Finding yourself rapidly transitioning to a remote work arrangement? Been doing it for a while but want to improve your impact? You can be successful working remotely — and these days many of us have to.
I’ve been working remotely for 17 years. I pioneered the virtual work arrangement (with much trial and error) at a multinational corporation where I formerly worked, and I created a company that offered flexible work arrangements for women around the globe.
At this very moment, remote work is not just a benefit; it’s a key tool in many companies’ business continuity plans. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing a multitude of workers to face the challenge of working from home. So how can you work productively and successfully from home? How can you continue to be heard and hear others? What tools do you need?
Here are my top 10 tips for successful rapid (sometimes emergency) remote work.
Four Critical Steps For Leaders
1. Create A Strategic Plan
While emergency remote work policies may be announced in two-week intervals, plan for longer stints, or else you may find yourself cobbling together the remote work plan and never putting in place the processes and tools to equip your teams with what they need to maintain productivity.
2. Create Virtual Leadership Principles And Communication Norms
Quickly debate and then communicate your expectations for how your teams should be working with one another across distances. This includes areas like:
• Responsiveness expectations: Ensure that your people know whether they need to make themselves available on instant messenger or Slack during work hours to respond to quick questions that replace a hallway chat.
• Stance on the use of video conferencing: Video is an incredible tool for building context and staying connected across distances. Ideally, everyone should have access to videoconferencing software and know how to use it.
• Point of view on juggling work and life: Communicate expectations and flexibility for how employees can handle internal and external meetings and hit deadlines if they have kids at home with them during this dynamic time of school closings, or if they’re caring for those in need. Maybe you could avoid scheduling meetings during homeschool peak hours or adjust deliverables.
3. Make A Deliberate Connection Plan
Remote workers are at a higher risk of feeling isolated, and the COVID-19 outbreak can also create added anxiety. Find ways to check in on each other, like matching people for virtual coffee chats. Use “activity creativity” to introduce some fun as well. One of our client teams recently threw a virtual dance party; within our group, we set up a video call to eat lunch together.
4. Galvanize Internal Remote Work Pioneers
Most companies have them — they are usually a small group that is often somewhere in the shadows, but they are the ones who are prepared for this. You can now call on them to lead and teach others how to maintain their productivity while working remotely.
Six Tips For New Remote Workers
1. Get Comfortable With Technology
Tech tools can be a lifeline for communication and collaboration. Use video conferencing software like Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams. Collaborate on documents through Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. Find a colleague to teach you what you might not know.
Keep everyone on the same page (literally) by documenting all discussions, next steps and deliverables. Ensure that everyone is aligned. To stay in continuous communication while working, try Slack or Jabber or just a group chat.
3. Create Rituals
Set a schedule and create a to-do list, and stick to them each day. Carve out a regular work zone in the quietest and most professional-looking spot you can find in your home.
4. Always Be Learning
Working on teams that are spread across office sites or at home requires a different skill set than working in an office setting with a co-located team. Consider organizing a lunch-and-learn session where you discuss remote work success tips or getting remote work-certified through Workplaceless online courses. Go deep on learning key skills like leading virtual meetings or influencing across distances with programs from Virtual Work Insider. (Full disclosure: The founder, Sacha Connor, is a friend and former client.) Take an online class on writing effective recommendations. Keep building your portfolio of skills.
5. Be Cautious
Work on a secure network to ensure you aren’t violating any confidentiality or unnecessarily exposing your work to others. Make sure that your IT group is expanding VPN bandwidth to handle more remote access.
6. Stay Active
It’s easy to fall into a sitting, typing and eating routine. Instead, if you’re able, get up at least every 90 minutes and move. Try taking half of your meetings standing up. Chase your kids around in a quick game of tag. Staying physically active keeps your brain active too.
There are a lot of intuitive actions that can make remote work easier, but there are some less intuitive steps too: Take things in bite-size quantities, remember to leverage tech tools, organize your days as if you were heading into an office (with allowances for child care, if needed) and keep your mind and body active. Don’t forget to be patient with yourself and partners as everyone adjusts to a new normal.