Remote Work Happiness

We are all still in the worst pandemic, the earth has ever seen. Besides all the tragic, we have one positive outcome which will enhance the life of so many people: the rise of remote work.

The vast majority of office workers are able to work wherever and whenever they what, or to be presice: how it fits best to their personal circumstances. It is real freedom, if you can pick up your kids from school, walk your dog whenever you want and first and foremost live in a city or rural area you like instead of the city where the work was.

But there are a few things that can cause problems however. Many middle managers still have to learn that team members should be measured by outcome and not by working hours or presence. Another thing is mental health which is directly connected to happiness.

It is way to easy in the home office to forget:

  • to make breaks
  • to exercise
  • to maintain a healthy diet
  • to stop work after doing enough
  • to cheer coworkers
  • to miss social contacts

The risk of loniness and burnout is real. To read more see ‘How To Avoid Burnout In The Age Of Remote Work‘ by Shelcy V. Joseph via Forbes.

Even if we don’t look at this extreme, happiness is the key for your mental health and your productivity. So please mind the points above if you are remote working. And at top of that try to make something that fits perfectly to your skills and will have an impact to drive society in the direction you want it to be. There is nothing more encouraging than to make the world a better place.

If you have remote employees, make their hapiness your highest priority. You may know Sir Richard Bransons famous quote ‘Happy employees equals happy customers”. That is true since a long time. But now, as your team members are working remote, this has to be achieved in a different way.

As a remote leader please take serious care of your coworkers:

  • Schedule regular 1-on-1 session with audio and video
  • Organize retreats if possible
  • Fascilitate a written frist work culture to avoid misunderstandings
  • Over-communicate, especially work targets and common goals
  • Spread information as much and as often as possible
  • Embrace off work talk, like in my post ‘Informal communication in remote teams
  • Make clear that long hours are undesired

You agree on the importance of remote work happiness? Do I have missed a significant point? Please write it as comment!

Picture by Radu Florin via Pexels

Informal communication in remote teams

Lots of companies have changed their way of work radically 5 weeks ago because of the virus. Hundreds of thousands of teams switched instantly from co-located work to remote work. That is exactly what many employees fought for for years. But because it came so suddenly, most are not prepared.

The biggest change by far is communication. Good teamwork is based on good relationships between people, which depends on good communication. We are building relationships with all we know as smalltalk, water cooler talk and something we call in Germany ‘Feierabendbier’ – after-work beer.

Can this work remotely? Yes it can. Informal communication can have the following forms in remote teams:

  • stay in touch with your teammates with regular talks via Slack, Teams or whatever conferecing platform you use – but please with video
  • randomly organised one-on-one talk inside your team or organisation, wherein you discuss 15 – 30 min about free topics, gladly personal topics
  • teams or departements do breakfast or lunch breaks together, maybe at special days per week (video on!)
  • make appointments for an after work beer – use your video conferencing platform, take a seat which is not your working place, take a drink of your choice and try to avoid work related discussions (that is my favorite)

Please take care, that no one in your team will be left behind. Include everyone and wait not for rules or management guidelines, you can improve the communication with your own initiative, instantly.

What’s your experience with informal communication? How often do you do it? Have you developed other forms? Please let us know in the comment section!

Remote Work Creates a Fairer World

We all know the big inequality we have on earth. Your chances in life are highly different depending on your place of birth. Remote work will lower that on a large scale. Have a look how that will work out.

Birth Lottery

The biggest disadvantage on earth is based on the birth lottery. You have less possibilities in life, if you are born into a poor family. The education is worse, the motivation to go studying is less and the connections to good jobs are missing. That is common everywhere on earth and we know it from our western communities.

But the birth lottery is even worse at developing countries. If you are born in a rural area without internet access and maybe without electricity, the way to a middle class life is very, very hard. You have to start real work underaged, have to get kids in your twenties or earlier and cannot even think of university.

