It’s hard to keep up with the new and ever-evolving developments and implications due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19. Both the speed and scope at which this story is developing is unprecedented, and the impacts to business, which seemed minimal a month ago, are now inevitable and significant.
In the span of less than a week, we have watched students pack their belongings for home, businesses nationwide move employees offsite for remote work, consumers stockpile “pandemic pantries,” and the narrative continues to escalate rapidly.
Because of these unusual events, it is important that our organizations are equipped with the tools and strategies for managing and implementing successful remote work environments that help ensure business continuity.
We’re sharing four tips to stay productive while working remotely, as derived from our experience leading remote teams. Credera’s stance is that we work best together, but we find that “together” can come in different forms and when done right, remote teamwork can prove very effective. We hope you find value in these suggestions as we all navigate the current uncharted waters.
Tip 1: Overcommunicate
In times of crisis, your employees need to feel included on how this uninvited change is going to affect them and their business as usual. Your teams will feel more comfortable with these changes if you communicate, and overcommunicate.
Describe how your employees will work from home, how they can adjust reoccurring meetings, how frequently they will need to be in communication, what tools will be used for communications, collaboration, ideation and brainstorming, issue escalation, and reporting.
Tip 2: Equip Your Teams
We all know the struggles that can come with audio conferencing, dealing with an unpleasant echo, and being randomly disconnected from calls. This alone can be a deterrent to working remotely, given the impact on productivity.
Hanna Chun, Senior Consultant at Credera, shares in her blog, “If a tool isn’t working for you, try something else. WebX, Slack, Teams, Uber Conference, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are all great solutions for remote meetings, and most have free options. For some, video conferencing can be awkward, but if your team is comfortable with it, it can be a great way to keep people connected. Video is also great for one-on-ones because it is low pressure and personal.”
Plan to dial into meetings 5 minutes early to ensure that you’re able to get connected successfully, at least while getting the hang of a new tool or setting. To prepare for an important customer or client meeting, set up pre-calls beforehand, and then make sure you debrief afterward. This interaction usually happens informally when meeting in person, but requires more intentionality when working remotely.
Consider creating a training program for your employees to learn how to work remotely and remain effective. Include things like how to create a workspace at home, how to reduce distractions, how to develop a routine, how to best utilize the company’s communications and collaboration technology, and how to stay connected (virtual coffee, anyone?).
Tip 3: Share Practical Advice for Working Remotely
A helpful practice is to coach your teams on how to maximize their time from home. Here are a few suggestions that we’ve shared with our teams:
Keep your mental health in check. For some, working from home can mean longer hours because work is more easily accessible. Set boundaries for yourself based on the expectations of your workplace as well as your own concept of work/life balance.
Close your computer when you are done for the day. Adhering to this policy every day creates the impression of “coming home” from work or finishing a workday, rather than letting it bleed into your home life. Another way to separate work and life is to continue to behave as you would when going into the office. Getting dressed and maintaining your routine helps keep this balance.
If possible, set ground rules with those you live with to protect your “work” time and space. This is especially true for those of you with kids at home who may have an extended spring break or child-care canceled.
After you share advice, follow up to ask what practices they’ve adopted or what’s working or not working for them. This helps with accountability and group learning.
Tip 4: Make It Fun
As much as you can, try to keep morale up. In times of a global health emergency, like COVID-19, things can feel scary and disruptive, so as much as is appropriate, bring positivity and fun to your teams.
At Credera, we’re sharing photos of our leaders working from home and their tips for making the most of the time. We have a Teams channel called #CrederaWorksFromHome where employees share photos of (sometimes make-shift) home offices. Some teams are setting up video lunch dates, just to catch up and have social interaction. Try kicking off your day with a short video chat and share a high and a low from the day before.
Bringing a bit of fun to your remote work is extremely valuable for your team’s connectedness and surprisingly for your productivity, too. And remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Just as with everything, we get better with practice. Try something, and if it doesn’t work as well as intended, try something else. The most important thing is to keep at it and continually practice remote team collaboration.
Because of these unprecedented events, it is important that our businesses are equipped with the tools and strategies to implement and maintain a remote work approach that ensures business continuity. Not being able to work together can be extremely disruptive, but productivity does not have to decrease if you have the right tools and communication plan in place. We hope these tips will help your teams stay productive (and happy) while working remotely!
Find the rest of our COVID-19 insights here: