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Reviews

The Beacon for Remote Work During the New Normal

A Harvard online course that will help you understand the best practices for working remotely effectively.

Harvard Professor Tsedal Neeley, course instructor

Remote Work Revolution for Everyone” (WFH), offered by Harvard Business School on edX, is a highly relevant course when remote work has become the new normal during the pandemic. While I have been working at a multinational company for many years, my remote work experience took on a new dimension since I started working from home every day after the outbreak of COVID-19. My experience has been constant trial and error, adjusting to a new lifestyle without much advice from experts.

Why I Took this Course

While I was trying to find my way around, I was delighted to find WFH by Professor Tsedal Neeley at Harvard Business School. Although WFH appeared to be the ideal course for me, I was also a bit skeptical on how much academic knowledge can be applied to my circumstances. Still, because remote work is a new field clearly affecting me, I decided to enroll in the class, hopping that I can learn some insights to improve my situation.

Sync and async communication

The section on technology went well beyond how to use digital tools. Before taking this course, I was unaware of the differences between lean and rich media or how synchronous communication differs from asynchronous communication. By learning these characteristics, I can now examine and select the best tool to communicate and work effectively in a remote environment. The important insight I gained from Professor Neeley is that digital tools can shape the outcomes of our work and our relations with colleagues and customers.

Hyperproductivity

One of my first challenges with working from home was the blurring border between work and personal life. Without commuting to the office, I ended up working at unsustainable levels, close to burnout. Because overwork is a sensitive issue not openly discussed, I was relieved to hear that this is a prevalent problem nicely expressed by Professor Neeley as “hyperproductivity.” The section also featured interesting discussions with business leaders on how they avoided hyperproductivity among their employees. She also presented the important criteria to make teamwork highly productive, where team cohesion and individual growth are crucial. This helped me to appreciate that the informal conversations before meetings play an important role to unite the team. Furthermore, the lecture gave us a fresh perspective on virtual work as opportunities to create time for individual growth and to enable flex time, which I strongly sympathize with.

The course brings together industry professionals to talk about remote work in practice

When in-person meetings have become limited, trust has also become more challenging to build, especially for new joiners. In fact, trust usually requires substantial time to cultivate. Because I had a black and white thinking on trusting people, Professor Neeley’s remarks were eye-opening. The important question is not to ask whether I trust the person or not but to ask what type of trust and how much of it I need for the situation. While emotional trust enables teams to work together in challenging circumstances, it naturally requires a long period to develop. On the other hand, cognitive swift trust, which gives confidence that team members are dependable, can develop quickly. This is what we need to perform tasks effectively on a remote team. She also gave us very practical and helpful advice on how to cultivate them. It turned out that the casual introduction of our professional background is quite helpful to build cognitive swift trust, which is an important lesson for an introvert person like myself.

(Re)Launch

Although restricted to verified learners, (re)launch was my favorite section in this course. It brought back all the materials in the previous sections to discuss how to (re)launch a remote team for success. While presenting the success factors for teamwork, Professor Neeley taught us common pitfalls facing remote teams and shared strategies to overcome them. She also addressed important issues on language and cultural differences, which I found helpful working at a multinational company.

Understanding swift trust

The exercises were well designed to apply the new concepts to our work. They helped me to reflect on my own remote experiences and compare them with the best practices. Although I found the questions stimulating, what you largely get for your written answers is an automatic response saying “thank you for your response” without any feedback. This can be a bit disappointing. Furthermore, you will not see how other participants answered to the questions. To learn from others, I wish the course shared the responses from other students.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed this course. The quality of videos was excellent, with the concepts clearly explained. The best practices on remote teams helped me to reflect on my work and to think about how to make improvements. They also gave me the confidence to make suggestions on how to work effectively in a remote team across borders. If you are struggling with remote work trying to figure your way out, I highly recommend this course to you. The insights and the new perspective that Professor Neeley offered are invaluable, especially during this extraordinary time.

Kohei Iwahara Profile Image

Kohei Iwahara

A native Japanese with a substantial international experience. I enjoy traveling, watching movies, going to the gym, and life-time learning.

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