The good news is, that it is getting a little easier to improve your standard of life with every year. Electricity and internet are on the rise, i.e. with photovoltaic power generation, in every region on earth.

Remote Education

With the higher availability of the (hopefully neutral) internet comes the better access to education. Everyone who is a little self-motivated can receive free high level education, i.e. from Udacity or other MOOCs (massive open online courses) of high schools and even well-known universities.

This is a big chance for talented, young people in the developed and in the developing world. No matter if you are a young African software developer or a German mom and likes to restart your career without leaving your kids alone too long.

Well-paid Work

And then comes remote work! Because all the education doesn’t help without well-paid work. Electricity, internet, laptop and education are the only ingredients, what a motivated woman or man needs today to increase their standard of living fundamentally.

Take the example of tunga.io a remote startup run by a Dutch founder. They are working together with BITS ACADEMY with sections across Africa, which are training IT skills to students. Tunga tries to link these trained developers to worldwide software projects.

A little bit more on the side of entry level jobs is Sama Source from San Francisco. Their mission is to lift people out of poverty with remote jobs like data entry or data enrichment. If that all is working on a large scale, this will improve the life of whole communities, including better sanitation, increased health, less hunger and a reduced number of children in families (which slows overpopulation).

The possibly increased standard of living is the same for underprivileged people everywhere. A disabled person who can work on a computer but is not so mobile thrives with actual remote work options.

Better Than Development Aid

Nothing bad about good development aid! It saved an amazing number of lives and helps the people who are mostly unblamable for their situation. And it is old news that education is the key for helping developing regions. But a sustainable development starts only if there is enough work.

It is not the best solution for the local people, to bring them work through the big enterprises, with was common for production work in eastern Europe and China, moved through India and looks for its luck now in Indonesia and the Phillipines.

Much better for every country is, to enable a diverse and strong economy. This works not only with international teams, where workers of developing countries are part of the team, it works mostly through the huge number of better trained and experienced young people who will start new endeavours by their own. Remote work can be more sustainable than development aid in this way!

That all is not naturally given, so a stable, democratic political framework is important. An affordable, unrestricted access to an uncensored internet is crucial. A government, which thinks it is better to keep the people stupid, will not help itself in the long run, because a strong, independent economy is the better choice everytime.

Summing Up

Remote work creates exactly the opportunities, which were missing in the past. It gives well-paid work to so many disadvantaged groups of job seekers. Disabled, underprivileged, formerly undereducated, part-time, young mom, rural or remote living and relative caring people have much more possibilities these days. The worldwide inequality between poor and rich countries, between metropolitan and rural areas and between high and low educated people will be lowered dramatically by remote work!

Other opinions? Interesting additions? You know similar initiatives like the above mentioned? Please write that in the comments!

Want to be part of the movement? Want to do something good – better than development aid? Please contact me via the contact page.

Trust is the key for successful remote work

You can read a lot about the factors for remote work that actually succeeds. It is mostly about tools and technics, good remote management and the right setting at your working location. You can also read about that in my other blog posts, e.g. ‘How to prepare your company for remote workers‘ or ‘What a remote project manager needs to know‘.

But the most important point is trust!

Level of trust

I will explain the importance of trust with the help of the different levels of trust, which you can find at your corporate environment (Zero, medium or full trust). The trust is needed between employers and employees, contractors and customers, team members and project managers, so basically everyone, who is involved. It is important to note, that it is needed in both directions and everytime (not only in the good times).

Think about yourself. If you trust your boss, that he or she will treat you in a fair way and that your work is for a good purpose, you will do everything for him or her.

No trust at all

Without any trust on each side, you cannot work remotely. You cannot work in an office without trusting eachother either, but it stands out there not this fast.

I led many projects with well established trust between customers and my project teams. But there was a big one where the customer didn’t trusted us until the end of the project. This frustrated many team members and resulted in extra time and extra cost. The project has been fullfilled in this case, but this can cause project crashes with severe losses, particularly if it is a complete remote environment.

