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Let’s take a trip down memory lane to the month of March 2020. All is well but there is a fleeting rumour in the air (and other things too) about a virus of sorts that is slowly wreaking havoc all over the world. Before you know it, it’s the end of March and everyone is locked in and your company is forced to work remotely.

You tell yourself it’s only a matter of 21 days and then just 3 months. While companies like Facebook have announced that by 2030, half of their 50,000 workforces will be remote, not everyone is as receptive of the idea (and rightfully so). Take Microsoft’s Satya Nadella for example, who says that switching completely to remote is just “replacing one dogma with another.”

Is remote work truly to blame for all that’s not going your way or are we missing out on a key ingredient here? Here’s why remote work may not be ‘working’ for you.

1. Micromanaging Your Employees

Managing your team, especially when working remotely is essential. However, it’s easy to cross over to the ‘micro-management’ side. 

For instance, there is a natural sense of curiosity when you can’t physically see what your employees are doing. On the other hand, employees prefer remote work as it gives them certain flexibility. 

Speaking of flexibility, you may have included it as a company perk but you should also follow through. Likewise, you cannot be upset with an employee if they do not reply to a message instantly if you have a flexible ‘remote work culture.’ 

To combat this, you have to set the right expectations from the beginning. Once you’ve communicated this, both you and your employees will strike a balance between flexibility and responsibility.

2. Not Communicating Enough

Speaking of communication, it’s crucial to strike a balance. It’s not just about communicating work-related information but also for striking conversations every now and then. 

One example of this in the ‘real world’ would be the water cooler. It served a purpose beyond its original intention. Employees would gather around it and converse with each other about their social lives and catch up with each other. However, it’s no longer a possibility. 

On the other hand, creating a similar environment is an uphill challenge as well. Understandably, many companies struggle with this recreation. If you want to implement this environment, you can start by casual, non-work related groups on your communication platforms. 

You can use these channels to share birthday greetings, holiday greetings, or just catch up with your colleagues. It’s not exactly water cooler communication, but it’s close enough. Similarly, you can also take a minute or two during your regular work meetings to ask about your employees and how they’re doing.

3. Having Unproductive Meetings

It’s important to stay connected with your employees, especially when you’re working remotely. However, a common remote work culture mistake that many companies make is to centre the communication around meetings. One of the most surprising phenomena to rise last year was ‘zoom fatigue.’

Zoom fatigue is the feeling of tiredness and burnout that comes from the overuse of virtual meetings. More than one-quarter (26%) said that they were "doing other stuff" during the meeting and "simply listening for their name" to be called. More than one-quarter (27%) reported that they are "trying to pay attention, but often zoning out." 

Instead of having meetings on meetings, you should focus on having productive meetings instead. Work with your team to plan a schedule that works for everyone and address all professional needs. 

Similarly, try and schedule meetings that are casual in nature. For example, Udgama hosts a Zoom meeting every Friday where one of their employees narrates a summary of their favourite book to everyone. 

Since Udgama has a ‘learning-first’ culture and they did this activity in-person before going remote, they’ve made it a point to carry it forward to ensure that this aspect of their work culture remains intact.

4. Lack of Empathy

20% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. Not just loneliness, remote employees struggle with many things such as unplugging after work. Many people are working longer hours, signing in earlier than usual and logging off later. 

With such stats, it’s also important to note that not many employers are empathetic to their remote workers’ conditions. Similarly, 76% of employees in 2020 say that employers view someone with a mental health issue as a burden.

The need for workplace empathy was ever-present and has increased after the pandemic. For instance, something as simple as flexible working hours that allow employees to take care of their responsibilities while working from home makes a huge difference. 

At the same time, employee recognition plays an important role in boosting employee engagement and morale. 

5. Not Leading By Example

When you’re the boss, it’s easy to set a guideline and not follow it, especially when there’s no physical requirement for you to do so.  However, you must remember that the work culture begins at the top, where you are. 

Employees often look to the leadership to set an example. Let’s say your company requires employees to sign in virtually every day at 9 am. You’ve given a 15-minute leeway because things come up and your employees get three such chances. 

However, after the three chances are up, they get written up. On the other hand, employees find it challenging to get in touch with you before 11 am every day. What does this mean? 

While establishing a remote work culture, it’s important to practice what you preach and lead by example. 

Summing It Up

“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse.” - Simon Sinek.

Setting a work culture in your company is a long-term goal that has a long-term impact. Hence, thinking about it from a short-term perspective will not work. As of now, the state of remote work is shrouded in uncertainty. You do not know when you’ll be able to go back to your office, if at all.

However, you do hope that it will come sooner rather than later. While this hope is good, it shouldn’t dictate how you craft your remote work culture. Once you get past this feeling, you can begin taking steps to ensure that you and your employees are thriving in an environment that is more likely to stay for a while, if not forever.