Tips to improve your “remote work” productivity and that of your team

In the current environment of pandemic crisis (not to mention a 5.7 earthquake here in Salt Lake on Wednesday!), I was asked to put together some tips on both remote work and remote management.  I’ve both worked remotely and managed remote teams and virtual companies for years!  So here’s some things that I’ve seen work.

Tips to improve effectiveness while working remotely:
  1. Focus on maintaining contact with colleagues and industry peers.  Email, LinkedIn messaging, phone calls, pMake sure you are an entrepreneur who can actually do work.hysical notes.  Being remote or virtual shouldn’t mean being invisible.  Even 15 – 20 minutes a day makes a difference and keeps you connected with company and industry trends.
  2. If your manager hasn’t scheduled “standup” coordination meetings each day, then create your own “peer” meetings with the co-workers who need each other – 15 minutes, phone or video, focus on needed actions, issues or logjams.
  3. If your company doesn’t already have good shared or team workspace tools, cobble together your own and share them with your peers and co-workers. If your company has good tools, get better at using them and checking them frequently and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Special tips for parents working remotely while (younger) kids are at home:
  1. If it’s possible because the nature of the work is flexible, convince your manager to let you implement a “team time” strategy – a window of time where everyone is available during the middle of the day (example 10-3), but otherwise people can flex and work “early” or work “late” to get everything done.  It’s amazing how much can get done during nap time or after the kids are in bed.
  2. Train your kids to respect that you are working and that it’s important.  I taught my kids (when young) to think about this Are You Doing Work That Matters?question “Is it urgent right now or can it wait a few minutes” and even young children can quickly determine if they need help right away or they can wait until you finished that thought, email or customer issue. Even young children can quickly learn that “mom (or dad) on the phone” shouldn’t be interrupted unless death is imminent or something is (actually) on fire! The child knows that if they really need mom or dad, then they are the top priority, but if they just want someone to change the channel or get out the new game, they can wait a few minutes out of respect.
  3. First priority is to establish routine for the kids!  If they are in school, then leverage whatever the school is doing (video access, packets etc).  Ideally you’ll be at a desk in a room or office and they will be through an open door so you can keep an eye on them and make sure they’re focused!  Make sure there is “sibling distance” between their work space! However, make sure you have recess and lunch breaks with them!  If they are even younger, set up play items, but forgive yourself for including screen time in a pandemic!
  4. Never say “I am working from home”, say “I am working remotely today”, particularly on the phone.  It sounds more professional to you and the other person, but also acknowledge that this is a unique situation so don’t be embarrassed – just acknowledge “my children are home with me due to the pandemic and local school closures, but they are occupied right now and we shouldn’t be interrupted.”  If you are interrupted, gracefully end the call and promise to reconnect and then do so.
Consider Team Time – either for the team you lead or
for the team you belong to
How can managers effectively lead their now remote team due to the corona virus?
Create the Culture You Want
  • If the team is new to remote work, consider a “standup” 15 minute meeting each day (especially in the early days) to identify problems, issues, logjams that team members face that the manager or other team members need to work on.  Can move it out to once or twice a week once folks get the hang of remote work.
  • Make sure you are super available to your team to solve problems and communicate effectively, that’s your only value right now!
  • Make sure you keep networking inside and outside of the company (see advice above about your own remote work productivity!)
  • Team members can report to manager electronically each week on accomplishments, progress and concerns/challenges – simple, quick, action oriented.  Can also be a phone call – keep it short and sweet so it doesn’t become a chore for everyone.
  • Encourage quick response to team member emails, calls, messages as needed to keep the wheels turning
  • Encourage team members to pick up the phone when it’s urgent (and encourage everyone to carry their phone with them, even if they hop over to the kitchen to get a drink!)
  • Make sure team has electronic/online support tools.  If the organization doesn’t already have them, cobble together shared file storage, shared spreadsheets/report trackers etc.
  • If the work is flexible, consider implementing “team time” – a shared “well” of time when everyone commits to being available (i.e. in the office).  For example everyone available 10am-3pm at HQ time – folks can start at 10 and work late, or start very early and work until 3pm, or stagger work during team time and then more hours late at night.  This allows those with complex situations at home to flex appropriately but still be available for team members on a basis everyone understands.

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