Following recommendations of social distancing and guidance from local, state and federal government, the Wichita Falls Chamber transitioned to remote work last week. It took a few days to adjust to our new office normal, but we’ve recently completed our first virtual staff meeting and are using programs like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to stay connected. We’ve all moved our personal folders to our network’s OneDrive so that they can be accessed from home and we’ve transitioned in-person meetings to virtual.
We want to share with you our experiences to help you make the transition to remote work as smooth as possible for you and your team. Check out our recommendations below.
Define your software and tools.
“Getting everyone on one platform. I have to check email, texts and chat to get all the information.” Katie Britt, Director of Marketing
The first thing that you should do is define what remote working tools you’ll be using to keep your team in contact with each other and productive. It can be a challenge to work remotely when your employees don’t know how they should be maintaining communication or sharing information. Moving your computer network to a cloud-based system, such as OneDrive or DropBox, can help alleviate issues such as access to files, while other systems, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams can help with phone and video communication.
Figuring out where to start can be a challenge, so don’t be afraid to use local IT service providers to get started. You can find a list of providers, services offered and information on the cost by visiting the “Local Remote Resources” tab on the Chamber’s Falls Strong site.
Determine how processes will change (and how they will stay the same).
At the Chamber, we have a weekly staff meeting every Monday at 8:30 am and during this time of remote work, we’re still doing them! We’ve transitioned to video calls through Microsoft Teams and Zoom. We’ve set up call-forwarding to our office phone so that our receptionist Mandi is still able to direct phone traffic. With everything being shaken up, it’s valuable to keep what you can the same. When things have to change, make sure to communicate that clearly, too.
Outline expectations, accountability and outcomes.
“Expectations, accountability, and trust are huge here. Staff needs to know what they’re supposed to be working on and the boss has to trust that they’re working on it. Micromanagement would be really bad in a situation like this.” – Henry Florsheim, Wichita Falls Chamber President & CEO
Clear expectations on what work needs to get done – and what work can wait – will be crucial to maintaining an effective and productive team during a remote working situation based on the limited means available. Take a good look at your staff’s workload and determine where leniency can be awarded and where it can’t, and make sure your team knows that decision. This could also be a great time to consider (virtual) professional development opportunities for your employees.
If you have accountability metrics that can be employed, feel free to use them! Ensuring that employees meet desired outcomes is perfectly okay – however, understand that access may be limited so goals should be realistic.
Communicate with your team daily.
Checking in with your staff doesn’t have to be formal. Consider creating a group chat or send a quick email one-on-one to see how they’re doing. Effective communication with your team can keep them connected to your company’s culture and mission. At the Chamber, we use Microsoft Teams and text messaging to stay engaged. This level of interaction helps our team feel together and encourages collaboration. It’s a great way to keep an inclusive atmosphere and will help with the transition back to the office when it is time.
Request feedback from staff members.
During your transition to remote work, there will be growing pains. The easiest way to identify and overcome those challenges is to ask for feedback directly from your team and work to address the root of the problem. Whether your issue is network connectivity, lag in video chats or issues with communication, you don’t know unless you ask. Ensuring the issues are addressed in a timely manner will increase productivity and keep your team on track.
Offer leniency and flexibility.
It can be challenging in a remote work setting to find eight straight hours of work each day and working from home innately comes with unique distractions that are different from the office. As an employer, it’s important that you offer your employees a reasonable amount of flexibility to achieve their goals in their own terms during this time. To accommodate personal challenges, such as changes in childcare, you can allow employees to make their own schedules to minimize the effect of distractions in the household.
Trust your professionals to be professionals.
When you onboarded your employees, you knew they had the skills to complete their assigned tasks and you trusted them to get the job done. This is no different. Allowing your employees to operate with an increased level of autonomy is critical to the success of a work-from-home environment. Enable your team with the right tools and let them make you proud.
“We know that the unknown is the worst thing for a business owner. Our main concern is to make sure you have the information you need to protect yourself, your family and your business.” Henry Florsheim, Wichita Falls Chamber President & CEO
The Wichita Falls Chamber is dedicated to supporting your businesses and has launched Falls Strong, a webpage that lists resources for our community specific to COVID-19. If you’re doing something unique to help your team or others get through this situation, we’d love to share your story.