5 tips to thrive while working remotely with Romane Ganneval, journalist at Welcome to the Jungle
86%. That’s the percentage of French people who say they want to continue working from home occasionally following the successive lockdowns that we went through. From greater autonomy, to flexibility and better quality-of-life, the benefits of remote work are so appealing that it is becoming a key part of our lives.
But we can’t go through a historic revolution in our work habits without having to adapt to the changes that it causes. How can we learn to communicate again when everything is being done in writing? How can we adapt management methods to ensure that information circulates properly? How can we re-establish the boundaries between our professional and private lives? In short, how can we rethink teamwork?
In her book, “Guide du télétravailleur épanoui” (the guide to fulfilling remote work), Romane Ganneval, a journalist at Welcome to the Jungle who specializes in well-being in the workplace, interviewed 16 experts to try and find answers to these questions. In this article, she gives us five tips for more fulfilling remote work!
TIP #1 : Stay in touch and fight isolation
Water cooler chats, jokes going back-and-forth in an open-plan office, those informal moments during lunch break… with remote work, the host of interactions that made up our everyday routine have simply vanished, replaced by silent homes and videoconferences that are not always conducive to human warmth. This phenomenon of isolation is well established – in November 2020, 58% of employees working from home full-time said that they were experiencing psychological distress – and it must not be taken lightly.
A few tips from Romane to stay in touch and fight that feeling of isolation:
- Listen to music. It’s scientifically proven: some types of music have a beneficial effect on your brain. A medical protocol – called the “Schubert bandage” – has even been developed to soothe our pain and anxiety through music.
- Turn on your camera during virtual meetings (and encourage your colleagues to do the same!). Spending your whole day in front of a blank screen increases fatigue, reduces motivation and causes a feeling of dehumanization. Seeing people’s faces and expressions changes everything.
- Rediscover meaning in your work. A feeling of belonging and a need for meaning are fundamental human requirements. To maintain motivation and engagement, it is fundamental that managers ensure their employees really do have the impression that they are contributing to the success of a shared project.
- Create rituals. The everyday habits of our former lives are gone; we need to recreate moments together. A morning synchronization meeting, for example, is perfect for that. Within a fun framework that encourages interaction, just 15 minutes is enough to allow everyone to present what they have planned for the day. This way, you stay in touch and can coordinate more easily!
TIP #2 : Ensure the proper circulation of information
“I heard that Léa has got a new job…”; “Did you hear that the project’s release date has been brought forward?”; “Apparently they are increasing the communication budget.”
When we are far apart, hearsay replaces more reliable information that we can obtain in the office. This can even become a real issue for managers. It’s hard not to feel left out and upset when you learn information that directly concerns you from the mouth of a colleague. This type of situation causes misunderstandings, adds to the feeling of helplessness, depletes motivation and can create a feeling of injustice between people working in the office and those who are working from home.
Here’s what Romane says that everyone can do at their level:
- Cultivate a culture of feedback. Just responding “okay thanks” to a team member who sends you their work can be frustrating. And there’s nothing worse than hearing feedback on your work from a third party. It’s important to systematically provide constructive feedback.
- Choose transparency. If rumors are going around, you might as well put your cards on the table with your employees. And if you don’t have answers to all their questions, say so! People always appreciate an honest answer – even if it is incomplete – and it helps to assuage frustration.
- Organize short team meetings to pass on clear information. To ensure your team members remain involved and engaged, it is preferable to organize a team meeting – even if it only last five minutes – to pass on information. Announcements can be followed by Q&A sessions. It may seem insignificant but learning information from your manager makes people feel valued and is always appreciated.
TIP #3 : Take care with your written communication
“Project progress memo: urgent”; “Please send me the memo ASAP?”; “The deadline is getting closer, what’s the status? Thanks.”
When you’re working from home, colleagues can’t just ask you a quick question as they walk by your desk, nor can you zip down to the IT department to ask for a hand with a capricious computer program. Almost all conversations now take place in writing: by email, by SMS, on professional messaging apps, etc. And without the help of body language or gestures to help you get your message across, it is not easy to make yourself understood! It is therefore important to adapt your language to the mode of communication used.
With greater distance and less dialogue, the multiplication of messages has led to the explosion of a new phenomenon called “digital incivility in the workplace”. To be clear, just barking orders (“URGENT!! This needs doing for yesterday”) without making an effort to be polite can be seen as a micro-aggression by employees. The accumulation of this type of message depletes employee morale, causes tension and saps confidence. People who are consistently mistreated eventually convince themselves that they are useless. But for Romane Ganneval, the solution is simple: “we need to learn to treat others politely again; put yourself in your correspondent’s shoes!” Here is her advice:
- Choose the mode of communication that is best suited to your request. Use SMS, chat or the telephone for informal requests that you might make in an open-space office. For a more formal request that requires detailed feedback, a shared collaborative tool is preferable.
- Take your time. Don’t reply to an aggressive message – or one you perceive as such – in the heat of the moment; allow yourself time to digest it and avoid escalating the situation. Don’t forget that written messages last forever.
