As you read this is a child banging on your door? Maybe you can't concentrate because your dog is barking too loud, or worse yet, your partner is the loudest person ever on conference calls and you are now sharing a workspace. This is the new normal for many who are working remotely.
My company converted to fully remote on March 13 due to the novel coronavirus, but we've been pretty good at communicating at a distance since the beginning of the business. I live in California's Bay Area, while my co-founder Carolyn Rodz lives in Houston, Texas. Our team is distributed almost equally between offices in San Francisco and Houston, and almost all of our meetings taking place over video.
Take me for example, I have two kids to now homeschool, two loud dogs, a louder husband, and the needs of three aging parents nearby who are on quarantine. Think The Walking Dead, but with conference calls. Our usual video working sessions are now more difficult than ever, but we're making things happen nonetheless.
Here are my top tips for managing remote teams:
Find a workplace collaboration software that works for you.
For quick messages, my team uses Slack. The platform allows us to hop into each other's personal channels, as well as groups sectioned off for specific teams and projects. It's also a good tool to use for some fun. I started a channel just to share laughs that come up as we work from home. Another team member made one to showcase culinary creations while housebound. Microsoft Teams is another popular software that can be used similarily.
Ask team members to be on video.
This is something we require of all our team members for every meeting. Body language makes a huge difference. This is much better than a phone call so you can see expressions and have undivided attention. Google Hangouts, Zoom and Ring Central are our go to products.
Make sure everyone on your team has the right equipment for remote meetings.
Does every one of your team members have the right computer, workspace, and internet connection they need to be able to fully engage? If not, it's your responsibility to make sure that they have access to these upgrades. The efficiency with be worth the cost.
Online meeting etiquette is a must.
We're working across multiple time zones, so we make sure to schedule meetings for when everyone is active. We insist that folks are on time or ping others when they must be late.
Try to limit distractions as much as possible.
We try to make sure that my two kids and two dogs, no matter how cute or entertaining, are in another room when it's time to get down to business. Now wait, does that always happen? Nope. We all agreed to give each other grace, knowing that the care of our families is paramount at this time.
For the more guides on remote team engagement check out the COVID-19 Business Resource Center, from Alice, the free business advice platform where I'm president and chairwoman. You'll find a step-by-step guide on how to plan and execute virtual operations.
Working from home can be lonely, and it can be the exact opposite of lonely. It can also present challenges you never imagined. For now, we must handle organized chaos, because we're going to be working from home for a while. As my son bangs on my door to ask me if mermen are real (I am not kidding), know that we are all in this together.