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What have you learned in the past six months? Working exclusively from home has been an unexpected adventure for all of us. And there are definitely some insights and hacks that we can learn from each other after this amount of time. For this latest Twitter #MitelChats hosted by Mitel CHRO Billie Hartless, we gathered remote work experts from the Mitel world to get their thoughts on what has and hasn't been working for them.

This is a warm sharing of minds and hearts on how to stay connected and craft a better remote work culture. Let's dig in!

Learn how to be a star on your next video call with this handy guide >

What lessons are emerging from the last six months of #remoteworking?

The thoughts and insights shared at the start of the pandemic are ringing true six months later—but with a twist. Participants said they have found they can be quite productive working from home, but there are still a lot of challenges.

Initial sentiments went to businesses, which participants knew had to transition instantly to working from home. Remote working was no longer just a nice to have, but a must have—and also a "right now". Many businesses that thought they were ready to make the change found out they were not really ready. And, for that reason, the past six months have been a crash course in remote working lessons.

Along with the lessons garnered from running a remote business has come something that hits closer to home: balancing the personal challenges of isolation, or an entire household. Although some of that has eased over time, participants said they were still living out a learning curve on that front every day. Our days no longer look anything like they did at this time last year and it's still somewhat of an adjustment: video calls in close quarters, juggling different agendas, schedules and needs, learning how to balance home and work.

Managing remote teams also emerged as a particular challenge, even for those who had the WFH support in place. Billie said she feels this is an area where the most progress has been made. It was agreed that everyone needs to stay in touch and connected. "Find new ways to engage, communicate and have fun without video fatigue taking over!" said @olivecomms.

Participants echoed throughout the chat that it's important to keep the conversations flowing, reach out to colleagues and have ongoing open dialogue with the team. Ask how they're doing, take the time to find out what's going on in their world that may be adding pressure, and be flexible in helping them address work-related issues.

How do you keep workplace culture alive as #WFH continues?

Workplace culture is even more valuable than we ever considered. With everyone remote, it's changed the way we interact and made it necessary to adjust how we develop a culture of togetherness.

Now's the time to poll your organization and determine if employee needs and company values have changed. It's important to recognize that people now want greater levels of flexibility because they're used to a different way of working. They want to be in command of their time and environment on their terms. Critical to these discussions is that all parties be free, honest and open.

Talking to colleagues doesn't always have to be about work. With watercooler conversations no longer possible, the old ways of connecting need a digital update. Isolation is a real problem the longer this lasts, and building personal connections can sometimes be about bonding over common interests. It's too easy when you're already isolated to isolate more. The phone or video call can be great ways to open the lines of communication with colleagues based in a different office.

And although video has been the go-to for connecting, video fatigue is a real thing. It can get exhausting to be on camera most of the day. Finding balance is key.

How can you overcome the challenges of sharing a workspace with your family?

Break it up and take breaks. These were the themes for managing the WFH blues, according the #MitelChats participants. Switch up the device you're using. Use some voice, some video, get on a headset or wireless earbuds—even walking calls were popular with those who like the chance to change the scenery, get the body moving and get outdoors.

Participants recognized the extra challenges faced by parents of young children when trying to manage both work and homeschooling, and different schedules. Burnout can be a real issue, and Billie reminded everyone to keep an open dialog with their manager and other colleagues.

Being always on mentally is difficult to break, whether you're dealing with kids or pets, but having a sense of humor does help.

Ultimately, it's about being respectful of each others' space. Communicate to the household when you'll be on a video call and coordinate schedules to make sure everyone is aligned. Participants shared that they had more time to practice what they started at the beginning of the pandemic and now feel they've better learned to be respectful of each others' space and time, use understanding, observe boundaries and practice self care. Also keeping a good routine is helping everyone in the household feel more at ease because they know what to expect.

What advice can you share for those returning to the office or taking a more hybrid approach?

After months of being at home together, a new routine of back to a physical office is a whole new adjustment – for the entire household and for your colleagues. Participants felt extra sensitivity was needed to the fact that this is going to be an adjustment for everyone.

The new habits, practices and efficiencies established while at home will likely come in handy to make you a more efficient worker in the office. But there are things you may find need to be adjusted between the office and WFH life. Although it may not be the same routine as when you were exclusively at home, it's still key to establish a good one.

The beauty of hybrid working is that you can be flexible, and that's going to be especially important in this phase of the pandemic. No one knows what's going to happen next in the world and how long it will be possible to work outside of the home. Everyone is different and has different tolerance levels – for work and with social distancing. Good news is you can make both environments work for you, for different tasks and mindsets.

Remember that not everyone is going to be able to be hybrid or working in office. Be aware of that and the continual need for personal interaction. Collaboration and social needs are going to need to be flexible too.

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