We are probably past the point where we should recognize that working remotely is no longer a trend. Seven months into a global pandemic, the realization has started to set in at many companies that this is simply the way we're going to work--in some cases, forever.
There's a problem, however.
Too often we confuse remote work with working from home. The two aren't the same. It isn't just semantics, either. The words we use, and the way we talk about things is important. It communicates what we value, and using the wrong words can not only cause confusion, it can devalue your team members and the way they work.
Working from home is a temporary thing you do every once in a while. It means that the work you usually would do in your office at your desk, you do from home for a day, or maybe two. In many companies, working from home is what you do on Thursdays because you don't have any meetings, so you figure you'll get caught up on the presentation you're working on without the interruption of a colleague stopping by your desk.
Whatever the circumstances, working from home is usually a temporary thing. It might even be a benefit your company gives you for a change of scenery.
Remote working, on the other hand, is different. It's not just a circumstance, but rather, a way of working. If you work remotely, you don't have a desk at your company's office somewhere. Instead, you're probably responsible for providing your own desk in your own workspace, usually somewhere in your own home.
When you work from home, you still use the tools and technology your company gave you, you just log on to your own internet connection. It's OK if you don't have everything you need at home, because you'll be headed back to the office tomorrow anyway.
That's not the case with remote work, and it requires a completely different set of tools and systems. Often, you have to create your own systems, and the place you work gets a lot more attention since it's likely what your colleagues will see every time you log on to Zoom. Don't underestimate the level of stress that goes into having the perfect background--or at least, one that isn't cluttered with toys and laundry and pets. Or, as we call it at our home, real life.
It also means having a different set of skills. Setting your calendar and agenda for the day is different when you work remotely. Productivity and accountability look different as well. It's time we start treating them that way.
Not only that, many people still think that remote working is a temporary thing we're doing until we can get back to the office. If you're managing a team that is currently working remotely, that's a very real issue, because it ignores that many people on your team may not be excited about getting back to the office any time soon, if ever.
Instead, it's time to come up with a plan to help your team work in the way that best meets your business needs, as well as their particular circumstances. Well, as I said before, it's actually past that time, but it's better late than never.
By the way, if you want to learn more, I'll be leading a workshop on Friday for the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference on Leading Great Remote Teams. Be sure to visit conference.inc.com to get your pass and join me.