The spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the short-term “age of social distancing” have many businesses considering—or implementing—a work-from-home strategy for many employees. Companies that already have remote work options for its employees have a distinct advantage here, but what about those who are trying it for the first time?
We turned to Avitus Group Director of Marketing Dan Jeziorski for his advice on how to keep productivity up—and teams connected—from a distance.
“Five years ago, I wouldn’t have foreseen that our marketing team could work together effectively without being in the same office,” Jeziorski states. “That has changed. Today we have employees who not only work in different cities in Montana, but also in different states, and we make it work well.”
According to Jeziorski, adapting to that environment has come with a learning curve—one he hopes to save others from having to navigate. Here are his suggestions:
Set Clear Expectations for Working Remotely
For employees who have never worked from home, getting into a routine can be challenging at first. Setting clear expectations with staff members who are working in a remote environment can help.
“Working remotely doesn’t mean working when it’s convenient,” says Dan. “We are clear with our team members that we expect them to work during our regular business hours—just as they would if they were here in the office. Standard rules relating to breaks apply, of course, and we’re flexible when it comes to personal appointments as usual. But when our clients expect us to be there, our team is fully operational.”
“We use Zoom to allow for a daily call—sometimes by video—at 8:30 every morning,” Dan shares. “It’s not just a time for us to check in on projects and address any blockers to work in progress, but it also gives us a chance to check in with each other.” He says these meetings, which often last less than 30 minutes, have proven to be an asset in building a high-performing team.
Make the Most of Technology
In addition to morning meetings, Jeziorski encourages frequent communications between the marketing team and trusted contractors with whom they frequently work. Rather than phone calls or emails, messages are exchanged using online tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams—and they make it easy to do video calls as well.
“Avitus Group works in a Microsoft environment, and we’ve found Teams to be a very effective tool for delivering information,” he says. “And it may sound unusual, but both Teams and Slack also include gifs or giphys, which our team uses frequently. They tend to bring some humor to the workday and helps keep our team culture alive and well.”
Check in With Individual Team Members
Even with the best of technologies, the reality is that some people who are used to being in an interactive environment can find working from home isolating. Dan suggests managers and supervisors invest in a phone call several times a week with every team member, to see how things are going.
“It’s important that managers carve out time to really talk to their employees—especially during times like this,” he says. “COVID-19 has heightened stress and fears for so many people, and you want to make sure that people are okay both physically and emotionally. When they are in a group environment, they might laugh things off, but it’s good that every employee knows they have someone who cares about them. Yes, it’s a time investment, but it’s one that is absolutely worth it.”