The entire POWER 10 team works remotely and Sean and Laura each have 10+ years’ experience with remote work and Amity has 7+ years’ experience with remote work. We understand that a work from home environment is new for many of our clients and friends, so we wanted to share our team’s best practices to maintain high levels of productivity and a sense of camaraderie even when you are not in the office together.
Five Tips for Hosting Successful Virtual Meetings
1. Cameras ON. When you’re not in the same room, you miss out on non-verbal cues and body language. Video conferencing circumvents this issue and makes the meeting feel much more personal (at P10 we often say it’s the next best thing to in-person meetings!). If your laptop doesn’t have a camera, you can download a video conferencing app on your phone or tablet. We strongly recommend requiring all meeting participants to join by video (particularly for internal team calls).
2. Close your email and silence your phone. Just as you (hopefully) wouldn’t be checking your emails or using your phone during an in-person meeting, keep email on your laptop closed and silence your phone during a video conference. Not only is it respectful to your fellow meeting participants, but it also prevents alerts and notifications from popping up if you are sharing your screen.
3. Large meeting? Mute participants. If you are not speaking during the meeting, keep your microphone on mute so that the speaker’s voice will be clear and uninterrupted. If you are the meeting host, you can typically mute everyone from your control panel or you can certainly just ask people to mute on their own.
4. Consider using a headset / headphones. Generally speaking, the microphone on your laptop will be sufficient. If you are leading a large or more formal meeting, however, consider plugging a headset or headphones in to your computer as it will produce a crisper sound and reduce background noise (like clicking pens, not barking dogs!).
5. Clear your background and sit near a window and / or lamp. Make sure the area behind you on screen is tidy (picked up, closet doors closed, etc.) and sit near a good light source. If you work in a basement office (or other location with limited natural light), consider putting a lamp on your desk or purchase a webcam light that clips on your laptop. Tip: Some video services like Zoom also allow you to select a background that has a green screen effect!
Five Tips for Managing a Remote Team
1. Trust your team and focus on outcomes – not activity. If you aren’t accustomed to being away from your team, it may be tempting to ask them to turn in lists of what they plan to do each day and what they accomplished each day. Instead, trust them to be professionals and spend their time doing actual work instead of typing up lists and feeling micromanaged. A great alternative is scheduling an all staff or team video conference once or twice a week to ensure everyone is aligned on priorities.
2. Communicate by video whenever possible. Our P10 HQ team stays in constant communication pretty much all day, every day. We find that hopping on a quick video conference is the best way to stay connected and hash out a plan for internal and client projects. When you’re not in the same room, you miss out on non-verbal cues and body language. Video conferencing circumvents this issue and makes the meeting feel much more personal. Texting before calling is also helpful, so you don’t accidentally interrupt while someone is “heads down” on a document (think of it as the equivalent of knocking on someone’s office door before entering to ask a question).
3. Utilize project management software for team projects. This tip is probably helpful whether you’re in an office or working remotely, but collaborative project management software is an essential tool to keeping projects on track and ensuring everyone knows their role. The P10 team uses (and loves!) Dropbox, Smartsheet, and shared Outlook calendars.
4. Check in on personal life, too. Being away from the office means no chatting throughout the day, going to lunch, etc. As you start or end calls, consider checking in on each other’s families, hobbies, etc., to maintain personal connections and a sense of camaraderie.
5. Set the example regarding work hours. Working from home can open the temptation to work around the clock. As the team leader, set an example of working during business hours so your team doesn’t feel like they are falling behind or that they are expected to work around the clock, too. Make sure your team knows the standard “office hours” of when everyone should be working / available (try to keep it the same as the usual in-office schedule). If you decide to work outside of normal business hours, consider saving emails as drafts and sending at the start of the next business day and encourage your team to do the same.
Five Tips for Working Remotely
1. Get dressed. While working in your pajamas sounds appealing, it can be a drag on your productivity. Besides, you never know when a video conference call might pop up! Business casual (at least from the waist up) is usually a good idea. Consider keeping a blazer in your office to pop on for important meetings.
2. Make an office (even if you don’t have a separate room). Save your time on the sofa (and the television) for after work, and set-up an office. If you don’t have a separate room for an office, at least designate part of your kitchen or dining room table as your workspace. It will help minimize distractions and help get your mind in “work mode” if you have a consistent work location in your home. Also, try and sit in a place where you’ll have a tidy background for video calls (straighten up, close closet doors, etc.).
3. Maintain your normal schedule. Keep your wake-up time, work hours, and meal / snack times the same as when you go in to the office. This will not only make it easier to return to your usual office schedule, but it also prevents the “work around the clock” creep (and mindless trips to the kitchen for another snack!). You can use your former commute time to get a head start on your work, exercise, read, etc.
4. Keep an “in the office” mentality. Basically, if you wouldn’t do it during business hours in the office, don’t do it while working at home. This means no television, extra social media time, non-work reading, etc. That being said, still take small breaks – it might just look a little different. Instead of popping in a co-worker’s office to chat about weekend plans for a few minutes, you might throw in a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher instead.
5. Go outside. Working from home doesn’t have to mean, “don’t leave your home.” Get some fresh air once or twice a day – no matter the weather — even if it’s just a short stroll down the street and back.