With the advent of Covid-19, remote work is becoming a common practice. Organizations are having to hire remote workers, not necessarily because it fits the organizational culture they were founded upon, but because of national and sub-national policies that are restricting people from physically being in the same room as each other. This is a key point that all remote working organizations need to acknowledge. The book on remote working has not been written yet for the current political, economic, and social period we are in. It is very much in the first or second draft.
From this perspective, time is a concept that many new remote workers will have to deal with, and hone, as they sign their W2 forms and begin working from wherever it is they begin working from.
In the normal working world before the pandemic, stepping into a physical office, planning out a commute to the office, eating a balanced breakfast, and doing the “chores” you need to get done at night when you are not working, or simply having a social life, are becoming new challenges for the new remote working force who have to deal with working from their apartment, or home with kids, or a place that looks identical to their bedroom. Time is of the essence when it comes to putting in a full work week, but our environment also influences our sense of time, and this is why the challenge presents itself.
How Managers can get involved in promoting timely and efficient workspaces
Managers have the power to inform and even teach their new remote hires about the efficiencies a practical and healthy work environment can create, with respect to time. This is because managers have a variety of tools at their disposal when it comes to onboarding a new employee, and they can use this to their and their organizations' advantage. Having some sort of “timing” workshop might do wonders for prospective employees who might not realize, at the time of being hired, how time in their new remote working space is going to affect their life, and correspondingly, their health.
One method managers can exhaust with respect to a “time” workshop is an introductory Powerpoint or slide show they give to employees, or present via screen-sharing on Zoom. The idea behind this introductory session is not necessarily for the new hire to buy house plants or a new desk or a new monitor or a new computer chair to make their workspace more of a workspace and less like a bedroom—it is to get the new employees to understand, and start to think, that adopting any of these new rituals or buying any of these items could potentially change how they behave in a workspace, and therefore alter how fast or slow time is going by relative to their productive habits in a workspace that works for them.
Time Zones and Productivity
The amazing thing about the web development industry is that remote web developers are springing up from all around the world. This is a profession that does not have limits when it comes to national boundaries. However, because of the influx of web developers who work for U.S. based companies but perhaps live thousands of miles away, timing does become an issue for teams to plan group calls and conferences, but also for managers who might ask remote workers for deliverables without considering the potential impact of when they are asking for it. For this issue as well, it might be easy for a manager in the U.S. to ask, or instruct as mentioned earlier, a U.S. based team member on how to transform their workspace into one where time flows and workers can be more efficient, but this same instructional video might leave web developers from other countries baffled as their sense of time has completely different meanings and is less monochronic and more relational.
Thus, hiring a team of remote workers can be tricky with respect to time zones, and not merely for the sake of trying to plan a meeting between multiple members, as has been mentioned in other blogs. The real issue, from a cultural perspective, is that time is a relational concept that revolves around other issue areas—such as meal times, coffee breaks, and simply time for breaks and taking a mental pause during the working day. While Americans might want to get things done from a strict 9-5 working schedule, this might not make sense for someone from another culture who might leave their house in the middle of the day to go to a place of worship. Managers will have to be cognizant of these factors, and take advantage of their higher-ranking positions to make sure time is working for everyone.