It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since so many businesses – in Malta and around the world – made the unprecedented shift to remote working. In what many are calling the great work-from-home experiment, COVID-19 pushed the world’s business leaders out of their comfort zone, challenging teams to navigate a new way of working.

One year on, the situation remains the same for many who continue to work from home – but what have we learned? And what has this ‘experiment’ shown us about the future of work?

The thinking is split. For some, returning to the office can’t be further from their minds, as they reap the benefits that come with the flexibility that remote work affords. For others, remote working for such a long stretch of time has them missing the office environment – and the collaboration that comes with it.

But, whatever your thinking may be on the future of work, it is undeniable that this period has taught us a lot. And as we continue to work from home for the weeks and months to come, here are a few of the best lessons we can take away from it.

We need structure

Back at the office, commutes, coffee breaks and stopping for lunch with colleagues created a structure for each day, enabling us to pause for a mental rest. At home, it’s easy to work through these markers, but doing so will ultimately affect our focus and make us feel like we’re working non-stop (we are). The solution? Create a structure that allows you to have these breaks – instead of your commute, take a walk in the morning, before you get stuck into work, set yourself a regular lunch time and eat away from your desk.

Connection is key

While Zoom meetings are great for getting the job done, it’s hard to foster relationships with colleagues on a virtual platform. As humans, we need to feel connected with those we engage with every day, so honing relationships is important – and not impossible – virtually. Start with small talk – ask about their families, what they’re up to at the weekend, and ask follow-up questions about hobbies and interests they share, just as you would if you were together in the office. It’ll hone your emotional intelligence, and help you feel connected.

Trust is a powerful tool

Effective remote working necessitates a shift in leadership style, with performance measured on output rather than hours put in at a desk. As a leader, having faith in your team will empower them to do their job well. Focus on what they are producing – in the world of remote work, it is the best measure of success.

Written communication has never been more important

With the majority of our communication taking place on email and messaging platforms, the way in which we relay our messages makes all the difference. If you’re explaining a task, it’s important that it’s laid out in steps which are easy to understand, and if you’re giving feedback – be it positive or negative – the tone is more important than ever to get right. If your writing skills are lacking, your team will likely suffer as a result.

We all have different needs

Acknowledging that each person in your team has different needs and a unique situation is essential and is a lesson that should be carried beyond this period. Each employee has his or her struggles, whether it’s juggling childcare or finding time to ‘switch off’ – as a leader, it’s your job to tap into that and find ways to overcome individual hurdles for the betterment of the team as a whole.

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