Well, one interesting thing that the COVID-19 virus is causing is that a lot of companies are encouraging people to work from home en masse. While many of us have worked remotely, the sudden surge of it as a focal point has led to a lot of advice circulating about how to do it well.
Here are my nuggets that I’ve found helpful along the way:
- Test all your audio/video before your meeting
- Join meeting 5 minutes early to iron out kinks
- Have a backup tool for video conferencing
- Use tools like google docs for collaborative scratch pads
- Take frequent breaks throughout the day
- Create a physical routine to leave work mode
- Discuss with your team their communication tools
- If some are still in the office, but some aren’t, treat everyone as though they aren’t
I want to add a little more detail to the last four points.
When it comes to taking breaks, it sounds obvious, but in a typical office there are lots of small breaks in a day. Someone talks to you or you have to walk to a meeting. When your home these things don’t happen, so you wind up sitting in a spot much longer. This leads to fatigue. So, set a timer for somewhere between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours, and when it goes off get up and move around for 10 minutes. Do some housework even. You need to take breaks.
Next, it can be hard to leave work behind when it is in the same room and home with you. I remember when I first worked remotely that when I’d have a bad day at work, I also had a bad day at home. I use physical routines to help me leave work behind so I can enjoy being home. If you have a separate room you can use, then you can use the physical space of that room to leave your “Office.” You can also close your laptop and put it away. When you take it out again, you can be in home mode.
It’s also worth having a conversation with your team about the tools you have and how you’ll use them. Many companies have an inadequate toolset, and so you’ll need to augment it. Talk about when you use group chats versus email. Talk about how you’ll get ahold of someone when those two don’t work. Make sure you all can stay connected.
The last point is a little trickier, but when some people are in the office, and some are home there is a huge gap in information. The people who are at home are almost always forgotten when conversations happen, and almost never are they informed afterward. So instead adopt a policy that treats everyone as though they are home. You can’t go have a chat at a whiteboard if you’re remote, so even if you’re in the same office, get on a call. This enables everyone on the team to participate in the same way and communicate the same way.
Anyway, I hope the next few weeks you and yours are safe!