually productive and not reliant upon a whole slew of external things, or other people, to make a contribution. The self-service mindset, much like an individual contributor role, encourages people to seek out what they need, instead of having it pushed or fed to them.

The TelescopeAI™ platform creates a self-service model, offering a plethora of different applications. Individuals can help themselves by learning new skills, attending virtual events, giving and getting feedback, awarding badges to recognize colleagues, watching videos on the video portal, contributing to corporate social responsibility initiatives or other worthy projects, and do so many more things—all at a single digital address.

In other words: Prepare yourself, and your colleagues, for the self-service future—now. If you need inspiration, consider a well-run buffet that you may have visited (in the not-too-distant past). The restaurant provided everything available, but it was still up to you to discover all of the offerings, decide what made sense for you, or what didn’t, and operate accordingly. The same approach applies to how you and your organization need to operate today and tomorrow.

4. Scale Your Communications

In this new normal, there are more calls on the calendar and a lot more emails floating around than there used to be. Organizations and individuals need to figure out a better, more inclusive, more interactive way to exchange information.

In an all-remote, all-the-time world, we no longer have access to the kinds of “megaphones” of the old world. People now live in a multitude of information hubs and networks and silos and data lakes. Companies and individuals must become more intelligent about the way they communicate and democratize their information flow, in a way that allows everyone to be more successful. Information has to be broadly communicated, not bottled up in meetings or online discussions. This may require re-thinking how you and your organization enable communication throughout your enterprise. It may also force the acquisition of new skills and practices, like documenting conversations, diligently producing meeting minutes, or even utilizing the written word above the spoken word.

Communicating to audiences at scale is tough, particularly when those audiences expect not only to listen, but also be heard. In the current world, it can be hard for many organizations to reach everyone in their enterprise given the many challenges of remote work. Adopting a Remote By Design model means building with scale in mind and from the ground up.

In other words: In this day and age, if you want to really communicate with people at scale, ditch the old megaphone and find a new approach. If you need inspiration, consider your current set of collaboration tools—many of them, used broadly and more fully, may enable the scaled communication your organization needs today. 

5. Flip the Way You Work

People used to believe that speaking privately with the smallest number of individuals, to get something done or communicate a message, was the right approach. It ensured that only the essential people, or those whose time was needed, were involved. Today, this approach just doesn’t work, especially at scale. Everyone needs to be a lot more public with their communications.

Organizations need to flip the way that employees talk to each other.

Enterprises must create a more public discourse to set up more informed, inclusive, and transparent environment. This is necessary to ensure the all-remote workforce knows what's going on and doesn’t feel lost due to information diffraction caused by multiple sources. It’s almost like social media—but limited to and focused on the enterprise. Think of it as enterprise-centered-social-media.

Asking people to pivot in this way may make them uncomfortable. However, the truth is, working in a public Remote By Design mode can truly lead to increased self-awareness and a stronger corporate culture. Yes, it's a change and anytime there's change it's hard. But change that leads to expanded awareness, enhanced productivity and new horizons can actually be pretty good.

In other words: Think about how you can make your communications more public. If you need inspiration, think back to how much more informed and connected you felt after the last town-hall or all-hands meeting—and seek to recreate that experience virtually though your public communications.

That’s where we are now. See you in a few dog weeks!

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