6 ways businesses new to remote working can adapt quickly and keep productivity high
With the growing threat from COVID-19 coronavirus, we’re seeing more and more teams move to remote operations. This will inevitably cause disruptions in workflow, and may make people feel isolated from team members.
But, it doesn’t have to be unmanageable. I’ve got six tips and tricks for you that you can immediately apply as you shift to a dispersed team dynamic. When you implement these strategies, you’ll collaborate more effectively, feel more connected to your colleagues, and, most critically, keep the momentum going in your business when working remotely.
1. Separate office communication from email with tools like Slack
When we’re in an office, organic interactions between colleagues happen constantly. If you have a question, you’ll walk into your boss’ office or approach your colleague’s cubicle. When you need a five-minute break, you might hang out in the breakroom over a snack.
While there’s no true replacement for these in-person interactions in a virtual environment, you can create a digital office space. This should be a platform reserved only for internal team communication, not external or client-facing communication. I highly recommend Slack and project-management platforms like Monday.com or Trello.
The goal here is to divert internal communication away from that pesky email inbox. That way, colleagues don’t have to wait 24 to 48 hours to get an email response from you for a quick question. You can prioritize team communication and feel more connected.
2. Use video collaboration tools
When you’re working in a team environment that’s remote, video communication is a perfect way to maintain connections with colleagues.
Karin Reed, founder of Speaker Dynamics, is an expert in on-camera communication. According to Reed, “Text and teleconference simply cannot compete with video when it comes to creating team cohesion.”
“There might be some initial reluctance among team members,” Reed added. “Know that the vast majority of people do not like how they look or sound on video. But the only way to get past that hump is to rip off the bandaid (or the duct tape you may have over your webcam) and start getting comfortable with seeing yourself in this environment.”
Whenever you have video enabled, you’ll find that your meetings are more productive and also feel more personal — and who doesn’t want that?
3. Be inclusive of all team members, especially new ones
All too often, more junior or newer members of a team can feel left out in virtual settings. These individuals are less likely to have access to key resources and information, and run the risk of trailing behind when they’re not thought of as the go-to person to call with a problem or question.
To combat this tendency, make a master list of all of your team members (and put their photos next to their names) and keep it in front of you while you’re working each day. This will help you make more conscious decisions about allocating information and tasks. You can ask yourself, “Did I reach out to Susan today?” Make sure to have touch points with everyone on your team regularly.
4. Take a virtual tour of your home office
Helping people to visualize where you are working will help your remote colleagues to better understand the potential challenges or distractions that might exist.
If you’ve been forced to work remotely, you may not have the ideal environment for it. (Dogs that bark, roommates that also work from home, construction close by, etc.) But sharing those challenges with your teammates can help create empathy and build a deeper connection between colleagues. So don’t be shy: Give your team a tour of your workspace! The next time your dog barks incessantly when the school bus drives by, you’re sure to get laughs and understanding from your colleagues, rather than annoyance.
5. Create a personal ‘how to work from home’ manual
Everyone has vastly different preferences when working remotely, and it’s important to take these preferences into account when migrating to remote work.
In order to do this effectively, encourage each person to create a manual (not unlike a dishwasher instructional manual) for remote working preferences. This includes preferred communication styles, ideal working hours, boundaries, and personal time to be respected.
6. Keep on-camera meetings short
Video-enabled meetings are typically very focused: It’s impossible to multitask when everyone can see what you’re doing. While this is great for productivity, it can also be exhausting.
Video meetings should be kept to a maximum of one hour. Make sure you’re giving everyone time to take breaks, turn off their video and audio, stretch their legs, or grab something to eat and drink.
And Reed has one last tip on that note: “Never eat on camera. No one can pull that off professionally!”