7 Ways to Make the Best Out of Working Remotely

Is it possible that some of your people are more productive (and maybe even happier) working from their home office?

When America is back to running on all cylinders at the end of this pandemic, some companies may re-evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of having some people work remotely.

Let’s start with the three obvious drawbacks of working remotely:

  1. In-person meetings are replaced with video conferencing. However, as we all know, most people don’t want coworkers, colleagues and clients to see them in their daytime pajamas petting their dog on their lap. Because of this, in many cases, video conferencing is more like a conference call through a computer. What’s more, when people disable their cameras, colleagues and clients miss out on those non-verbal cues which account for 55% of people’s communication – you know, the good stuff like rolling eyes, smiles, frowns, gestures, or even furrowed eyebrows.
  2. For people who enjoy being around others, working remotely can lead to depression – especially when there’s nowhere to go ─ like right now, unless you go on a trip to your mailbox or Walgreens. Humans are social creatures, and even those who prefer isolation still crave to see another human from time to time other than their spouse and kids – even if said human is a bit nutty.
  3. Although most people are only a phone call away, working in isolation or remotely means there are not as many impromptu meetings where multiple people get together to bounce ideas off one another, resolve small issues or just to say, Hi! and have a five- minute coffee conversation. You know – the way relationships are built and bonds are made. That’s what humans do.

So, the question is, how can you make the best out of having your people work remotely? I have seven thoughts.

  1. Encourage people to enable their cameras during video conferencing. Communicate the importance and benefits of people being able to see one another during meetings and discussions. Let people know that you don’t care if Fluffy is on their lap during an internal meeting, but maybe not for a client meeting. In other words, be the understanding and empathetic boss during these times of stress. You could actually have a lot of fun with video conferencing to lighten the mood. What if you started each meeting with a humorous ten-minute show-and tell before getting down to business?
  2. Schedule teams to video conference one-another to prevent involuntary isolation. It’s one thing to incorporate what many refer to as “jam time” where people work uninterrupted to get stuff done. But, remember that in many ways, your company is a family. It’s healthy to see one another. And, as you always should, start on time, end on time and send an agenda before each meeting.
  3. Do your best to maintain team-building activities, assuming you’ve done team-building activities before some of, or maybe even all of your people were sent home. One of my favorite and most effective ways to keep teams alive and intact is through the implementation of an All Ideas Matter program. Encourage and incentivize your people to contribute ideas of how to improve metrics such as communication, efficiency, morale, retaining good people, sales and generally becoming even a better partner for your clients.
  4. Don’t discuss coronavirus. Your people need a break. Even though we’re told the worst may be behind us, the preponderance of the news is still focused on the awful stuff, and much like being subjected to Christmas music at retailers in the month of September, negative news is almost impossible to avoid. Don’t waste your time or energy adding to it.
  5. If business is slow, take advantage of this time to think about how you will need to reinvent your business as we emerge from this pandemic. We already know that being successful requires reinvention to stay current and relevant, so start thinking of how you can do so. Better yet, ask your people to contribute their ideas and offer rewards for the best ideas submitted. This would be perfect for that All Ideas Matter program I talked about a minute ago.
  6. Again, if business is indeed slow, think about stalking your competitors – those companies doing whatever it takes to survive, which includes courting your customers. Learn about them. Find out what they are up to. Look through their websites and google them. And yes, compare your brand to theirs because your customers are doing the same thing. If you think this is the time for hitting the brakes on your marketing, think again. Cash may be tight, and you may have needed to lay off or furlough employees, but when we emerge from this, the brands that pulled over to the side of the road and stopped their marketing will be challenged to regain customer relationships. I digress.
  7. Much like people are questioning whether the government was properly prepared for this pandemic, you can ask the same of your company and your brand. As of this very moment, does your company and brand have the ability to adapt not only to this pandemic, but to what the new, undefined normal will be? Have you figured out a way to make your brand relevant during a disaster?

This whole crisis reminds me of a scene in Crimson Tide which happens to be one of my favorite movies. For those of you who are unfamiliar, in the movie, Gene Hackman was the commanding officer of a nuclear submarine, and Denzel Washington was brought in as the submarine’s executive officer. In the early part of the movie Gene Hackman saw an opportunity to conduct an emergency action drill knowing that his submarine was already addressing the real emergency of extinguishing a large fire that erupted in the galley. Of course, the purpose of the drill was to replicate a nuclear war.

When the drill was over and the fire in the galley was extinguished, Denzel Washington expressed his disapproval of running an emergency drill while knowing other officers were already under stress dealing with a large fire in the galley.

Gene Hackman’s response was perfect. He said that that was actually the best time to run a drill because war doesn’t happen when everything is hunky dory. He saw the chaos of the fire as an opportunity to test the will and strength of everyone on his boat to make sure that if war were to erupt, his crew would be able to respond even in the presence of chaos.

The takeaway is clear. As we are dealing with a global health crisis and an economic crisis, now is the time to think of how your boat, your company, will be able to persevere and handle the next crisis on the horizon. Because you know another one is coming. But you don’t know when or what it is going to be.

I’ll leave you alone with that thought.

So, there you have it. Just a few things to think about as you press on and put one foot in front of the other every day to fight the good fight and survive.