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Embracing Remote Workplaces

Arun Penmetsa, Partner, Storm Ventures

The way we work, collaborate and communicate has fundamentally shifted in the last few months. Even if we transition back to physical offices at some point in the future, many industries have already embraced the need to provide employees with the flexibility of working from anywhere and at any time. In such an environment, new approaches are needed to ensure that an organization can continue to function as one and at a high level. How a team collaborates, how it supports the changing needs of its workforce, and how it builds culture in a remote setting are critical to its success and that of the overall business.

Technology can play a critical role in this new normal and help the transition to remote work seamlessly. From communication platforms like zoom and slack to collaboration platforms like canva, basecamp and coda, teams have to adopt the right tools to facilitate efficient communication. Additional solutions like Krisp, Blink and Teamwork can help create a more professional environment at home.

Secondly, new approaches are needed to support and reinforce the culture of a company. The culture of an organization highlights the values by which it lives and what its people strive towards. Sustaining a culture is difficult in the best of times, but without the ability to constantly reinforce a company’s values through face to face interactions and the somewhat controlled environment of an office, it is far more difficult. Any approach should rely on clear communication. Among the many zoom meetings and phone calls, leadership teams should set aside time to emphasize what the company values. Regular Q&A sessions and ‘water cooler’ meetings can help teams break the monotony of continuous video calls and replicate the informal interactions that take place in the workplace. These social calls are times to highlight the company culture and values it lives by.

The needs of a remote workforce are also different from a traditional one. It is important to set clear expectations for how long employees are expected to work. The line between work life and home life has blurred as people are working from home. With family and household duties to attend to and the lack of a defined workplace, it is easy to get into the habit of just working when you find time and being available always. This is not sustainable and can easily lead to burn out. More managerial and one on one interactions can find issues quickly. Relaxing performance requirements, free access to mental health tools like calm or headspace and ensuring employees are taking time off to recharge can all be useful measures to relieve stress in the workforce.

Ensuring that a distributed workforce is motivated, supported and can perform at a high level presents an opportunity to hire from a broader talent pool all around the world. The organizations that make this transition smoothly are setup well to succeed and thrive in this new world.

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