We are living in unprecedented times, in the midst of a global health crisis. It’s clear that one of the obvious solutions will be that more and more employees across the planet will be asked to work from home. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has already been recommending that, if you are sick, stay home.
In that vein, here are some suggestions for those that have never worked from home…
- Find the right technology that works for you and your team to stay connected. There are lots of options – Skype, Teams, Zoom, Facetime, Slack.
- Use video whenever possible. It’s easy to turn it off, but video will help keep you all connected.
- Get a good headset, microphone, camera, internet connection - for everyone. Poor technology can unfairly marginalize you in a conversation and stifle your voice.
- Create a backchannel chat. There is the “on stage” of the meeting, but make sure you have set up side channels to chat with people off stage, just as you would whisper or pass a note in a real-time meeting. If a group is together and some are remote, make sure everyone that is remote has a private backchannel to someone in the room to break into the conversation.
- Consider an always-on video or chat channel. In the workplace, a lot happens when people bump into one another in the hallway – ad hoc conversations. Consider creating an ‘always on” video – or a chat channel to help create these ad hoc interactions.
- Schedule more frequent get-togethers to account for lack of human interactions. When people move to online, something like having lunch together will move from stopping by a neighbor’s desk to something that doesn’t happen. Make time to add a schedule invite to formally take lunchtime together.
- Include everyone – or leave a footprint. IRL (in real life) we tend to have a conversation with 2-3 people – and then follow up. Online, we might take a shortcut and just ask one person – and miss the perspective and benefit of including the second person. Be deliberate about making sure everyone, including seemingly marginal players, are in the online conversation – the same as they would be in the room in person – even if they are not saying anything at the time.
- Join the meeting five minutes ahead to make sure the tech is working.
- Record the meetings. While this can obviously help those who couldn’t attend, it also allows people to see how they show up. It’s important for managers to review. Did someone have garbled audio making their viewpoint was not as valuable?
- If the group is together, make sure someone is responsible to pay attention and give the floor to those joining remotely. If you are the one person who is remote, find a friend who is in the room.
We have unprecedented new challenges. If COVID-19 becomes more widespread, it may be likely that more people will be working remotely and in isolation. Remote work has some benefits – flexibility, commute traffic avoidance, etc – and health benefits in this case – but can offer challenges as well. Building a competency around remote work will help every company as it broadens the population for recruiting and grows the talent pool, and while there are challenges, these can be overcome.