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  • Writer's pictureMike Bensi

Making Remote Work

Within the last week, many of us in the US have had to think differently about how we get work done. Where we work. How we meet. How we manage that work with children and loved ones at home.

Perhaps you've moved to remote working - or considering the move. While remote working has become more common, for the majority of workplaces, a move to remote working may be new and unfamiliar.

Despite the situation we find ourselves in, there are great reasons to work remote. Employees feel more productive. They spend less time commuting. They’re closer to their families.

For all these benefits, working remotely also comes with challenges. In a study done by Buffer, remote workers reported key disadvantages including lack of communication, feelings of loneliness, and the inability to unplug.

Distance impacts how we collaborate and create as a team. As a person leading other people remotely, you can help your team maintain collaborative connection by:

Set norms and expectations. I had a client say "The game may still be the same, but there are new rules" as she talked about her company's transition to remote work. When teams physically see each other each day, they come to understand the way things get things done. Those ways of working also create predictability in how we work. Re-establish those norms by answering the following questions as a team:

  • What are our working hours as a team? For those who have children at home, schedules may look different than they did back at the office.

  • How long will it take to respond? With the various communication channels available, what resources will we use when we need an immediate answer?

  • How will we notify each other when will be unavailable? Can we use our calendar to show our lack of availability or do we need to notify each other?

  • What do we need to accomplish? And by when? How will we measure progress or address roadblocks? This norm may also help you as a leader get comfortable with others being productive when you can't physically see them.

Keep it personal. Communication drops dramatically when teams aren't physically closely - some studies say nearly four times as much. To keep communication happening - and personal - consider:

  • Utilizing video as your primary way of communicating. When deciding how to share information, a good rule of thumb is to use video every time you need to discuss, solve, or share feedback on an issue or problem. Every. Time.

  • Use chat and other online tools when you need to share information, status updates, etc.

  • Use the first five minutes of team meetings to talk about personal or professional wins.

  • Mail thank you cards to your employee or the employee's family members. As long as the mail still works, this time-tested gesture can go a long way.

Create a routine. Without the pressure to get out the door to avoid traffic or put children on the bus, our normal routine will be off. As well, many people who work from home can feel it is hard to separate their work from their home lives. Create new habits to get into a new routine and manage distractions at home such as:

  • Clocking in and out. Your commute won't allow you to disconnect from home and/or work. Create a habit that signifies how you will begin or end your day.

  • Designate a work area. Your bedroom should not be your office. Create a special work area within a different room or part of your living space to get work done.

  • Take breaks. Take frequent breaks throughout the day. Go for a walk when you can and or stretch to keep your body moving.

  • Make healthy choices. Don't go after the kids' Cheetos. Drink plenty of water and healthy foods throughout the day

  • Set office hours. Create office hours for yourself and for others to know when you're available to talk through an issue or question.

  • Publicize your calendar. Utilize your calendar to show when you'll be offline or doing deep work. Or even helping kids with homework.

Communicate on a cadence. With the decrease in the amount of communication opportunities, you have a chance to create a cadence that you and others can rely on to connect with each other regularly. Over-communicating during this time isn't only helpful but necessary to ensure collaboration continues.

  • Schedule a brief daily "standup" every day with your team via video. This brief time (typically 15-30 minutes) can not only get t to clarify daily goals/priorities and ensure that everyone connects together daily.

  • Meet at least weekly 1:1 with each of your team members.

  • Meet weekly as a team to discuss higher level issues and priorities.

  • Send out a weekly update emails to all of your team.

  • Hold weekly FAQ video sessions with team members to discuss questions, concerns, and additional changes that may take place with working remote.

  • Establish easy to view and access agendas, to-do lists, and scorecards.

Remember the big picture. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't been impacted by the dynamics we're currently living in. And with the rate that things have changed - sometimes within the same hour - we know things will only continue to evolve. Remember to talk with your team members about:

  • Backup plans. Have a plan for when company or home technology isn't reliable or breaks.

  • Flexibility. Child care, health, and home life are top of mind for us all. As you can allow, ensure you're being flexible with what people may be managing at home.

  • Loneliness. Schedule a personal daily check-in via video whenever possible between you and each of your team members.

The ways teams communicate and create together will have to continue to evolve in the coming weeks. And while creating distance between teams brings a new set of challenges, having the right mindset can help you and your team stay productive.

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