I can remember it almost down to the minute. It was 4:30 a.m. Thursday, March 12, 2020. I woke up to the news that the NBA had just suspended its season indefinitely.
I went in to the office that morning and told our team, “Our world just changed.”
Starting the very next day, we were a completely remote workforce. Just like that. Everyone gathered up their laptop, checked to make sure our VPN system was accessible and we introduced ourselves to our new best friend, Zoom.
Those first hurried initiatives got us up and running. Today, a year later, we continue to excel as a fully remote workforce. Here are 5 areas leaders can focus on to help their teams be at their best in a work-from-home environment:
1. UPGRADE TECHNOLOGY
Take a look at what your team needs to effectively work together, meet deadlines and deliver exceptional results. Some of the steps we took were to upgrade to stronger workflow tools, migrate to the cloud, provide computers and cameras to the few that did not have them and outfit many with larger, crisper monitors.
2. OVER COMMUNICATE
Establish a process that allows for the free flow of information across all levels of the organization, and establishes protocols for online meetings. As an experienced direct marketer, I’ve always found that redundancy is a good thing. I will repeat myself in communications with the team, and follow-up in writing to ensure information is captured correctly and forwarded clearly.
I also work on the nuances that make a big difference in our communications. For example, I request that everyone remain on camera during meetings, and we coach ourselves to look into the camera when we speak. Otherwise, there is less of a personal connection.
3. CHANGE THE WAY YOU COLLABORATE
This goes hand-in-hand with communication. It requires managers to touch base more frequently with their direct reports. For us, it means that each manager conducts a check-in meeting at least once a week with everyone on their team. Plus, we’ve adapted our agency-wide meetings to the online platform and continue to host them every other Tuesday. What was once a get-together in our lobby is now more like watching a well-produced online show. A host highlights industry trends, then we discuss all that’s happening at the agency including birthdays and anniversaries, business growth, and any new work we’ve launched in market for our clients.
What’s more, we turned brainstorms into “burststorms.” These are shorter versions of ideation sessions that keep our energy high, our minds focused and meet our own high standards for innovation.
4. SOCIALIZE AS A TEAM MORE OFTEN
This is the perfect time to add in more fun and opportunities to get together informally. I love how the team schedules Friday happy hour, plans group games and enjoys a little downtime. This was especially important during the early weeks and months when we had more restrictions and an unknown future.
5. ADD IN A PERSONAL TOUCH
Everyone’s wellbeing is a constant concern. Like me, you’ve probably noticed that the voices of your team may seem a little more stressed. Or they ask you more questions about the future as they strive for assurances of security and peace of mind. I work to remind everyone that my door (my screen) is always open and that we have access to several resources to help individuals cope with these strange and unsettling times.
Another way I connect with the team is through a big dose of canine interaction. That is, I find ways to include my dog into my daily work life. I’m sure I’m not the only one. She wants to be by my side constantly, which is nice. But she also wants to weigh in on conversations and decisions, and have her voice heard. She was eventually promoted to VP of Consumables and instituted more treat-giving.
Showing care and concern for others was not a change that was brought on by the pandemic. But I realized I needed to do it in different ways and it will remain at the top of my priorities. It’s one of the best things that emerged through all this.
Other benefits from our new reality will surely continue long after this crisis subsides. Working from home will continue to play an important role, and our managers will continue to accelerate everyone’s need to learn new skills and ensure meaningful career development.
Most of all, we know that when the world changes, we can adapt and thrive right along with it.