Chamber News

DEIA | Navigating a Remote Work Environment

January 20th, 2022

Prior to 2020, remote work was a foreign concept to a majority of the workforce. Most of us knew about it and maybe had a friend or two who worked remotely however the practice was not as widespread as it is today. This working model has benefits and challenges. According to Stephanie Rossi’s article 5 Tips to Encourage Effective Teamwork While Remote, collaboration and communication, loneliness, and not being able to unplug were the “biggest struggles” with working remotely.

Kathy Gurchiek adds another layer of complexity to the struggles of working remotely – visibility for women and racial/ethnic minorities. In her article, Viewpoint on Remote Work Depends on Gender, Ethnicity, and Industry, she quotes SHRM researcher, Trent Bruner, “This data makes it clear that all organizations, regardless of size or sophistication, need to re-examine remote work policies to ensure there are no unintended side effects.”

Considering this data and our own personal experiences here at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, we want to share a few tips to help address the challenges.

Foster Collaboration and Communication

  • Be clear about the team’s mission, vision, and goals and help employees see how the work they do each day fits into the big picture.
  • Utilize technology for work management and status reporting. Refer to the information during one on one and team interactions to let the team know you’re reading it and taking it seriously. Encourage them to do the same.
  • Use virtual and face to face meetings for team building, ideation and problem solving.
  • Add short icebreakers to each meeting to break the monotony and to help the team get to know one another better.

Overcome Loneliness

  • Encourage team members to use the work management and status report as an opportunity to connect with a peer to learn more about their work or to collaborate.
  • Reach out to leaders and colleagues to see how they are doing. You can also use this time to ideate or solve a problem together.
  • If possible, visit the physical office at least once per week when you know leaders and colleagues will be there. If you have no physical office to visit, connect with your local peers in person over coffee or your favorite social beverage. Remember to wear your mask and practice social distancing.

Avoid Virtual Meeting Fatigue

  • Give your full attention to those in the virtual room with you. Avoid multitasking because it’s more draining to split your attention than it is to focus on the task at hand.
  • Take screen breaks. Do not spend your lunch and breaks in front of your laptop or PC. Get up and move.
  • Consider phone calls when the meeting doesn’t require screen sharing, ideation, or problem solving.

Stay Visible

  • Dress as if you were going to the office each day.
  • Speak up during meetings. It helps to prepare for the meeting in advance so that you know the content well enough to ask thought provoking questions and/or share novel ideas.
  • Share a weekly recap of your accomplishments with your leader.
  • Participate in virtual or face to face events sponsored by your employer or industry peers. Remember to wear your mask and practice social distancing.

Many of us have a desire to get back to the norm. What if the norm isn’t a reality for us in the future? What if remote or hybrid work models are the best way to operate? It’s important to keep this in mind as we continue to navigate the pandemic and map out the future of work for our organizations. There is no going back to the way it was. Let’s focus on creating the new norm and building together.

Sherrice Thomas 
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access