Remote Working Solutions: Informal Learning, Unsuitable Processes and Policies and Too Many Meetings
Working remotely has many challenges, particularly when working from home as many of us have been doing this year. This is the last in our series of blogs about the challenges of remote working and how to solve them. In previous blogs we’ve covered how to overcome isolation, disconnection and exclusion; dealing with distractions, lack of structure and poor work environment; and how to counter overwork and burnout.
Problem: Lack of informal Learning
One of the casualties of working remotely can often be the disappearance of those opportunities we have to learn informally from our colleagues. Opportunities like overhearing the way a colleague explains a problem or deals with a difficult client on the phone, or the quick queries you mention to the person sitting next to you where you get an immediate response.
Informal learning is an essential part of our professional and personal development, particularly for those in the early stages of their career or new to a team, job or organisation. It can be the difference between our success or failure and has a huge benefit to organisations. Informal learning facilitates collaboration and, as it is instigated and “owned” by the learner, it tends to be highly relevant and impact positively on motivation and engagement.
Solution: Communication and Collaboration
The primary way of introducing informal learning into a remote working environment is through communication and collaboration. Although technological solutions are not an exact replacement for the face to face informal interactions that exist in informal learning situations, they can go a long way in facilitating greater communication and collaboration.
- Encourage the art of asking questions: The most important way to encourage informal learning in your team is to make it OK to ask questions and build a culture of shared knowledge and learning. This could be done via a group messaging application or creating an online forum in existing technology solutions. It is essential that whatever method is put in place it enables the opportunity to ask questions and get answers in real time, just as you would if you were in an office environment.
- Create and design time and space for learning: Take advantage of any team meetings by implementing a ‘learning zone’ and setting aside time in every meeting for team members to share what they’ve learned or what they would like some support or help in learning. Utilise skill sharing sessions where team members can share their knowledge and skills and/or invite colleagues from other departments to do the same.
- Encourage initiatives that support peer to peer learning: Another great way to facilitate informal learning in a remote working environment is to use a buddy or mentoring system and ensure that every team member (particularly those who are less experienced or new) have a dedicated person they can call on when they have questions or just want to get feedback or guidance on something.
The facilitation of informal learning is more difficult in a remote working environment which does mean that we need to pay more attention to it and put more effort into ensuring that opportunities exist.
Problem: Policies, Processes & Procedures not fit for purpose
Having policies, processes and procedures that are unsuitable or incompatible with remote working can contribute massively to a feeling of overwork or stress for employees.
Whilst many policies, processes and procedures can be, and have been, adapted for remote working, some teams and organisations are trying to persevere without making any changes. This is often due to the feeling that remote working may be temporary. However, if it is likely that some form of remote working will continue in the future, this really needs to be addressed.
Solution: Review and Revise
The only realistic solution for this situation is to review policies, processes and procedures with a view to identifying how they can be adapted to better fit the new reality of work. In order to present your case, you must be able to identify how they are impacting negatively on productivity, what the proposed solution or change is and what benefit or result this is likely to have for the team or organisation. If you can demonstrate this in financial terms, then this is a powerful argument for change that becomes difficult to resist for any leader or organisation.
The answer to successfully coping with changing circumstances lies in the ability to adapt. As we have mentioned in a previous blog, increasing agility and flexibility in organisations is absolutely critical in facing the challenges of the future of work we are all likely to face in the coming years.
Problem: Zoom Fatigue or TMM (Too Many Meetings)
Unsurprisingly, zoom fatigue is a real problem this year. A major downside to everyone working remotely is that all the conversations we used to have whilst grabbing a coffee or walking across the office have turned into meetings. This means that many of us are spending all day every day in videoconferences, often without proper breaks.
Whilst many of us would never dream of spending our entire week every working week in back to back meetings, it seems to have suddenly become acceptable when working remotely. Except it isn’t. By having back to back meetings, we’re risking our physical and mental health.
Solution: Restrict or Rewind
The first step is restricting the number of meetings you have. You can do this by setting some boundaries, as we mentioned in one of our earlier blogs in this series on overcoming overwork and burnout. Utilising time blocking is another way to do this.
No meeting days are not a new concept and many organisations have implemented these to help counteract overwork and burnout. Agreeing that at least one day a week is kept meeting free will afford you some much-needed breathing space.
Recently, Google announced a company-wide initiative of introducing no meeting weeks.
Another option to reduce Zoom fatigue is to rewind the clock and go back to old-fashioned phone calls. It is amazing how much more effective our listening can be when we only have to concentrate on one ‘channel’ (audio). How many of your meetings really need to be by videoconference anyway?
There’s no doubt that remote working can be challenging for many of us. It is easy to feel that we do not have control of the situation, but the reality is that there is always something we can do to improve the situation.
If you’d like to explore how we can help your team or organisation work more effectively and build a culture of fulfillment, please get in touch for a no-obligation chat.