Remote work has soared over the last 2 months as most businesses have transitioned their teams to at-home work for health reasons related to COVID-19. For many businesses, this is their first experience having a full-team working remotely full-time. Prior to COVID, just over 20% of our team worked the majority of their hours remotely, but now all 19 of us are working remotely.
Our particular industry (marketing) is well-suited for working from home – we can continue to build websites, design collateral, manage digital campaigns, and serve our clients needs. We quickly adapted with the help of our IT team and senior leadership. Though our work has seamlessly continued, we’ve been learning how to maintain our culture remotely. We thought we’d share a few lessons we’ve learned so far.
#1: Provide the needed resources
Working from home will be a big transition for your team; ensure they have the resources they need to work efficiently and effectively. Those resources include advice, technology, and contact information:
- Advice: offer guidance and tips for working remotely; for many, it’s their first time. A few of those include keeping a normal schedule, getting dressed for the day, and creating a dedicated “office” in hour home. There are lots of tips and articles out there on this topic.
- Technology: make sure your team has the essentials: home PC connected to your office network, remote login, team chat software, and web logins (we use LastPass) are just a few.
- Contact info: this seems so simple, but make sure everyone knows how to get in touch with other team members – cell numbers and even home addresses may be helpful to have.
#2: Maintain your meeting schedule
Working remotely doesn’t have to affect your meeting schedule. With a little adaptation and a heavier focus on video conferencing tools, you can maintain your schedule. Client meetings can happen via video call and shared screens. Employee meetings, even reviews, can operate on schedule.
#3: Adjust your communication rhythm
Working remotely introduces new environments and different distractions, both of which affect meeting rhythms. You may find that the hour-long, in-person meeting that was engaging at the office doesn’t work remotely. Try breaking long meetings into multiple 15 minute meetings.
#4: Communicate honestly
Business and life is different right now and for many there is a lot of uncertainty. During uncertainty, you should communicate often and honestly. Go ahead and remove the pressure from yourself to only speak when you have all the answers – no one has all the answers right now. Your team will feel safer and more respected when you communicate honesty – don’t hide the truth. If you have difficult news to share, be up front about it. One writer says we should avoid a “crap sandwich,” meaning don’t burry the bad news in between 2 pieces of good news – just come out with it.
#5: Get face-to-face time
I can only imagine the reunions that will take place when the health concerns lift! I suspect even the biggest introverts are missing interaction. While working remotely, it’s crucial to get face-to-face time with your team. While a lot can be communicated via text, phone calls, and emails, there’s just something about seeing each other in person when communicating. Don’t lose that interaction!
#6: Have fun
Let’s be honest – all work and no play kind of sucks. Any good office culture finds ways to engage each other beyond the projects they are working on. Good company cultures do life together, and when we are separated that’s harder to do. You lose the 10 minute water cooler talk, the walk to the coffee shop, and the team meals. Get creative!
- Our team has setup weekly full-team zoom meetings and the only agenda is to be together – we play games, like charades and scavenger hunts, we catch up on life, and watch funny videos.
- We recently had a virtual 5K and shared photos, routes, and times.
- We have a full-team text where work is NOT discussed!
#7: Bring in the experts
In today’s new world, there are tons of virtual resources. Many large conferences have converted their programming to virtual, removing the cost of travel, accommodations, and food – it’s more cost efficient than ever to gain real insights into your industry. You can also get creative and invite a local expert into your team zoom meetings for a virtual lunch and learn. In many ways, our access to people is expanding, so use this opportunity to the benefit of your team.
#8: Prevent out-of-sight, out-of-mind
As we have less face-to-face time and physical access, it’s easy to lock into your personal routine and work environment. This makes it easy to assume that if a team member doesn’t reach out to you, everything must be ok, right? Not necessarily. Don’t assume that everyone is cruising along with zero concerns or needs; previously they could simply bump into you or walk into your office, but that interaction is gone. Don’t neglect the one-on-one interactions – you can send texts, chats, have a quick zoom call, or mail a letter. There are plenty of ways to engage your team on a personal level.
#9: Respect people’s time
When you work from home, it can be challenging to turn work “off.” The separation of work and home is very valuable and needs to be protected. One way is to respect your team’s time. Just because we are all at home working, it doesn’t mean you’re suddenly available to work at all times of day, even if it’s a quick 15 minute request. There will be rushed projects that require after-hours attention, but overall, respect your team’s time.
One Big Experiment
I believe one result of the largest work-from-home experiment of all time will be an increased connection between team members. The barriers between leadership and departments are being pulled down and our similarities in situation are uniting us – we are all home with our kids, working from a makeshift room in our home, and learning how to communicate differently. Some of the formality is being stripped away as we see each other’s home on video chat. Our communication is becoming more honest and consistent.
When we work hard, there’s always good to be found in difficult situations; one good that we hope to see as the business community exits this pandemic is a renewed focus on their team.