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Teleworking Tips During the COVID-19 Response

Social distancing seems to be distancing some folks right out of the workplace and into telework. While this can be a great solution for reducing exposure to viruses, it can also be difficult to adapt if you aren’t used to working remotely. As a completely remote and virtual government organization, Regional Government Services (RGS) has a long history with teleworking. Here are some tips from our experience that might help your transition:

Employees

Have a workspace. Even if you don’t have a private home office, set aside dedicated space at the dining room table or a kitchen island and create a portable workstation—a laptop, accordion file of essential project files, a tray of basic office supplies. Add the best ergonomic chair in the house too—or buy one. Office ergonomics matter at home too!
Make sure you have and know how to use the technology tools you need. Your computer, apps, phone and internet connection all need to work reliably, and you have to be comfortable with the use of technology tools. You may need to acquire larger internet bandwidth, hard-wired connections, or new apps to work with your team for sharing documents and discussion in a project space rather than through cluttered email. You may also need a headset for private and/or noise-reduced work calls. Be sure you know who to reach out to for tech support when things don’t work….
Establish a routine. This doesn’t have to look like your office routine but getting dressed and having some consistent structure in your days helps to maintain your productivity. Let the people you live with know when it’s OK to interrupt you and when you need to be left alone to work. Discuss and negotiate your best working routine with your clients, colleagues and supervisor, and if necessary, establish compatible hours when your schedules will overlap.
Have goals and a to-do list. There are lots of distractions at home, some of which are more fun than routine work. Writing down your plan and deadlines will help you to stay focused on real accomplishment—which is rewarding all by itself! Using your calendar tools to block out project time, flag follow up, and establish regular checkpoints and check-ins may be even more important than in the office—since your coworkers won’t stop you in the hall to remind you about things when you telework.
Make sure you talk to people—don’t just email or text. Face to face communication adds layers of meaning to the words people use. When you work in a virtual environment, it reduces face-to-face conversations. Use your phone, use videoconferencing and chat apps, and communicate often. Not only will this reduce misunderstanding and inefficiencies, but it will help prevent isolation and social disengagement. As long as you know your coworker’s schedules, it’s OK to call a coworker sometimes to chat or just kick around ideas, like you would over coffee in the breakroom.
Dress for success. You may not dress as formally as you would at the office but grooming and putting on clothes that are appropriate for videoconferencing helps your head get into work mode—and is appreciated by your colleagues on the conference!
Get up, stand up. It’s easy when working from home to become planted in your chair in front of your desk. However, experts recommend changing position and avoiding sitting all day by standing up and moving around at least once per hour (set an alarm). Take multiple opportunities to stand up and stretch. Also, remember to take a short walk now and then to get your circulation moving, which can also benefit brain power.
Communicate with Context. Electronic communication can often be devoid of context and open to interpretation. Electronic tools can often mask the intention and humanity of messages. Prefacing communication with context can help prevent miscommunication when things are out of the ordinary and reminds us that at the end of that chat or email, there is a human being with feelings and reactions. Communicate with emojis to communicate the spirit of your message. Let team members know when your head is down on a project, working with a client, or can’t respond to questions right away. Over-communication is always better.

Supervisors

Be prepared for questions from your employees such as:

• How will we connect with each other?
• How will teleworking affect my performance evaluations and the way my work is assessed?
• What are the procedures for coordinating team projects?
• Will teleworking affect my career path?
• How can we manage customer expectations while teleworking?
• How can we use technology to help us telework better? Who will help me with technology challenges?
• Can we create a sense of workplace and community when we are working away from the office?

Here are some best practices for managing your remote team:

1. Use a communication platform and set up schedules. Virtual communication doesn’t have to be a roadblock. Try video and audio-conferencing tools. Planned, phone- and web-based conferences get things done.
2. Head to the cloud and ensure appropriate access to organizational data resources. Remote access to company files is important. Projects within a dispersed team benefit from online project management tools to keep working files accessible, everyone organized and productivity on track. These tools often add features for informal chats and problem-solving between team members, too.
3. Don’t be a stranger—it’s easy to lose touch. Don’t micromanage employees, but do be available and supportive, track progress, and keep people in the loop. Try a short but regular weekly one-to-one with each employee.
4. Celebrate success and say thank you. When your employee does a great job, let them know! It may sound obvious, but some supervisors don’t realize they’ve left remote workers hanging — or the negative effects. Positive feedback builds team spirit.
5. Be fair. When it comes to quality, quantity and deliverables, there should be no difference between the work an employee produces at your office or while they’re telecommuting. Set equal standards for on-site and off-site professionals in areas such as client service, office hours, and response times for emails and phone calls. You also might want to set “core hours” when all employees are required to be accessible to ensure that workflows keep flowing.
6. Expect connectivity issues. When bringing the team together remotely, expect some difficulties with connectivity and participation in virtual meetings. Adapt to missing team members, last minute dialing in by phone, and late arrivals. These things happen in the digital world, so allow them to happen and integrate people seamlessly into meetings and count on them to catch up with the conversation.

Check out this resource from the University of Washington website for some great information on this topic:

Working through COVID-19

Additional Resources from Microsoft and LinkedIn

Because many companies are asking employees to work from home, LinkedIn and Microsoft are making some resources available to help employees remain engaged and productive in their daily activities while working remotely. Microsoft is offering companies 6 months of the Teams product to facilitate communication. You can learn more about how to access this here.

Additionally, below you will find some courses from LinkedIn Learning that you can access as a way to support your teams.

LinkedIn has also prepared an article on “Making Remote Work, Work: Available here.

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