As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and everyone seeks to do their part to flatten the curve, millions of Americans are starting what may be their first ever work-from-home experience. To these millions, I say, "Welcome."
For nearly two years, I have led a 100% remote company with team members across five different time zones and two different continents on any given day. Here are a few tried and true keys to success that have helped our company not only survive but thrive in a social distance environment.
- Communication, communication, communication. When your team is not in close physical proximity, communication through a variety of means is critical to success. As the manager, chief of staff, CEO, employee, be clear and concise in electronic communication. Send a follow-up email after a conference call, assign projects, communicate deadlines, ask your team for acknowledgement and invite questions.
Recognize that your written or verbal communication may not be as clear without physical or body language cues and therefore, your colleagues or employees might have more questions than usual. Be patient and grow together. Assess what's working in communication and what's not—my team and I find that almost every issue or challenge could have been solved if we had communicated more frequently and effectively. We rarely identify a solution that would have required less communication so do not be afraid to overcommunicate.
- Embrace technology. We live in an ever-evolving world of technology and in many ways technology enables our workplaces to function without physical contact. Take advantage of new technologies to facilitate communication with your team including WhatsApp, Slack or Signal where you can replicate the water cooler or hallway questions and conversations. Utilize project management programs (Wrike, Paymo, Trello to name a few) to assign projects to members of your team, share progress reports and stay on top of deadlines. There seem to be endless technological opportunities for collaboration, communication and organization so use this time to innovate and try something new.
- Be a team. Remind your colleagues and yourself: we are all in this together. As millions of Americans adjust to working from home, possibly surrounded by their families or roommates, needs will change day to day, week to week, and they will need to know their colleagues, employees and managers have their back. Your colleagues and employees need to know that they can take time for family or personal responsibilities. Some days this may look like limited work availability in the morning while homeschooling their children or checking in on elderly neighbors and friends. We practice humility and honesty with our team—no task is too small, forget your job title and it's OK to say, "This time frame won't work for me today." Be flexible and work together to achieve the best possible result for your company, client or project.
Working from home means less desk time and more mobility—it might look like listening to a colleague's voice memo while doing the dishes or sending an email while your child plays in the backyard. Communicating means responding to the message or email to acknowledge receipt and setting expectations for when you can respond to the request.
Work will function differently, but be flexible; get up early to sort and respond to emails, take the time to sit down and work through a more complicated project during a child's nap or quiet time and circle back to put the finishing touches on it after the child is in bed. As a manager or a colleague, be supportive of your team's needs to flex their work around these additional responsibilities; your company will be better for it.
The day is coming when your office will reopen, your commute will resume and your world will feel normal again, but do not miss this amazing opportunity to innovate and work in a way you may have only dreamed. You can do this—communicate with your colleagues/employees, embrace technology (try something new!) and be a team.
Just think, you might miss the days of working remotely when it comes time to head back into the office.
Leslie Tatum is chief of staff for Los Angeles-based cause marketing agency Inspire Buzz. Leslie resides with her husband and son in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
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