How are you doing in our remote work, social distancing, quarantined world?
I know it’s been a great exercise in adaptability for the workforce and students across the world in our coronavirus era. Lindsey Pollak, a speaker and author of “The Remix,” together with her assistant, Eileen, who have succeeded in a remote work environment for more than five years, recently shared tips on making the most of our new work environment in a piece for Inc. magazine.
- This is default advice on communication in general – especially in multigenerational teams – but it’s even more important when you are working remotely.
- Know your employer’s remote work policies. Your HR department probably has a handbook or guidelines on working during a crisis, including remote work policies, procedures, and expectations. Now would be a really good time to read this
- Managers, tell your team how they can reach you. If you manage people, be clear with them about any new or different communication and productivity expectations you have now that your team is working remotely. Should they call, email, text, Zoom, IM, Skype, Slack, WebEx, WeChat? Don’t assume they know.
- Tell your team when they can reach you. Do you want people to check in with you first thing in the morning? Send a daily or weekly update on what they’ve been working on? The more guidance and boundaries you provide, the fewer misunderstandings will occur and the more smoothly work can stay on track
- Make sure to clarify expectations for your team. Connect with key colleagues around communication, work priorities, and success metrics. Will everyone be expected to work the same hours? Will all of the same projects and plans be moving forward? Don’t let people make assumptions about anything that’s unclear — answer those questions.
- Note your project progress. Remote workers need to be especially proactive and alert colleagues to progress on longer-term goals. For instance, you might send a daily email with a list of projects that have advanced that day.
- Resolve issues quickly with a phone call. Zoom call, email, text, IM, Slack, and other written methods of communication are prone to misunderstandings. When you sense this is happening, be quick to pick up the phone to resolve issues.
- Promptly return emails, calls, and voicemails. Keep in mind that people tend to be more aware of time when working remotely. Fair or not, a colleague might find a four-hour response time to an email much too delayed when he or she is picturing you sitting at your desk at home all day.
- Keep up more casual communication habits. If you normally catch up with colleagues in person before a big meeting, do the same before dialing in to a group conference call when everyone is remote.
- Create your video studio. Videoconferences are commonplace for remote workers. Make sure to have a professional or plain background behind you and dress and groom professionally (at least the parts of you that others will see onscreen). Check that you have adequate lighting and a decent microphone (most earbuds work just fine).
- Create a system for sharing documents. If you don’t already, now would be a good time to consider Google Docs, Box, or Dropbox to share files. Don’t scatter team files across email, Google Docs, and your personal hard drive. Consolidate.
- Cut yourself some slack. Working from home can be a big transition. You might feel any combination of lonely, isolated, stressed, frustrated, anxious, unmotivated or – on the other hand – relieved, relaxed, energized, or productive. It’s all OK and normal. Any transition takes time to get used to, so try to be easy on yourself.
- Take scheduled breaks. Try setting an alarm to get up and stretch every hour or so. (Standing desks, which at home may mean perching your laptop on top of a bookshelf, also pay large dividends for overall health.) Walk around your home while chatting on the phone with a friend. Move to a separate area – away from your screens – to eat lunch for 30 minutes. Breaking up the day and moving your body enables you to refresh and can increase your productivity when you return to your work. When the weather is nice, I like to do conference calls while taking a walk outside.
- Protect your time. The concern many managers have about their employees working from home is that remote workers are really just doing laundry and bingeing Netflix. Set “in office” hours and communicate them with both colleagues and family.
- Protect your workspace. Talk to family members or roommates about the hours you are working from home and the ground rules during those hours. Assume that anything that can interrupt you will interrupt you – like a UPS delivery during a critical negotiation call or a dog barking in the background of a client video chat. Be as proactive as you can about avoiding these kinds of incidents.
- Turn on a white noise machine or app. This really helps to reduce noise distractions around your work area.
- Pay attention to ergonomics. Use the most comfortable chair you can with back support. Also consider investing in a hands-free headset. At the very least, pop in your earbuds for long phone calls. I learned the hard way that sitting in a wooden chair balancing a landline phone between my chin and shoulder was not a sustainable situation.
Remember to keep up exercise routines, wellness and nutrition as you continue to adapt to this new reality, while maintaining social distancing.