In times like this with a global pandemic threatening not only our health but the stability of our economy, business owners of all types are being forced to work differently in order to keep their employees safe and healthy while monitoring the health of their business.
“Your business health is only as strong as the physical and mental health of your employees and team members.” -Matt Bowman
Depending on your personality type, working remotely can be either the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced, or it can give you the freedom you’ve always dreamed of. For some, working remotely helps them to be uber productive by cutting out all the distractions and waiting time on a long commute. To them, the quality of life can be more important than the money they are being paid. As the business owner, having your staff work remotely will save tons of money on office space and give you an expanded world-wide talent pool from which you can hire the best employee for the job.
However, for some employees that thrive on social interaction, working remotely can be a challenge to say the least. They find it very difficult to separate themselves from distractions and they feel extremely isolated and alone. Some lack the self-discipline and motivation to get the job done without the support and constant encouraging push of their supervisor or boss.
If you are new to remote work, it can be quite a culture shock and can take some time to adjust. In his How To Transition to Remote Work, Bowman talks about the four phases to a new normal being the Honeymoon phase, Anxiety Phase, Adjustment Phase and then the Acceptance Phase. Have you reached the Acceptance Phase yet? For some, this four phase transition can take days and for others, it can take month’s or even years. Not only does the employee need to adjust to the new work environment, but their families must be acclimated as well and adjust to the new normal.
In order for remote work to be successful in any company, the business owner needs to ensure that each person knows exactly what they need to be doing every day. The book The Four Disciplines of Execution by Franklin Covey is a good resource for business management strategy and to help managers create actual work plans.
Discipline 1: Focus on The Wildly Important
Exceptional execution starts with narrowing the focus— clearly identifying what must be done, or nothing else you achieve really matters much.
Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures
Twenty percent of activities produce eighty percent of results. The highest predictors of goal achievement are the 80/20 activities that are identified and codified into individual actions and tracked fanatically.
Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
People and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win.
Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
Each team engages in a simple weekly process that highlights successes, analyzes failures, and course-corrects as necessary, creating the ultimate performance-management system.
One of the keys to a successful remote work structure is excellent communication. Our Elevate team has recently implemented a system in order to communicate better. We start the day with a beginning of the day email to the entire team. In the email, we list our personal priorities for the day so that the entire team knows what we are currently working on that will move the needle for the business. At the end of the day, we send a follow up email to the team where we score our productivity for the day on a scale of 1-10 and list the tasks completed. This is a great accountability tool and has worked well for our team. We also have a weekly virtual team meeting using Google Hangouts where we update the team on all current deals, new leads, equity raise, etc. We also discuss any struggles we are having and celebrate the successes of the team. Finally, we make sure that once a year, we spend however many days together that are necessary to plan the new year’s goals and make any changes to the systems and processes we are currently using.
If remote work is challenging for you as an employee, let me offer the following suggestions. Build a routine. Show up to work at the same time everyday. Prepare an environment suitable for productivity. Make sure that the lighting is good and the temperature is comfortable. Invest in a comfortable chair and consider a stand up desk. Make sure that you have the supplies necessary for the work that you are doing and the internet is working properly. It is also helpful to get “dressed” for work if that will promote a productive mindset for you. Motivate yourself for tasks completed by rewarding yourself when milestones are met. Closing your inbox and turning of notifications will help keep you focused. If there are children in your house that you can hear playing, turning on music can help you focus on the task at hand. When not on lock down, it can really help to change scenery by either taking a mid day walk or visiting your favorite coffee shop to work for the day. One very important thing to remember, and one that I personally struggle with, is to protect your family time. It’s very easy to over work when you have a home office. We have a motto at our house, “Work Hard, Play Hard”.
Here are some suggestions for ways to insure that you are collaborating with your team on a consistent basis. Use screen share software like Google Meet or Zoom for group meetings. Make sure to record them for those that are not able to attend. For training purposes, a recorded screen share using an app like Loom or Camtasia will not only be an excellent training tool, but if organized well and documented often, you will slowly have a bank of standard operating procedures (SOP) that you refer to and share often. Store all recordings and important documents in a Gsuite shared drive for the entire team to have access. We also think that it is important to have non-work relationships with your co-workers. This enables you to check on each other, support each other and congratulate each other as needed. We use the Slack app for both business and personal communication organized by channel.
If you are required to give face to camera presentations to your team or to clients of the business, it is important to make sure that your background and lighting are on point, professional and not too distracting. Test your audio and get a microphone if needed. Please for the love of everything holy, mute your microphone if there are distracting noises like children or a dog barking in the background when on virtual meetings with your team.
In terms of security, make sure that all work data is on your work computer, in work files and all passwords are protected in a password vault software. Make sure to back up data often or use cloud storage. Don’t open suspicious files or emails and make sure that your antivirus software is up to date. Important: Know where you can go if your internet goes down unexpectedly. I’ve had to use my personal hotspot on my cell phone, whatever works when you're in a pinch.
In Matt Bowman’s words, “Beware of Dragons”. Make sure that you have plenty of personal interaction to avoid cabin fever. Avoid working too much but make sure you are productive in the time you are working. Make sure that your environment is suitable for the activities you are assigned with. Get up and move and avoid all day snacking as much as possible. Most importantly, if remote work is new to you, give yourself time to get through all four stages and overcome any frustrations you may experience so that you can experience the freedom you’ve always dreamed of.