Teams across all industries are working from home, many that never have before. While this may be uncharted territory for your team, working remotely can be highly effective if done right. You can trim off commute time, increase employee satisfaction, and allow for your team to create the environment that caters best to their individual working style. In fact, remote work was increasing significantly before the COVID-19 outbreak- the number of people telecommuting in the U.S. rose 159% between 2005 and 2017.
But we aren’t discrediting the learning curve for inexperienced remote workers and how this might impact productivity. At 10 Pound Gorilla, we have employees across all United States time zones. What is a unique challenge for many teams right now, we have been executing successfully for years. Here are some tips for keeping your organization a well-oiled machine, even during a national crisis.
If you don’t have a remote communication platform like Skype or Slack, get one ASAP. Don’t rely on phone calls and emails to communicate with your coworkers. Having everyone on an online platform where you can see if they are active, away from keyboard or on do not disturb can help to ensure you have the ability and timing to reach out quickly. These platforms allow you to get questions answered and will make communication more effective than dashing into their office. Invest in a time tracking tool that managers can use to view employee activity and progress. This way, you can feel confident work is getting done without badgering your employees. Additionally, make sure your remote team has all the tech they need to work from home. Laptops with operating cameras and computer mic, an extra monitor if that will make tasks go faster. These are tough financial times for some sectors but investing a little money in your remote technology will carry your team a long way.
When you can’t just walk up to someone’s desk to address issues or discuss projects, taking your communication up a notch is key. This goes beyond your team communication. Regular and clear communication is critical with customers as well. Set up weekly or regular stand up meetings with clients to ensure communication stays on track. Words can be misinterpreted so it is crucial to have phone/facetime interaction to maintain a positive relationship. We like to reiterate that communication is key to any relationship, from a significant other to an employee-boss relationship. If issues aren’t expressed in a way that you can get ahead of them, problems arise. And it can seem easier to sweep things under the rug when your team is spread out. Staying in near-constant contact will also curb loneliness and isolation for those who live solo and are used to “water cooler talk.”
It’s easy to round the team up and usher them into the conference room for a meeting. But even if you don’t have donuts to bribe your team to sit around a table, team meetings are even more important when your team isn’t communicating face-to-face. Keep the meetings structured but also leave time to ask your employees to voice any concerns they have. It’s easier to feel like you’re “bugging” people when you can’t actually see what they’re doing, especially management. This may prevent employees from speaking up about issues that need to be addressed. Scheduling regular team meetings on your communication platform of choice will give them a more formal way to express themselves.
Establish deadlines to help your team budget their time. Procrastination is easier from home. There’s laundry to be done, naps to be taken, or the urge to catch up on the latest Netflix show. We aren’t saying your employees aren’t hard workers, but if they are not used to working from home, the tendency to get sidetracked without even being aware of it is common. Creating clear deadlines will produce more of a sense of urgency and separation from your team’s “after work” to-do list. Define the scope, deadlines, and deliverables of your projects and have regular 15-minute check-ins to ensure progress is being made. Or, consider scheduling weekly calls with those delivering on deadlines so you don’t look back in a couple of weeks and wonder what everyone was working on.
It’s hard to draw boundaries when your home and workspace are one and the same. You’d be surprised how effortless it can be to complete a 12-hour workday when you can roll out of bed, fire up your computer, work all day, and roll back into bed. Buffer’s “State of Remote” report showed that remote workers’ biggest hurdle was being able to unplug after work. While getting longer work hours out of your team may sound like a plus, it can quickly create job burnout. Breaks are still important when working from home. Don’t expect your employees to answer emails at 7 PM, even if you know they can. And don’t assume they are working through lunch. Trusting your employees and giving them adequate space will keep them more mentally healthy.
Understand that these are crazy times for everyone. Ensure your team is being productive and responsive but anticipate an adjustment period. Many haven’t worked remotely before and need to establish a routine. In addition, the kiddos are home from school and many parents are trying to play the role of teacher in addition to their day jobs. Be understanding and open to your team as they adjust and keep morale high. We like to use our “gif” function in our team chats, everyone could use a smile right now!
Remote work may be foreign, but we are confident your team can be as efficient, if not more, with the right tools and processes in place. If your team needs help establishing a productive remote workflow, 10 Pound Gorilla is glad to consult with your company on remote work best practices during this unprecedented time.