Working remotely doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Moreover, it is super important that your employees feel comfortable, safe, and calm during this time. We KNOW home offices: laptops, journals, notebooks, ear buds, desk organizers and many hip drinking vessels at arms’ length -it’s our jam! Along the way, we have learned about various work spaces and environments. We want to share our favorite tips and tools! We hope this is helpful as you transition to your own home office. We want to inspire you with ideas that are effective, relevant and we encourage you to share them with your firm.
Good News: working remotely is not a new concept. Though, for some firms, it may feel alien and foreign.
Having worked 15 of my 20 years in non-traditional working environments, from co-working spaces, to working out of my home office, I have seen the positive as well as the negative.
I am sharing with you the same experience that I share with my own team members when they join me. Our entire team works remotely. You have to be intentional in preventing disruption or distraction. Having a dedicated work space or area with this in mind definitely helps. Most of the firms we partner with have global offices and are used to collaboration tools such as screen sharing, files in the cloud and online meeting technology. When travelling, some even have VPNs (virtual private networks) so that their workflow is seamless.
Following are some of the tools that our team uses which allows us to thrive and make our workday easier:
Obviously, technology is the foremost important aspect. A laptop or computer is essential. For collaboration, we utilize Microsoft Teams for internal meetings. Other collaboration platforms that we have used in the past are Google Hangouts and Join.me. For external meetings, I use Zoom. Each has different functions and capabilities. Basically, these collaboration tools help with virtual conference meetings, and screen sharing.
For daily project management & flow, we use Monday.com and have used Trello in the past. Both platforms streamline project management so that you can assign duties and it also helps to keep everyone on track. For larger projects, we have used Slack because it helps organize conversations and share files -it’s a fantastic instant messaging platform and can organize by topics. Yammer is another good way to communicate and is similar to Slack.
We recently learned about Sococo and have not used it yet. I was told it was built for remote teams.
Hopefully, you already have a CRM that organizes client contact information and tracks communications. Scheduling meetings with clients can be done with a platform called Calendly.
Other tools that we use on a daily basis are: Google Docs and Dropbox. Both are ways to share files easily.
Beyond the tools…
Getting the dynamics in your environment right is a challenge. Obviously, working at home is different than working remotely on the road, at a coffee shop, in a hotel, etc.
Early on, one of the initial challenges for me was the distractions of daily life that took place in my home. For example, my wife is also at home and we had to learn to schedule personal “home” things, like changing a light bulb, for a time that didn’t pull me away from my work. The win came when we discovered that boundaries had to be set in order for me to complete my workday. I schedule set “breaks” throughout the day so that if she needs me for something, then I am available for her too.
Turning it off… this is personally my biggest challenge. I know many of my clients and networks have similar issues. Because of easy accessibility from the internet, VPNs, cell phones, “end-of-work day” can get hazy. Expectations of always being available to clients and partners can easily get in the way of “down time” or personal time. It never surprises me when I receive midnight emails from clients … I see that they are like me -having a difficult time turning it off. Making and keeping a schedule keeps my family or my clients a priority, but at the right time.
Scheduling breaks… this is important as well. It can refresh the brain, get oxygen flowing, get the blood pumping to re-energize for the next task. A great idea is to use your commute time as a break time. Use that time to take a walk, work out, exercise, or like me, to sit on the porch and catch up with my wife.
Inclusion… some employees may feel left out. We use Microsoft teams to do daily calls. I do individual calls to check-in. We do not just talk work. I take a little time to talk about non-work related things. My team loves and communicates through GIFs and many times they will use group chat to discuss fun topics or what is going on in their lives. That connection provides that sense of inclusion and it is a positive and reassuring moment for me because I see them interacting in a fun and light way!
Have a buddy… treat this like an on-boarding experience. Because working remotely is secluded and a new experience for many, having a mentor can provide support, guidance and answers to questions. This will further strengthen the collaboration and team involvement.
Do Not Assume Anything… do not assume people like working at home, they are being efficient or have what they need to succeed. Ask questions and make sure their voice is heard. Start off in “beta mode” – test applications, ideas, and expectations with everyone to see what works and what area need improvement. Having a “beta” period allows for adjustments for further efficiency, meet needs and achieve goals. Have a way to gain feedback so processes and procedures can be improved. Finally, having documentation for these “beta” conversations, revisits the test and questions, makes clear what transpired and reinforces the new ideas which further allows progress and efficiency. The “exit” document will also allow for schedules and timelines to be made visible and formalized. As referenced earlier, Monday.com, Trello or other project management tools can organize these ideas and processes and even assign the responsibility to a team member.
Assumptions, in my opinion, are how most issues arise. Having concrete documentation definitely helps!
Tone… we have all dealt with this. We especially see this in emails or IM environments. Communication is happening quickly. Intention is one thing; tone is another. Keeping intention strong will eliminate negative tone. I firmly believe that work communications are hardly ever personal and that colleagues truly do want to support one another. If communications are unclear, clarification is encouraged. Understanding is key. Stopping to assess the correspondence can help. Ask simple questions: maybe I am not reading the correspondence correctly? Perhaps we are not aligned in the ideas or concepts? Maybe I missed something? Did I misunderstand? I thought we settled on this? Replying with these in mind keeps the conversation moving forward – keeps the dialogue open. Continuing to negotiate will then get both parties on the same page. We all know what “assuming” means. . . . . and we don’t want that!
In support of you! Our team put together their quick 10 tips for working from home.