A few weeks ago, I had to make an emergency trip to Arizona. My wife was out there with our dogs when she noticed that our oldest dog, Maxie, started limping and had a hard time using her rear legs. We took her to the vet expecting it to be nothing more than a leg injury from playing too hard with our other dogs but discovered she had a tumor on her spine that also wrapped around a nerve and invaded her spine. It became clear that surgery and chemo were not going to be a viable option and so I flew out to be with my wife and Maxie as we humanly laid her to rest.
I rescheduled many face-to-face meetings until we could meet in person, as these meetings involved critical discussions. But, as we were driving home, the rise of Coronavirus and social distancing began to increase. I realized—just as I’m sure you have—that suddenly, we can no longer simply reschedule that face-to-face meeting.
We find ourselves thrust into the social distancing movement, whether we wanted to be or not. We are told to stay home and still find a way to be productive. Suddenly, we have no choice but to adopt a remote work mindset and fast.
I remember when I first heard the concept “remote work.” It was the early 90s when high-speed modems were the rage. Organizations were trying to connect their mobile workforce (road warriors) to critical resources.
At the time, it was a concept met with mixed reactions. Some organizations quickly jumped on the movement—particularly in tech companies and large enterprises—while others balked at the idea of believing it would cause productivity to come to a screeching halt.
As an IT services firm, we had no choice but to figure out how to become experts in remote access technology. The technology worked but was extremely limited and required a lot of bandwidth to be effective. What’s more, at the time, video conferencing was not a viable option. But the biggest problem by in large was the absence of a remote worker culture.
- Many workers were not prepared to be productive in a remote environment.
- Many leaders were still managing butts in seats versus output and outcomes.
- A lack of human connection to the culture and people created cultural challenges.
It’s incredible to think how far we have come in just 30 years. Today, 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week. In America, research states that between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. Those numbers will surge even more in the wake of everything that is happening.
Whether you’ve been on the laggard side of the remote work movement, an early adopter, or somewhere in between, the time is now to become a virtual work expert. Here are a few tips you and your teams can consider to maximize productivity, performance, and collaboration:
1. Leverage Video: Today, there are many collaboration solutions like WebEx, Zoom, GoTo Meeting, and Microsoft Teams. This technology allows for team collaboration with complete file sharing, whiteboarding, session recording, and, perhaps most importantly, video conferencing. Just today, I was on several video calls with the Trilix team and our clients. Encourage your team—and clients—to make video mandatory for every virtual meeting. It will build connections and enable you to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues as if you were together.
2. Create Daily Objectives: The biggest challenge when working remote is isolation. It’s easy to get disconnected from what the rest of the organization is accomplishing, and your productivity decreases. I found that even though we are no longer coming into the office to work, we can set aggressive daily goals to work virtually. I start each morning by outlining my daily objectives and work throughout the day to accomplish that I am more productive than when I am in the office.
3. Take Breaks: When we wake up and fire up the laptop immediately, we can quickly see our days slipping away from us while working from home. We dart from meeting to meeting, not even realizing we missed lunch or haven’t gotten up in hours. When working remotely, we can end up losing organic breaks that pop up—from watercooler chat to team lunches to quick errand runs. So, be diligent about building in breaks throughout your day. Head outside to take in some sun. Throw a load of laundry in. Catch up on your favorite book for a few moments. Deliberate breaks lead to breakthrough performance!
4. Choose Your Space Wisely: Working form home offers us many options that are not available in the office. Many articles say dedicate a space in your home to be your virtual office. While I agree with the advice, I’d also encourage you to think about changing your location as regularly as you need inspiration. But wherever you choose to wok from, it’s essential to eliminate distractions like barking dogs, children crying, lawnmowers, and the list goes on. There is nothing worse than conducting a conference call, or video littered by distractions!
5. Dress as Though You Are Going to Work: It can be way too easy to stay in PJs all day when working remotely. But research finds that getting dressed for work helps us maintain a routine and keeps our mind focused and sharp. I don’t wear a suit every day, but I dress professionally. I am prepared to make that impromptu video conference call with my team at a moment’s notice.
On my way home from Arizona, my wife and I drove for four days straight, logging about 10 hours per day. The car became my new virtual office, and my Verizon Jet Pack was my internet connection. During that time, I responded to email in real-time, completed my book proposal, and worked on chapter six of my book. But most interestingly, I did two to three video collaboration sessions per day while driving cross-country.
I certainly didn’t log any traditional “butt in seat” time! But I was productive. I was able to conduct face-to-face interviews. I was able to make decisions with my team that needed timely resolution. I was able to move deliverables forward for our clients.
We have come a long way from the early 90s. The workplace of tomorrow has arrived, whether we wanted it to or not. Some are referring to this period as “the remote work global experiment” that no one asked for. But what if this experiment is exactly what we needed to make our businesses more productive, resilient, agile, and collaborative?
Struggling with the remote work global experiment? Looking for guidance on everything from how to choose the right technology platforms to how to create a remote workforce culture? Drop us a line here. Our team of consultants is happy to hop on a quick call with you to walk you through some ide