Medium trust

I think this is the common status in our corporate world. You can see it as a ‘more or less trust’, that your collegues and business partners are doing mostly a good job and are not trying to fool you. So the situation is not too bad, but most people have doubts about the work of others. This increases a lot if the workers are not colocated and includes the hords of middle managers, who still thinks they can only manage people if they see them permanently – which is however a flaw of their skills.

High portion of trust

This is the ideal situation for a successful business, project, team and remote work setting. If all participants are trusting each other deeply, you need less often and shorter discussions, you have less misunderstandings, less overhead in people and money and a much faster result – the normally needed short time-to-market.

What helps to create that:

  • give working packages with full responsibility to team members instead of small tasks
  • measure work results not worked hours
  • inform everyone about everything they need to know (better too much than not enough)
  • make decisions transparent
  • create a culture of liability
  • be fair and ethically correct
  • make sure that remotely working people get to know each other, even face-to-face if possible
  • organize off-work team activities, like outdoor events, cooking classes, attending concerts together
  • empower all participants to self-reliant and self dependent team members
  • a clear formulated business target including the general good is the best motivation

Traditional companies are often jealous of startups, because of their highly bonded, motivated teams, which are trusting each other very well (mostly). In this case it comes mainly from the companies purpose, every employee is identifying much with and rarely from morally great leaders.

While trust is needed in every work setting, it is very critical at remote work. So if you see a problem related to the remote work setting, please ask yourself if it is not rather a trust problem!

Please let us know, if trust has for you the same important meaning and write a comment. Good and bad experiences are also highly appreciated.

What Remote Work is Doing with You

Remote work has so many benefits. Did you know that remote work is so much healthier for you than office work? Let’s discuss the influence what remote work has on your body and soul.

Less stress

Not having the daily commute saves not only a lot of time and money, but also a lot of stress. Many studies are showing that commuting makes you nerveless, groggily and even fat. Doctors are diagnosing sleeplessness, stomach troubles, back pain, overweight, mental illness and frequent infectious disease more often at commuters than non-commuters.

The second point what reduces your stress is the absence of the cubicles. This big open offices with their constant loudness harms you. It is clear that it distracts you from work, but it affects your health in fact. Also the distraction can increase your stress level, especially when you have a deadline.

More motivation

You have certainly heard about good stress and bad stress. I can work more than 12 hours a day and feel happy and not stressed, if it is the right work. With ‘right’ I am talking about encouraging, self-reliant and meaningful tasks. The setup of remote work creates self-guided work and freedom by itself. That means, you are more or less free to switch tasks and projects and also the time to accomplish the work. And exactly that is the reason why most remote workers are more motivated than their office peers.

More time and flexibility for sport and healthy meals

Without commuting you have more time available and with above mentioned time management by your own you have more flexibility for exercise. The other big point for our health is our nutrition. Is your cantine also packed with greasy dishes? If you work from home, you can cook your lunch with the ingredients you like. That both is the reason why remote work is healthier than onsite work.

Risk of isolation

The biggest danger for remote workers is the risk of isolation. This loniness can lead into depression as worst case. It is very important to have hobbies, which pulls you away from your laptop. This can be everything what is not including to watch on an electronic screen, be it art, playing an instrument or any kind of sport.

If you live alone, it is particular important to meet other ‘real’ people on a regular basis. You can combine that with a hobby, go regularly to the local store or simply feed the ducks at you next park.

Risk of to less exercise

If you don’t have to leave your home for work and have no dog or other responsibility like bringing kids to school, make sure you are leaving your home on a daily basis, even at bad weather! Be it for a walk, to get lunch or for one of the points mentioned above.

If you work at an office, you have to go there and have to walk normally between different offices, meeting rooms and the cantine. Home office workers have much less exercise, so please make sure you are compensating that with some other action.

Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss an important point? Please let us know at the comments!