Learning To Work In New Ways Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic
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The World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak an official pandemic. Subsequently, the U.S. stock market looks like a more epic roller-coaster than Space Mountain, Americans are making a run on toilet paper, and citizens are beginning to feel the pressure of cancellations of a wide variety of gatherings. While the situation is certainly dynamic and messaging around the situation seems to be constantly evolving, many business owners are coming to grips with a world of work that spans from mildly inconvenient to completely debilitating.
Businesses that rely on in-person customer purchases (restaurants, sports venues, concert halls, etc.) and their employees, many of whom do not have the benefit of being paid when they are not working, seem to be facing what could be a cataclysmic fate made worse by the fact that many large U.S. employers are forcing employees to work from home. Thankfully, my own two companies largely utilize remote work models so my teams are well-versed in working out of their homes. In situations like we face currently, I realize that we are the fortunate ones and that there are some lessons we have become accustomed to that may be of value to those of you who are struggling to adapt to a new, remote way of working together.
Here are a few things to consider:
1. Develop and align around explicit expectations. Those organizations that are unfamiliar with working remotely will likely find themselves, both individually and as a group, experiencing frustration in this new environment. If not today, give it a few weeks. Setting aside time right from the start to align your team around expectations of work in this new environment can help to minimize the rub and frustration that you and others may begin to feel over time working in these new ways.
2. Get familiar with technology. Thankfully, over the last decade, technology has advanced to the point where many workers can stay fully productive working remotely. Video conferencing technology, project management software, and applications like Slack really close the space between people who must collaborate to get their work done.
With team members all over the country, my employees have become accustomed to collaborating remotely using technology. Even though we are very comfortable operating in this way, some of our clients are struggling to identify the right technology, to adapt their work to be able to thrive with a remote workforce, and to effectively engage with their customers effectively and efficiently.
3. Get creative. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. If your teams are not used to operating remotely you are going to have to experiment to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Keeping focused on the customer and being open to exploring, testing, and refining the ways you work together will help to ensure that frustrations are kept to a minimum.
4. Rethink meetings. If you and your team are not accustomed to meeting remotely there are a few best practices that will help you keep on task in this new environment. First and foremost, have an agenda. Provide people with a clear understanding of why you are meeting, what you need to walk out with, and what decisions need to be made. Second, ensure that someone is assigned to actively facilitate the process. Facilitating remote meetings is an art and someone with skill should be present to ensure that everyone is engaged throughout. Third, be sure that the team leaves with clear next steps and timelines. This is especially important in remote meeting environments where people tend to go into their “holes” to work after meetings. Keeping them focused on what’s most important is key.
5. Give and ask for some grace. These are trying times for many people. At one point or another, things might get a little tense. People are navigating a lot more than just trying to figure out how to work remotely right now. Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt. Provide them with whatever support they may need and ask the same of others as you find yourself encountering challenges.
The current challenges that we face are undoubtedly creating a myriad of complications for many in the workforce. Work and life are being impacted in a variety of ways. During times like this, many are forced to develop new habits and routines to meet their responsibilities to their families and to their employers. The silver lining is, it is during times like this that we find ourselves in positions to create new ways of working. Methods for adapting to the current environment in ways that help us achieve our collective and individual goals despite the dynamic environmental conditions that we find ourselves in.
Take care of yourselves and each other and see this challenge as an opportunity to build new ways of working.