- Provide context for your messages. If you manage several projects, then the same is probably true for your interlocutors, so avoid mistakes and misunderstandings by always reminding them of the subject of your request and the context in which you are making it. It will be easier for them to understand you.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re writing to. Before hitting “send”, always ask yourself what the person reading this message will make of it. Removing an exclamation mark or adding a word of thanks can help make your message seem more friendly. It only takes a few seconds, and you might avoid upsetting your interlocutor!
In short: be kind and proofread yourself!
TIP #4 : List your priorities in order
We are constantly bombarded with messages and requests, and one can soon feel swamped. What’s urgent? What isn’t? How much time do you have for this project? What’s the deadline? When everything is mixed up, it is crucial to prioritize. It’s a question of efficiency, productivity, and even mental health!
To get a clearer understanding of your priorities and reduce your stress levels, Romane suggests several solutions:
- Stop. For real. It may seem paradoxical, but in order to save time, you need to start by spending more. Take a step back, take stock of your situation, and you will be able to put things in perspective.
- Make lists: Urgent, can wait, to be scheduled. Use color codes, different fonts – something visual and impactful. Separate what requires reflection and what is operational in nature. Your schedule becomes clearer, and you become more efficient in your work.
- Split up your activities. Are you working in hybrid mode? Working from home a little and sometimes in the office? Then plan to do different tasks based on where you are. Schedule meetings and workshops when you are in the office, and plan individual assignments that require you to think deeply when you are working from home.
TIP #5: Learn to switch off.
Do you believe that, when it comes to work, "Hell is other people"? If so, are you sure that you have never asked for something late in the evening when it could have waited until the following morning? Remote work must not be synonymous with always being on call – that goes for you and for others. It is essential to set limits to make sure you remain efficient and active at work. It is particularly important given that psychosocial hazards are so commonplace in executives who allow their professional lives to impinge on their free time, which many of them do: according to an Adobe study from 2015, 74% of French executives claim to check their work email outside office hours. “To learn to switch off properly, you really need to look at how you work,” explains Romane Ganneval. “If you take the liberty of writing to people late in the evening, then you are also likely to be disturbed outside office hours.”
Here are Romane’s recommendations to help you re-establish the boundary between your professional and private lives:
- Plan ahead. Before you go on holiday, remember to hand over your projects to a colleague and give their contact details to your interlocutors. This way, you will ensure that your department continues to function, and it will take a weight off your mind.
- Stop CCing everyone in your emails. Do you have to deal with reams of messages that don’t directly concern you? Then maybe you too tend to involve far too many people when you are working on a project! Limit the number of people involved and you will naturally be interrupted less frequently.
- Allow specific times dedicated to reflection and deep work. Being interrupted by notifications every five minutes can really drive you crazy! You can’t concentrate, you’re not very productive, you’re worried about missing an important piece of information… Allow yourself some respite; allow time for under uninterrupted work, inform your colleagues and put your telephone on flight mode! It will boost your creativity and it’s extremely satisfying.
- Stop with the emails. It takes the average executive 5 hours and 36 minutes to process all the emails they receive every day. With all the concrete tasks that you need to deal with, that makes it almost impossible to go home on time.
Switching off implies thinking about your own work practices first. Give your interlocutors a break and you will also be able to switch off more easily.
In defense of hybrid work
Romane Ganneval assures us that this guide isn’t just a response to the pandemic we have all lived through, it’s also a tool to help find lasting fulfilment through remote work. “We now know that employees are productive when working remotely and that they would prefer hybrid work, i.e. part of the week in the office and part at home. This hybrid model is favored by the majority of working people.” Why? Because it gives you the best of both worlds. Being in the office allows you to reconnect physically with people in a way that is difficult to reproduce remotely, and it allows you to brainstorm and share work-related information more easily than through a computer screen. Working remotely makes it easier to devote yourself to deep work, like writing an article or an executive summary, which requires quiet time and concentration.
Thousands of teams around the world use Klaxoon’s Board Hybrid to apply Romane’s five tips and work remotely efficiently as a team. Here are a few sources of inspiration for you:
- Watch this interview with Mathieu Guenroc to learn how to stay connected and fight isolation. Mathieu is a sales manager at Crédit Agricole, and he uses a 15-minute daily meeting to boost his teams and motivate them using visual management tools.
- You too can create fun moments where you can connect with your team during your morning meeting.
- Melissa can give you ideas for providing productive feedback. She uses several Klaxoon activities (like the Survey or Questions) with her football team to get instant feedback that is automatically consolidated. It is also ideal for getting immediate responses to questions and avoiding misunderstandings in writing.
- If you have difficulty ranking your tasks by order of importance, the MoSCow Method may help you review your priorities. You will find a ready-to-use template for using this method here. We have hundreds of tried-and-tested templates like this to organize meetings and workshops that work.
In summary, Romane Ganneval believes that it is crucial that remote workers take ownership of their work methods, especially at home. “I believe that remote workers have to show initiative and take responsibility for how they work remotely.”
Message received! Thanks to the “Guide to fulfilling remote work”, you have the keys to your success!