As the world hunkers down for the foreseeable future, telecommuting is at an all time high. Many of us are making huge adjustments to our daily routines, leveraging new remote work technologies, and experiencing blurrier lines than usual between our professional and personal lives. While the company I founded, TO THE MARKET, is fortunate enough to have an headquarters in NY that the whole team enjoys, we are also no strangers to telecommuting, including from overseas. At the moment, our senior leadership lives in six distinct cities, and while we love to be face to face, we’ve learned a few things along the way on how to effectively “show up,” if only virtually.
Below are a few tips that I put together with my Chief Marketing Officer, Cindy Jones-Nyland, on how to telecommute effectively.
1. Set standing meeting times - and then stick to them.
Choose designated times for recurring meetings and activities. Then, stick to those times no matter what. Consistency and dependability is key!
2. Create division-specific touch-bases.
Set aside specific meeting times to touch base on different business categories. This means separate touch-bases for operations, sales, and finance. Even if each meeting topic includes largely the same employees, separating each discussion will ensure you cover your bases in a systematic way.
3. Establish shared work hours.
As any work-from-home veteran will tell you, this tip is crucial in maintaining your sanity. From an individual perspective, a lack of set work hours causes the boundaries of your life to bleed into each other. Without work yours, you just might find yourself answering emails on the couch at 11 pm, only to suddenly realize you missed dinner or never changed out of your sweatpants (no judgement here...). From a team perspective, having work hours creates a feeling of togetherness. You know you’re all working together (from afar) during these hours, and you know you’ll be able to reach whoever you need to during that time.
4. Share your calendar
I've shared before how important it is that my entire team have transparency into how I spend my day. It helps reflect business priorities, but also ensures that I don’t end up with an important conference call in the middle of a doctor’s appointment. With many of us taking on the added responsibility of looking after children (or even our parents) during normal working hours, shared calendars become that much more important.
5. Skip audio-only communications in favor of video.
Video calls are a night-and-day difference from the universally dreaded audio conference calls of the past. When you can see your coworkers’ faces, you can communicate more effectively on the important stuff - and build a stronger bond for lighter moments too. There is something to be said about physically seeing other people that has a powerful effect on staving off loneliness. It’s well worth it to invest in infrastructure like Zoom, or other video chat systems, that allow you to have more than just 2-3 people on video calls.
Video also provides the opportunity to recreate the traditional office “drive by,” where your colleague stops by your desk to chat or ask you questions about a project. Instead of calling or texting, send a quick video call to your coworker in moments like this. It can make all the difference in long-distance camaraderie.
6. Create a digital “office.”
Make no mistake, you still have an office! A decent chunk of that office might exist in the cloud, but you do have a workplace. To amplify this feeling, use video for more than just meetings or conversations. Recreate the feeling of office free-flow sessions, where you all work at the same time together, by each signing onto video during independent work. Encourage your team members to use other equipment beyond a cell phone (like laptops and tablets) for digital interactions like these. It feels a lot more natural than staring into a tiny phone.
7. Make telecommuting part of your company’s structure.
Incorporate information about remote work into your company’s employee handbooks and other literature. This makes remote life feel like a normal course of business - which it is! - and can reduce the nervous “free-for-all” feeling that can come along with these adjustments.
You and your team might be physically separated, but you’re in this together. Telecommuting can be just as effective, successful, and fun (yes, fun!) as an in-person office. In this season of life, there are a lot of anxieties bubbling up - but keeping your business operations running doesn’t have to be one of them.