In March 2020, companies across the globe shut down their offices and instructed employees to work from home indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.
At first, many thought the lockdowns would only last for a few months. But one year later, there are still employees working from home.
The pandemic has forced a very large segment of the global workforce to undertake a remote work experiment on a scale never seen before and a lot has changed this past year.
Bringing Remote Work To The Forefront
Even before the pandemic, MERIDIAN REMOTE TEAMS had already experimented with and proven the viability of a foreign work setup as a sort of employment. Our country’s remote workers are among the very best, with roughly two million Filipinos engaged in freelance work. The Philippines is the fastest-growing freelancing country in the world — with us ranking above India, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, and Mexico.
One upside to remote work is its flexibility, allowing remote teams to be anywhere within the country, provided their internet connections are fast and reliable. Such flexibility has allowed for “workcation” packages to pop up across tourist areas like Boracay Island and Bolinao, Pangasinan, where remote hostels and homesteads have converted themselves into co-working spaces with assured internet connections.
While such innovations were born out of the pandemic, one can’t help but believe how such flexible setups are often leveraged to decongest our urban spaces and spur economic progress in the countryside. It’s now evident that social distancing measures will remain for the foreseeable future. As a result, many organizations are turning to long-term remote working. This shift protects the physical well-being of employees and has a greater impact: leveling a company playing field that has been uneven for too long.
Even organizations that embraced remote work a few years ago and have had time to perfect the art of unlocking team performance with remote teammates learned to adapt to the planet we now inhabit. These organizations do not need to bring people together physically and have an equal opportunity to hunt alternate, more forward-thinking methods for uplifting informal networks and connections.
MERIDIAN REMOTE TEAMS recognized the necessity of bridging the social connection gap by doing things like organizing virtual happy hours, and month-end pizza parties, and including some sort of social interaction in meetings. These injections of fun create a connection that’s often missing when working remotely and are significant to job satisfaction. However, they only scratch the surface in terms of developing new and impactful means of social connection at work.
A sense of purpose, being a part of an innovative team, and powerful professional development opportunities provide invaluable fuel to a corporation, and we found new ways to get these elements from a distance.
Innovation in Remote Working
Because humans are nothing if not nimble and artistic, we’ve already seen some interesting ways of bridging the connectivity gap. Over time we’ll learn which of those methods is best for creating a fair sense of belonging and purpose in an office setting, but each of those examples seems to be a promising place to start.
In an attempt to duplicate an open space co-working dynamic, groups within organizations have started co-working virtually on projects using an open Zoom call or conference bridge. The individuals on these calls work mostly in silence but can call co-workers as required. This gives other team members a chance to profit from indirect knowledge transfer.
Truly open technology
Adopting technologies like Slack and Zoom is never a replacement for innovation within the workplace, but some fast-acting organizations have opened channels, groups, chats, and conversations that are otherwise restricted to their team across the enterprise.
Cross-functional talent reviews
In a cross-functional talent review, leaders gather with their cross-departmental peers to debate the strengths of their top-performing team In a cross-functional talent review, leaders gather with their cross-departmental peers to debate the strengths of their top-performing team members, with a view to staffing upcoming projects and initiatives. This provides leaders exposure to a greater pool of talent, and the opportunity to form diverse teams.
This kind of review is beneficial for generating innovation. It also enhances the career development of talented individuals. It’s here that we see its potential to interrupt previous biases and discriminatory practices within the workplace.
In the past, in an in-person setting, the cross-functional component of those reviews would have happened informally over coffee or during check-ins with other leaders. Working remotely, the review is often done during zoom one-on-one coaching or team huddles.
Going forward, organizations need to create a framework around how they select and mentor their top performers, and expose them to other organizational areas. As leaders, we’d like to generate networks and connections which would not get formed otherwise in the first place.