ITS is more than a month into remote work, as are many other companies around the world. And like many others, we did everything we could to prepare for the shift.
The past few weeks have taught us a lot about what works best for the ITS team when we’re working from home. Our best practices are helping us stay connected and maintain a level of normalcy in this otherwise abnormal time.
Today, we want to share our top seven tips with you.
1. Stay in contact
Even when teams are apart, they want to be informed.
In a situation like this—when changes to businesses and policies happen quickly—teams want to be aware of changes and know that their company is looking out for them.
Company-wide meetings and emails are opportunities to connect with team members and notify them about recent developments.
We host a weekly ITS company meeting for all team members. This meeting covers updates about ITS, addresses new guidelines pertaining to the virus, and offers a platform for everyone to ask questions and receive immediate responses.
We also encourage increased communication at the department level. Team members usually meet with their managers once a week, but now they might also send an update email or chat every other day. These check-ins ensure that team members feel productive and have guidance outside of the office.
2. Re-create the office environment
We value the moments of social interaction that happen in the ITS office—greetings in the hallways, a bit of conversation in the kitchen, laughs during puppy playtime.
We’re working remotely now, but there are still ways to make that interaction possible.
We encourage team members to reach out to each other to chat about non-work topics. These virtual social gatherings establish the sense of community that our teams naturally foster in the office.
Teams might schedule 15-minute “lunch time socials” with their office lunch group or department. They might also give a colleague an impromptu call or chat to say hello—the virtual equivalent of dropping by their cube.
3. Choose video over audio
Phone calls get the job done. But we encourage our teams to turn on their webcams for all meetings.
Face-to-face contact not only reinforces a sense of normalcy—it also provides one extra avenue of human connection that some of us might be seeking right now.
4. Cut meetings five minutes short
With all of the above points said, we have to admit there is a threshold for how many virtual meetings is too many.
In this uncertain time, more decisions than ever need to be made, and many of those decisions end up as meetings. Add in the weekly company meetings, department check-ins, and impromptu colleague calls that we’ve suggested, and schedules fill up quickly.
Meetings can easily run back-to-back for hours on end. And because we click a “Join Meeting” link rather than walking to a conference room, some of us find that we haven’t had a chance to stand up all day.
We encourage our teams to end meetings five minutes early so each team member can take a lap around their kitchen or grab a snack before the next one.
5. Pick a work space and schedule (but be realistic)
Steps toward daily consistency may give us a small amount of the stability that we’re all looking for right now.
We encourage our teams to designate a space in their homes for work. When work is over, they can fully relax outside of that space. We also encourage teams to identify a work schedule and try to stick with it, in order to establish a routine and further create that sense of normalcy.
This tip may not work for everyone. Depending on how many people are quarantining with you (and if those people need supervision), your work space may be the kitchen table one day and the living room the next. Schedules too can be unpredictable.
A structured day is ideal, but when it’s not an option, we ask our teams to give themselves room for needed flexibility.
Team members inform managers and colleagues about the hours that will generally work for them, even if those hours look different from a normal workday. If unexpected changes to schedules come up, team members keep each other in the loop and update their statuses (see Tip #6).
6. Update your status
Not all team members are available during typical work hours right now. That means it’s even more important to communicate our shifting availability, for the sake of those who are online.
That’s where status technology comes in handy.
We use Microsoft Teams for our virtual conferencing and chatting. Teams allows us to change the color and message of our personal status circles according to our availability. Green is “Available,” and red is “In a meeting.” Or we might write in our own message: “Be right back—on a walk.”
We rely on this status technology to quickly note changes to our schedules and make our availability instantly visible to all team members.
7. Don’t forget the fun
Virtual video meetings and non-work chats go a long way toward making work-from-home feel like the office environment.
But working from home doesn’t mean all of the other office shenanigans are on hold.
To keep spirits up while we’re at home, we’re continuing with the occasions our teams know and love, and we’re introducing some new ones, virtual-style.
By popular request, we’re maintaining our monthly Cake Day—a day in the office when we read aloud birthdays, anniversaries, and other announcements and celebrate with—you guessed it—cake! The new virtual Cake Day still features all of our usual announcements, but the cake is bring-your-own.
We’re also bringing our teams weekly Spirit Days. These days break up the monotony of the stay-at-home uniform of T-shirts and sweatpants and make our virtual meetings even more exciting. Lumberjack Day, anyone?