Listen, I don’t blame the convenience of Zoom. I too, sometimes need days where I can just roll out of bed and join a meeting. Or maybe, I’m out of town for the weekend but still need to get work done. But I, along with many other students, have started to despise the disconnectedness of meetings on a screen. In this blog post, I’ll dive into the problems surrounding remote work and steps that can be taken to maintain its convenience while minimizing its drawbacks. 

Why is it a problem?

When it comes to leading or even working in a team, the increase in working and meeting remotely often means the actual tasks that need to be done take overwhelming precedence, while other aspects like building relationships and establishing collaboration are unfortunately overlooked. On the surface, it may seem like dividing tasks among each person on a team and allowing them to work remotely and individually on them is more efficient and saves time, making things better for everyone overall. However, there are a couple reasons why this isn’t the case. For one, it’s a lot harder to feel the importance of tasks when the work is being done remotely. Because there is no immediate reminder or pressure that comes from seeing team members in person, work that is remote can be put on the back burner in favor of work that is reinforced in person. I personally find that it’s also a lot harder to find the motivation or inspiration to do work when it’s mostly assigned remotely, which directly impacts the quality of my work. Further, remote work negatively impacts the quality of discussion, severely limiting a team’s potential. Since physical cues that would be present in-person are unable to be gauged online, it’s harder to openly communicate or debate ideas, courses of action, concerns, and more. Without the presence of discussion in meetings, lots of good ideas and suggestions may never be unearthed. Lastly, remote work does not promote collaboration. Since there’s much less opportunity for teams to get to know each other well when meetings and work are all done virtually, this can lead to discrepancies in the work done or an overall lack of unity, placing more burden on team leaders to make everything cohesive. 

What can we do?

Of course, the best thing to do in my opinion would be to switch to exclusively in-person meetings and only having virtual ones if absolutely necessary. But in the case that permanently moving to in-person meetings is not possible, there are still ways that the negative effects of virtual meetings can be avoided. First of all, in-person gatherings or socials can help people get to know each other outside the context of work, which could promote communication and therefore improve collaboration between team members. When leading a team virtually, something that I’ve found beneficial is finding some time to talk individually with each person I work with to get to know their personality and style of work, and grouping people together to complete projects rather than giving everyone separate tasks. Some other small but meaningful things that could be added to a remote workspace to make it more engaging include playing online games at the start or the end of a meeting, dedicated channels in Slack, or another messaging platform for casual topics such as good news or food, or even hosting group work/study sessions. Team building and engagement are not impossible in a remote environment–it just requires a bit more creativity.

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