By Molly Van Kampen, CPP
I have been a remote worker, managing large and small teams for well over a decade. I was in fact, the first remote worker for Greenshades, which I guess made me a sort of Greenshades pioneer! I spent a good portion of this week talking with and answering questions for people that find themselves working from home, unexpectedly. I have freely shared some current challenges and suggestions as COVID-19 has changed the working environment for even me, a seasoned remote working professional.
Although many of the Greenshades team members were previously, work from home employees, we recently enacted a work from home measure for all of our corporate office in Jacksonville, FL. It will come as no surprise that we have business continuity plans that plan for the likelihood of a physical office closure, most predictability due to hurricane or other inclement weather conditions. The health of our employees, their families, and the communities they live in is a primary concern every day and we are actively supporting social distancing during the COVID-19 health emergency.
Greenshades is fortunate, we have an amazing IT team, who was quickly able to pivot and support an additional hundred plus workers to a fully remote workforce. Almost all of our teams regularly have at least one remote employee and we are well practiced in remote meetings, the use of VOIP systems and video calling. We have policies and processes actively in place to address the support of our remote workers feeling included and keeping everyone engaged, regardless of where they are physically located.
Now of course, Greenshades has built our company and culture around delivering products that solve real business problems and encourage efficiency, employee communication and enablement. For well over 15 years, we have offered exceptional sales, implementation, and support through an almost exclusively remote interaction with our clients. We actively measure and hold our teams accountable for client satisfaction and retention through metrics that test and challenge our offering excellent client experiences through remote interactions.
Working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is different, even for those of us that are seasoned professionals at remote working. In addition to work from home initiatives, closures of schools, child care, and other programs means that many of us have spouses, partners, roommates, children, or others in the house during what are our working hours.
There have been so many good, thoughtful suggestions for people new to the work from home community and I thought I would offer some of my own suggestions for balancing personal and professional health while working from home, specifically in a situation where the working conditions are new and unplanned:
- Be Patient – If you are new to remote work, having you home and focused on work, is probably also new to the members of your household. It is likely that your family (and pets too!) are excited to have you available to ask questions to, solve disputes, make sandwiches, go for walks, play games, and all of the other things that you would do at home under normal situations. Learning what it is like to have you working at home is a new experience for them too, and will take some effort to work through together.
- Be Present – Your team members are likely also learning how to best communicate while working at a distance. Make the effort to be available for the quick interruption. Remote working is a very different experience for people who are used to being able to pop by your desk and ask a quick question. Prioritize reading and responding to your co-workers’ messages throughout the day. Remember that it is possible that the work they are doing may be waiting on your response. E-mail is a great tool, especially in the world of remote working but it is not a good substitute for organic conversation. Pick up the phone and have a conversation at least once a day with the co-workers that you would normally work closely with.
- Own the Unusual – There is no “normal” when you work from home and you should be prepared for being shocked at how many times your doorbell rings, the neighbors have to mow their lawn, or how loud the garbage truck is as it rolls by in the middle of your conference call. Much of the American workforce that would generally be in an office 5 days a week are now working from home offices. Acknowledge that the disruptions are happening, apologize if necessary and move on. It is very easy to get off-track if you are anxious about how the people on the other side of your call are responding to something happening at your house.
- Be Flexible – Your co-workers, clients, vendors, and employees are likely also trying to navigate the current and unusual working environment. There will be times when your regular flow of communication, scheduled meetings, or other deliverables will be challenged as people have unforeseen interruptions in their schedules, communication tools, etc. Remember that good business depends on cooperation; being able to understand and work around temporary delays will help you remain productive and keep projects moving forward.