As the Covid-19 crisis inched closer to Bangladesh from late March, workplaces had to shut down their offices. To maintain social distance, most private companies have nudged their employees to work remotely. With handy tools like video meetings and screen sharing, white-collar employees are getting the hang of working from home.
However, remote working comes with its fair share of challenges. When you are working remotely from home instead of your open office (or cubicle), interaction with your coworkers might not work the way it used to be.
Research by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield found that "Virtual teammates are 2.5 times more likely to perceive mistrust, incompetence, broken commitments and bad decision making with distant colleagues than those who are co-located. Worse, they report taking five to 10 times longer to address their concerns," as reported by the Harvard Business Review.
According to Grenny, the key to better remote working is safety. In his words, people open up when they feel safe.
Remote working has existed for a while. Now that it has become a reality for professionals of Bangladesh as well, proper empathy and respect need to be addressed towards remote co-workers.
Here are a few pointers to be an empathetic and respectful co-worker in this trying time.
Understand what the person is dealing with at home
Everyone is facing the same crisis, but not all are facing the same consequences. Some workers are bound to fulfil their parental duties. In other cases, many workers are working alone, away from their loved ones.
As a co-worker, you can show them you understand what they have to go through each day. Find out how they are coping. Your support will mean a lot to them.
Keep in touch
When people work remotely, chances are they might get distracted from their duties. Now, more than ever, co-workers need to check in with their peers. If possible, make a call and talk about their daily chores. If you check in on people, they will remember.
Let them ask for help
Let your co-workers know it is okay to ask for help. You can set an example by doing it yourself. By asking help for ourselves, it makes others feel safe while doing the same.
Practice patience and forgiveness
Mistakes are human nature. If a co-worker forgets to CC you in an e-mail or reports an assignment late, try to be forgiving and patient. The current crisis is forcing us to manage cognitive overload. How we respond when people make mistakes has a huge impact on whether they feel safe around us or not.
It is okay not to be perfect
In the office, an employee is required to dress well and look neat. But considering the situation, they might not be able to pull off the same level of personal grooming while working remotely. In a video conference, a co-worker of yours may not look their best. If they do not look as well dresses they would in the office, do not bother them with remarks. It is okay not to shave properly or have a chic hairdo. Let them feel that it is okay not to be perfect all the time.
Provide ideas, share resources
Trustworthy coworkers exchange ideas with each other. Did you find a fun indoor activity, discover a list of what businesses are still open in your area, or develop a great self-development routine? Share it with your peers via chat, email, or in your next virtual meeting. Support each other by helping to find the resource they need.
Do not shy away from showing gratitude to your peers. When we flood our brain with instant messaging, infinity feed of news and other distraction, it is easy to lose your cool and overreact. But if you show genuine gratitude to your coworkers, even if it is for a generic help, you will get some positivity in return.
Having fun also matters
Just because they are your coworkers, does not necessarily mean you cannot have a fair share of laughter with them. It is imperative to be candid with coworkers. Play videogames, share memes or host a virtual coffee party. If a joyful conversation can bring some happiness to the team after a tiring workday, why would someone not do it?
Your coworkers are not robots you exchange formal e-mails with. They are real people with a humane personality. Professionalism aside, coworkers need your support and vice versa. Being respectful and empathetic towards remote coworkers will truly improve teamwork.