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How to manage the hidden risks in remote work | MIT Sloan

Hidden problems

Hidden problems

Companies are struggling to balance employee and public health with the maintenance of basic operations. The obvious answer is to go virtual and work from home.

But it is not that simple. Companies gain a subtle but profound value from social interaction. Productivity and sound decision-making rely heavily on informal communication, like coffee breaks. Employee trust relies on daily in-person interactions like nods of courtesy, morning greetings, and so on. Specific strategies can be implemented to preserve the social fabric essential to success.

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How to manage the hidden risks in remote work | MIT Sloan

How to manage the hidden risks in remote work | MIT Sloan

https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/how-to-manage-hidden-risks-remote-work

mitsloan.mit.edu

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Key Ideas

Hidden problems

Companies are struggling to balance employee and public health with the maintenance of basic operations. The obvious answer is to go virtual and work from home.

But it is not that simple. Companies gain a subtle but profound value from social interaction. Productivity and sound decision-making rely heavily on informal communication, like coffee breaks. Employee trust relies on daily in-person interactions like nods of courtesy, morning greetings, and so on. Specific strategies can be implemented to preserve the social fabric essential to success.

Monitor communication

The quality of online conversations can lack much of the interpersonal richness present in in-person discussions.

Conversations could be monitored with RIFF Analytics, for example, that uses artificial intelligence to analyze online conversation dynamics and provide real-time personalized feedback to each participant: Is anybody dominating the conversation? Is discussion as inclusive as it should be?

Maintain inclusivity

When working remotely, physical distance can quickly develop into psychological distance. Companies need to take extra care to include people in decision-making.

  • One method is secret voting on new ideas to prevent the loud guy from taking over.
  • Another method is Idea markets, where colleagues can vote new ideas up or down.

Encourage cohesion

  • Companies could reward groups with social incentives. It could take the form of peer reward, where people working in a group vote for colleagues who have been helpful.
  • Consider a remote movie viewing among coworkers to reinforce social ties.
  • People can also partner up for weekly discussions about challenges outside of work, like childcare.

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Working Remotely

There is ongoing turbulence in the workplace due to the uncertainties provided by the new virus, resulting in a whole lot of people working from home. Normally the work-from-home policies are esta...

Common Challenges of Remote Work

Even high-performing employees can face a decline in job performance and engagement when working remotely. This can be due to:

  • Lack of face-to-face supervision, which leads to a two-way communication gap and even mistrust.
  • There is a delay in the procurement of information as remote workers aren’t able to sense the atmosphere and real-time events at the workplace, leading to a lack of ‘mutual knowledge’.
  • A sense of isolation among remote workers, leading to a feeling of less belongingness within the organization.
  • Distractions at home due to unplanned work-from-home transition, with employees balancing childcare and many other responsibilities along with work.

Improving Engagement And Productivity

A few specific, research-backed steps that can be taken to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees:

  • Establishing Structured Daily check-ins, by establishing a daily call or touchpoint.
  • Providing several different communication technology options, using virtual communication tools like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc., and making use of video conferencing.
  • Establishing clear rules of engagement for communicating with the coworkers or the managers, according to the levels of urgency.
  • Providing opportunities for remote social interaction by talking about non-work activities, thereby reducing the feeling of isolation among remote workers.
  • Offering encouragement and emotional support by listening to the workers, acknowledging their stress, and keeping their needs and issues in focus.

Getting the economy back on track

While fighting the new virus economy worldwide has seen a huge growth in unemployment. Therefore, measures are to be taken and this as soon as possible. Maybe the most significant factor into getti...

Immunity vs. privacy

Getting the worldwide economy back on track requires workforce. Providing this workforce requires healthy individuals able to work hard enough to help things get better. Governments are now trying out ways to officially have people's health checked: by providing different types of certificates, for instance. The major concern, however, is in regards to everybody's privacy: while these certificates do prove our immunity, research institutions are working on developing tools that can also protect our data.

Certifying immunity and its advantages

It might be that only by certifying workers' immunity, states can help their economy know growth again. However, in order to make the people who get certified take up positions that require direct contact with customers, there will be a need for encouragement from employers' side, such as pay raises. As this is maybe the only real option, countries worldwide are going to have to apply the method.

Getting into remote working

Getting into remote working

Workers around the globe have been forced to take on the promise and challenges of virtual teamwork.

Many people are more used to working in person and haven't had the opportunity to pr...

Working well

Virtual teamwork places greater emphasis on communication and organization.

Over the short-term, newly formed virtual teams experience more negative outcomes, such as team conflict, lower satisfaction, less knowledge sharing, and poorer performance. But, they will adapt and improve over time.

Adapting quickly

At an individual level, some people will find it easier to adapt than others.

  • A study revealed that when people are imaginative and enjoying a new challenge, they are happier to embrace virtual teamwork.
  • Extroverted individuals prefer face-to-face work, and virtual work may lessen the energy they get from social interaction.
  • Introverts are better at adapting to a virtual environment as it involves less face-to-face interaction.
  • Those who like to make quick decisions prefer virtual teams.

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