Posted by: Tampa Bay Chamber on Monday, March 16, 2020

Whether we like it or not, we’ve been thrust into what Time magazine has dubbed as the “world’s largest work from home experiment” during the Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak of 2020. There may be fear and uncertainty during this time but, rest assured, we can be resilient and flexible during this moment in history. Many of you are already demonstrating this ability by shifting gears and taking your offices remote.  As someone who’s been working in a virtual work environment for the past four years, I’m often asked how I do it without getting distracted and losing workplace productivity. You may be concerned about taking your team “out of the office,” or perhaps you’re worried about how to accomplish your work goals from home.  Here are a few tips to help ensure success and not stress in the upcoming weeks.

If you are overseeing a remote team:

If you are a leader at your company, this is an opportunity to lead and inspire confidence in the workplace all from home.

Set expectations for communication

How will you communicate over the next couple weeks? You need to have a plan in place and not assume that email is the best place to keep things moving. Our team uses a variety of online tools such as slack for messaging and file sharing and zoom for meetings. I highly recommend turning to video for conducting meetings. While it may be a bit awkward at first, this was a game changer for our team to still be able to communicate “face-to-face” even though we are miles away. Don’t over-complicate it though and use what tools you may already have to your advantage. If your team is on G Suite for example, use their messaging and meeting options versus trying to learn new ones. No matter the tools you choose, be sure to spend a few minutes teaching the team how to use the tools and what the expectations are.  Just because someone sends an ‘instant message’ and someone doesn’t respond instantly, that doesn’t necessarily warrant that someone isn’t working. Clear expectations are key.

And while you’re are at it…Over-communicate

Our team holds a 15-minute, daily standup early in the workday. Each person spends about 30 seconds going through projects they worked on yesterday, what they will be working on today and any roadblocks they may have. This is not a run-down of every single item you worked on or will work on. This can’t be stressed enough. Let your team know they are working hard and to keep things to high-level information that other teammates need to be in the loop about. In addition to a daily standup, you may also want to consider holding weekly or bi-weekly one-on-ones. It’s probably hard to for your team to schedule your time when you’re in the office. At home, you lose the ability for those quick conversations in the hall. If you pre-book these meetings, your team will know when they can meet with you for a dedicated time to review projects and answer questions.

Lead with positivity and not panic

This is a stressful time. Some of your team may be balancing kids (and pets!) at home with trying to maintain their productivity levels. Others may be worrying about family and loved ones. While distracted work is usually not okay, it may be the new normal for the next few weeks. Communicate this to your team and I assure you that it will go a long way with lessening the growing tension in our community.  Show compassion when you may hear a child screaming or dog barking in the background on a conference call – these things happen, even for us professional remote workers.

7 Tips for working remote

Set-up your remote office space

The most important thing you can do to prepare for working from home is to set-up an office-like environment from the start. Make sure your computer is plugged-in and pens and notepads are at-hand. And whatever you do, don’t use a dining chair to sit in all-day. Your back will thank me later.

Stick to your morning routine

Just because you aren’t getting up and physically driving into the office, you should still shower and get dressed. I know, I know -- the PJ’s can be really tempting, but even throwing on a casual top or polo can set your mind right for the day. Oh yeah and brush your teeth while you’re at it.

Use your “commute” time to your advantage

You’ve been given the gift of time going to and coming home from work. Use this time wisely. Get that workout in, spend some time with the kids, take care of the chores that may try and distract you during the workday.

Go for a walk at lunch

Like being in the office, you need to schedule some time away from your desk. I’ve found that taking a quick walk during my lunch break helps to clear my mind and relieve some of the cabin fever you get from being in the same place for work and home life.

Know when to log-off

It can be difficult to walk away from work when it’s only a few feet away. Try and stick to your office hours, even if those are shifted a little bit right now. Answering emails at 10pm will not be healthy for your stress levels during an already stressful time.

Take the remote out of remote work

The TV remote that is. And the same goes for your iPad or any other electronics that you may find distracting while at home. Out of sight, out of mind.

Don’t forget the basics

The same tips and tricks you apply to your in-office workdays still stand. Maintain your to-do lists, set intentions and goals for the day and schedule time to respond to emails in between working on projects. While remote work may only be temporary while we continue to take precautions to keep everyone healthy and safe, that doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of productivity. Setting expectations and following these tips can help ensure business and our economy keeps moving. -- Jenn Norman is the Director of Customer Success for Novi AMS, a cloud-based membership software, and the current President of the American Marketing Association Tampa Bay Chapter.