The rapid onset of COVID-19 has disrupted our day to day lives in immeasurable ways and I’m certain that as time marches forward this period will definitely be considered “one for the history books”. As we all turn our sights towards supporting the healthcare community and cocooning, one thing that has become a reality is shifting from in-office to remote work. As a consultant, I am well versed in remote work and how to maximize productivity while social distancing. With that in mind, I thought it would be fitting to share some of my top tips for being productive from afar.
Get Dressed, From the Waist Up
It’s important to get up and officially start your workday as if you were about to drive off to the office and encounter people face to face. This means following your typical routine of showering, dressing, and making yourself presentable to an outside audience. The reason I say “from the waist up” is because your days are going to be spent on conference calls, preferably with video enabled, and that means looking good on camera. So, unless you’re a mile from your laptop or have some amazing zoom capabilities your coworkers and clients are only going to see you from the waist up. In other words, dress like a news anchor would. Look fantastic from the waste up and if yoga pants suit you better from the waist down, embrace the opportunity!
Mute Conference Calls
When you spend your day on conference calls or video chats, you’re going to quickly learn the power of mute. It’s essential that you mute yourself when not speaking in order to avoid unintended background noise. Is your dog the type that barks at everything? Mute! Decided to be the master multi-tasker and start the dishwasher? Mute! Been on a call for 3 hours as a passive participant and need a bio break? Mute! Kids off school and constantly asking you questions? Mute! You can avoid a lot of embarrassing moments by remaining on mute unless you’re the one needing the mic. Trust me on this one.
During this particular stint of working home most of us are faced with the challenge of assisting with the homeschooling of our children while trying to simultaneously do our day jobs. This is not for the faint of heart, but we are all in the same boat and it’s inevitable that life is going to happen while you’re in a meeting. Embrace it and be real. Trust me, even before COVID-19 set in my youngest once arrived home from school while I was on a call and loudly professed “I’m starving and going to die soon if you don’t feed me”. Needless to say, the entire call heard him and a round of laughs ensued! This situation goes back to my prior tip to mute.
There really is no substitute for face to face interaction. It’s during these conversations that you catch non-verbal cues, have side conversations, and exist in the same place to bond as a team. However, being present together with your team is not essential for success. The primary way to overcome the challenge of being remote is to consciously make up for the missed in person opportunities and intentionally over-communicate. This doesn’t mean you become a fountain of phone calls and emails, it means being present in chat, not being hesitant to hop on a video call, documenting, following up on actions and decisions, and being mindful of saying hello and goodnight when your workday begins and ends. These things are all automatic when you’re with someone but take practice when working remotely.
Gather 'Round the Water Cooler
As humans we are social creatures and its natural to want to connect with people. This is certainly challenging anytime you are working from home, but exceptionally challenging with our new norm. Typically, I’d remind people to schedule lunches and happy hours with people to stay connected, but it’s not an option right now, so we have to get creative. If your office has a collaboration tool such as Microsoft Teams or Slack create a channel for socialization. In our office we have a channel called “The Water Cooler”. This channel is just for fun and sharing of primarily non-work things such as milestone birthdays, baby announcements, interesting news we’ve seen, and whatever else comes up. It’s a place to build culture and comradery. It’s also a place where using Giphy’s are acceptable! Don’t know what a Giphy is? Google it, you’ll want to engage with these fun images. If your office doesn’t have a collaboration tool exchange emails, jump on a video call, text, or find another means of ensuring you’re in touch and people don’t feel isolated.
Fingers crossed that things return to normal soon and in the meantime stay healthy everyone!
For updates from SVA Consulting regarding COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 resource page.