These past five months (or is it years, time is fuzzy) have pulled most of us from the cube-lined office settings we used to work in. But, wherever you find yourself now, the work must still go on. Here are five tips I’ve had success using in running my business virtually.
1. Set your expectations
Working remotely means fluid schedules. It means you might mow your grass during the late morning. It might mean running some errands over lunch. Don’t feel shame. Everyone does it. And it’s actually a good thing.
So don’t expect your team to be at your beck and call. And don’t feel you need to, either. Do you want people to be available at a certain time? Let them know that. Don’t be the manager who sends an invite for a meeting that starts in 25 minutes. They will dislike that. And you.
2. Call it a day
Study after study shows that people working remotely are both more productive and work more hours than those in office settings. Sounds great, right? It’s not. Because the burnout factor is real.
At my first job with direct reports, I sent an email to a client at 11PM. My boss told me that set two standards, both of them unhealthy. First, I was telling the client that they could expect our team to be in touch at all hours of the day. Second, I was unwittingly modeling behavior to my direct reports that they would feel the need to follow.
Since then, I’ve tried my best to limit my communications to something loosely defined as work hours. Sure, I work outside of that time. But (try to) never send emails. Need to get your thoughts out? Write your message and use the Delay Send feature available in most email programs.
3. Give them a place to be human
One of the advantages of the office is the option to interact with other humans. Our co-workers might get on our nerves, but after four months of being confined in houses with our significant others and spawn, most of us would gladly put up with even the most peculiar of quirks from a co-worker. We’re social animals, after all.
Looking to help your team further human interaction? One of the clients we work with set up a “Water Cooler” Zoom Room. Anyone can come and go as they please. They’re free to talk about the weather, what happened in the game last night, or any otherwise benign topic we used to fill our days with. Give it a try with your teams.
4. Have a chain of communication
This extended period of forced solitude has proven what we’ve known all along: There are entirely too many meetings. We have a sign in our office (at least I think we still do, haven’t been there in awhile) that says: Meetings are where we go to talk about the work we’d do if we didn’t have meetings.
Not everything needs to be a video meeting. If it wouldn’t be a meeting when you’re in the office, it surely doesn’t need to be a video meeting now. If your goal can be accomplished in a quick email, DM, or phone call, for the love of all that is good in the world, do that instead. The world will be a better place.
5. Be patient
Working remotely is a balancing act, even in the best of times. And these are, well, decidedly less than the best of times.
Things are going to happen. The internet is going to take a digger right when you need it. The neighbor will start mowing the grass right as you need to present. Someone’s kids will start fighting. It happens. The world will continue spinning. I promise.
Realize we’re all in this together, practice a bit of empathy, and try to find the good in it all. It goes a long way.