work from home
Working from home comes with its own set of challenges. Here's how you stay on top of the game. Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: Retrenchment, salary cuts, longer working hours and added job responsibilities – working from home can come with a lot of pressures playing on your mind. But how can you turn the situation in your favour as an employee and come out on top of the work-from-home scenario?

Gulf News reached out to management and team building experts in the UAE to find out what the biggest challenges are of working remotely and how you can ensure job security by continuing to be a reliable performer.

Who is a go-to team member?

From temporary or permanent salary cuts to leave without pay or reducing the number of employees on the payroll, companies across the world have had to take drastic steps to stay in business, post COVID-19.

These uncertainties along with the challenges of working from home can compound the problem of underperformance.

Lloyd Cremer, who is the Associate Vice President of permanent recruitment at AIQU, spoke to Gulf News about how firstly companies needed to trust employees by providing them the autonomy needed to operate in a way that is best for them.

“Everybody has different ways of operating. It is really important from a management perspective to trust your employees and measure their output and the outcomes,” Cremer said.

Dr Haris Syed, CEO and founder of Coach Transformation Academy, explained how every worker has two aspects of their personality that the need to consider – the ‘doing’ and the ‘being’.

While the ‘doing’ focuses on how you approach your tasks and deliver them, the ‘being’ is more behavioural, and brings into focus how you interact with your team mates, management and those reporting to you.

“A good blend of both is essential for being that ‘go-to’ employee. Nobody wants a team member who delivers the target on time but does not show up with the right attitude. On the other hand, if you have great interpersonal skills but fall short of your targets, that is also a problem,” Dr Syed said.

Challenges UAE employees face

During the online coaching sessions his company has been conducting with companies, Dr Syed said that while initially people were quite happy with the idea of working from home, they were not necessarily having a positive attitude.

“The negativity came from the uncertainty many people were facing regarding job security, the fear of the unknown and how things would develop. A lot of it also had to do with demands that companies were making of their employees which were not completely appropriate, like expecting them to constantly be on call and work for longer hours,” he added.

So, how do you address these challenges and ensure your performance stays optimal while working from home? Here are some top tips from these UAE-based experts.

Tip 1: Know when to say yes

One of the traps you can fall into is agreeing to take on more work than you can practically deliver, putting you in a place where you overcommit and under-deliver.

“It is important to be realistic from Day One of the time scale attached to any work. Only commit when you are certain you can deliver,” Cremer said.

Writing for US-based website, Bruce Tulgan, an American writer specialising in management training, said: “Every good ‘no’ leads to a better ‘yes’.” So, while it may be tempting to prove your place on a team by stepping up and being a part of various tasks, it would help your credibility by only taking on the tasks you are confident of delivering.

It is important to be realistic from Day One of the time scale attached to any work. Only commit when you are certain you can deliver.

- Lloyd Cremer, Associate Vice President of permanent recruitment at AIQU

Tip 2: Set new ‘work-from-home’ boundaries and rules

While in the office, a person can physically see you away from your desk, having lunch or being engrossed in an important meeting. Working from home removes these obvious cues that your co-workers have to know when to contact you. The solution? Dr Syed advised workers to draw the boundaries necessary to ensure people know when you are reachable and when you are not.

“Create those clear guidelines. If you are not available, set your status as ‘Away’. A person should check that first and then reach out to you,” he said.

By communicating your work status through these means, you also help your own mind be aware of when it needs to focus on work and when it can take a break.

Create those clear guidelines. If you are not available, set your status as ‘Away’. A person should check that first and then reach out to you.

- Dr Haris Syed, CEO and founder of Coach Transformation Academy

Tip 3: Prioritise project status updates

Working from home also makes it crucial to keep your team updated on any change in delivery timelines. If it looks as though you are struggling with delivering a target which was decided upon, Cremer advised workers to give as much advance notice as possible.

“Give clear reasons as to why you are unable to reach the target, where you need help and what your new timeline of delivery is. Sometimes it is not always possible to deliver a target, so it is all about communicating with your manager,” Cremer said.

Tip 4: Capitalise on the flexibility

According to Cremer, many team members he has worked with during the shift to remote working were initially worried about not having their immediate managers present to run decisions by. However, Cremer said that it became an opportunity for employees to rely more on their own knowledge and instincts to take the decisions they could and work more autonomously.

“While working from home, people are having to answer a lot of questions for themselves. This is allowing them to be autonomous. Quite often they know the answer, but they are just asking for it to be validated by their manager,” Cremer said.

While it is important to trust your instincts and take decisions when necessary, it is also advisable to always keep your team members and managers in the loop, as and when necessary.

Tip 5: Build a stronger team

While working from home, it can seem harder to connect with team members and maintain your performance without the social stimulus. However, by overcoming the gap in communication and consciously connecting with team members regularly you can end up creating teams that are stronger and more cohesive.

According to Dr Haris, the best teams are the ones that can identify and name problems that would normally be left unattended to.

“Teams work best when people do not have a fear of speaking out and making their opinion heard. Reach out and speak about how you feel,” he said.

By communicating the struggles you may be having with the ‘being’ part of your job, you may be able to address early on any issues that may crop up with your ‘doing’ of the job. This helps not just the top performers of the team but every member in general deliver their best work.

Dr Syed urged employers to also create a work culture of checking in with people.

“We are social animals at the end of the day and need to have live, physical interactions with people and smile, laugh and eat together. With the challenge of movement restrictions, your brain unconsciously understands things but doesn’t consciously communicate that,” Dr Syed said.

By voicing your struggles, apprehensions or personal challenges, you can ensure that the team also feels connected while working from home.