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Working Remote Best Practices

March 30, 2020 6:16 PM By Stephanie Feigenbaum

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As the working world changes rapidly around us due to the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting cautionary measures, workers across a variety of industries are adapting to remote work for the first time. As an already remote team, REdirect Consulting has unique advantages in this transition period, and we want to share our knowledge with our colleagues, clients, and neighbors across the globe.

In the regular world, at any given point in time, upwards of 70% of our team is working remotely, including consultants, project managers, account managers, etc. Because of this, we’ve built many of our work from home best practices into our onboarding process. Even our NYC headquarters-based Operations team has the experience and ability to work remotely, making this Spring’s Shelter in Place requirement less disruptive than it could have otherwise been. 

Culture and Communication

REdirect is fortunate to have a very willingly-collaborative team; it’s an ingrained part of our company culture. We use Confluence, Zoom, Teams, and Teamwork regularly to troubleshoot, give status updates, knowledge share, and post pictures of our pets, vacations, and kids. 

If you’re a manager new to managing a remote team, it’s important to factor in the personal connections that can get lost when working from home. One way we’ve been able to add this into our regular schedule is to host a weekly “water cooler” Zoom meeting, the primary purpose of which is to catch up on weekend plans, life updates (big ski trips, baby name guessing, marathon encouragement, etc), and general Q&A or troubleshooting. 

We also maintain a dedicated channel on Teams specifically for family pictures, vacation updates, and funny things we find online. We find that people work better and more willingly together when they feel connected to the company and the team, maintaining a sense of interpersonal connection and motivation. 

How, When, and Where to Communicate

Meetings vs. Chat vs. email, how do you know where is the best place for you to get the fastest and best answer? 

Being on a video call at home can feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Does everyone wear business on top and casual on the bottom? Is anyone going to be judging your background/cleanliness of the room/decor/distractions/dog barks? Even though it is easier to turn your camera off, leaving your video on builds a sense of camaraderie and community. It’s easier to get a sense of the tone of the conversation when you can read facial expressions or watch someone’s hand gestures. 

That being said, if something can be worked out in an email instead of a meeting, do it! As people get used to the new normal, calendars are getting flooded with meeting requests. It’s easier to stay on track by putting what you need in writing, especially if it requires minimal (or no) explanation. When communication becomes difficult or either side seems to be missing the meaning of a message, the simplest solution is to hop on a call. 

Don’t forget your meeting etiquette though: ping someone and ask if they are available for a video chat before sending them an invite. While we encourage everyone everywhere to keep their digital calendars up to date, it doesn’t always happen. Asking first shows respect and keeps boundaries in check. 

Setting yourself up for success

Establishing a successful work from home situation on the fly can be daunting at first. If you’ve never used remote services before, it’s a good idea to test out new technology before your first meeting. Mary Taylor, our head of Learning and Development, has been working from home for 20 years, and regularly shares best practices for the most efficient remote work setup. Here are some of her tips that will make things a bit smoother when you’re expecting a busy day: 

  • Practice by video calling a co-worker to help get an understanding of how you look and sound. Are there distractions in your background? Are you backlit? Is your camera only showing your left ear? 
  • How is your microphone? Can you be heard/understood? Is there static or background noise? What does it sound like when you type? 
  • Practice mute/unmute (this is a critical skill!)
  • Practice screen-sharing if needed. 

Keeping Your Meetings on Track

With so many people working from home for the first time, it is difficult to keep a meeting on track when you’re not all sitting around a conference table. For virtual meetings with a specific agenda, make sure all parties know the subject matter ahead of time so they can review necessary information or add topics, rather than bringing it up in the moment or being caught off guard. This will make the meeting run much more smoothly and help to prevent long tangents in discussion. To ensure nothing gets skipped during your meeting you can also: 

  • Have a call leader who is comfortable asserting themselves to make sure all the agenda items are covered. If you have screen sharing capabilities, show the agenda on-screen during the meeting.
  • Offer regular time checks and let people know that you respect their time and commitment. If the end of the meeting is approaching, offer a follow up time to finish the conversation, to make it clear that the whole agenda does need to be addressed. 
  • Keeping video on is a great way to ensure that the team is focused and present in the conversation. 
  • Send out any notes in an email to everyone at the end of the meeting, along with specific action items and who is in charge of each one.

Work and Family

Our Operations Manager/HR Generalist, Elisa Ilardi, is a mother of 2 who understands the complexities of working from home with young children who are out of school. Above all else, when settling into the new routine she encourages compassion for your kids and kindness to yourself - it’s a new situation for everyone involved.  Here are a few tips she recommends for working from home with children:

  • It is important to talk to your children about what is happening so they understand why their routine has changed. Explain that school is closed because a lot of people are getting sick and we are staying home to stay healthy and so that no one else gets sick. It is important to remind them and ourselves that we are helping by staying home.
  • Try to establish a routine: breakfast, cartoon, school work, play time, lunch, nap, electronics, etc. If you give kids electronics first thing, their attitude can be sour the rest of the day. 
  • If you and your partner are both working from home – definitely tag-team. Discuss when you have calls/meetings so you both can plan who is able to take care of the kids while the other is on a call.
  • Go outside if you can! During lunch is a great time to get fresh air. Again, if you are able, you can plan with your partner to take lunch at different times so the kids can get double the time outside.

As you settle into a remote working routine, you may discover some tasks and processes are easier or more difficult than expected. As always, REdirect’s team is happy to be a resource in any way we can. We feel fortunate to be open for business as usual and would love to help make this transition smoother for you. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and keep washing your hands.