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The Benefits Of Working Remotely

15th December 2021, By Rick | Business, Social, Technology

Professionally speaking, the last 22 (ish) months have been tough (not just because we’ve been extremely busy at WDL) but that isn’t to say that there haven’t been some benefits of working from home.

Learning to work remotely has brought its challenges, from no longer having your work bestie sitting next to you, to having your webcam turned on for those early morning meetings – We’ve had to adapt to working collaboratively online, leading to some areas of work becoming more challenging. For example, having an issue with a piece of work and asking for help could have been as simple as turning around and striking up a conversation with someone in the office. Now it involves picking up the phone and dialling, typing out your issue in a chat, or starting up an online video meeting. There are downsides to all of these options, not least being; what if the person you are trying to reach is not currently able to help? Had you been in the same room with them, you would have known immediately if they were at their desk, or were currently otherwise engaged (they may even have been just outright ignoring you). Either way, things have become more complicated in trying to get input from other people while we’ve been working remotely.

Working from home has taught us a number of lessons, and it is important to keep these in mind when returning to working together in person:

Lesson 1 – Having Others Around

It is great to be working with other people. Having others around you who you can easily talk with to discuss what you are working on, bounce ideas off, or just sense-check your own assumptions is really useful. This can be done so much quicker when physically near other people, as any of the remote communication options often involves interrupting your current workflow.

Lesson 2 – You Don’t Know Everything

You don’t know what you don’t know. It is easy to know when you don’t know the answer to a straightforward question, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about when you develop an expert-level understanding of a subject, you may still be unaware of entire subsections of the bigger picture. First and foremost, that is absolutely fine – it simply isn’t possible to know absolutely everything. The problem here is, not being aware of these subsections makes it really hard to understand what you might be missing.

Humans are really bad at identifying and acknowledging this, too. In fact, this is a cognitive bias called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which can be summarised as; ‘a lack of knowledge in a particular area also makes it difficult to objectively assess competence in that area’. Why is this relevant here? By working independently from others who have in-depth subject-relevant knowledge, we are cut off from those who are best placed to improve our own knowledge in the first place. However, being aware of gaps in your own knowledge (or even the possibility of these gaps in the first place), is a huge step forward in improving your own understanding. The next step in fixing these gaps is communication.

Lesson 3 – Communication

Communication is key – don’t take any part of it for granted! Okay, so this underpins both of the points above, but it is so important it deserved its own point! Hopefully, our verbal communication skills are something that we’ve all had a chance to improve upon during this period, but non-verbal communication is so crucial to understanding intention. Video chat can communicate some of this effectively, but it is still not a full replacement. Something as simple as leaning back in your chair can tell those around you that you are not 100% sure about the best way to proceed, and might benefit from someone else’s input. When working remotely, you can lean back in your chair, get up and pace around the room, or scratch your chin pensively and, unless you are on a video call there and then, none of your colleagues are any the wiser that you might be struggling with something. That is precisely when you should be recognising that it is time to ask for help.

As we move into another winter, with the threat of new viral variants looming on the horizon, now is certainly a good time to be reflecting on the good stuff that we’ve learned during our time working remotely. I hope we don’t have to go back to relying on them, but it is definitely better to have those skills and not need them than the other way around.

References:

‘Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments’, by Justin Kruger , David Dunning, 1999 – https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.64.2655

15th December 2021, By Rick | Business, Social, Technology

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