In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, many of you may be considering establishing a telework/telecommute program to keep your staff out of harms way.
I have, fortunately, been participating in teleworking situations for the past decade. I am also grateful that most of the AMS platforms that I work with today are cloud-based and allows me to access and increase your system’s impact on your mission from the comfort of my home office! Here are some best practices from my teleworking experience.
Equipment & Remote Setup
My first teleworking experience came out of necessity, similar to what COVID-19 may be causing your organization to do. I was working for an organization right outside of Washington, DC during the 2010 North American Blizzard (Snowmageddon!) and got stuck in my house for a week. Seeing this situation coming, our Executive Director asked us to take our laptops home with us and prepare to work from home during the blizzard. Our IT team had already prepared us for this situation with the equipment and setup that they established.
· Laptops with docking stations at the office – instead of stationary desktops. This allows for your computer to go where you go. As a policy, we took our laptops (and ability to work from) home with us daily.
· Phone system with call forwarding – Simply route your calls to a home or cell phone.
· Cloud-based Technology – Many of the tools we used daily (like our AMS) were already cloud-based, which means we could access them from anywhere with an internet connection
· Remote access VPN – This allows staff to access all the tools on your network servers securely from a remote computer.
· Other Beneficial Technology – There are plenty of tools out there that help you communicate and work collaboratively, such as Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, Zoom, FreeConferenceCall.com, Slack, Google, Monday.com. All these tools are accessed via the internet.
Save and Supplement
In addition to responding to pandemics like the Coronavirus, teleworking actually helps reduce the strain on the environment and operational cost. Because of this, many cities and municipalities have funding in place to help businesses and non-profits establish a teleworking program, so be sure to check with your local, county, and state offices for such programs. Teleworking can be a huge cost savings for the organization via a drop in utilities cost (lights, water, etc.). At the same time, it will place a burden on your staff's internet and phone cost, so help them out by using some of the organization's savings to subsidize the strain that will be placed on them. In the end, your staff will be happier and the organization cut cost and help the environment.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate,
Communication is even more important in a teleworking situation. Many of the communication opportunities that an office provides (face-to-face meetings, audio and visual confirmation of your team working, those small interactions that build camaraderie, etc.) will have to be made up for. Be sure that you adjust your communication protocols to meet the needs of a teleworking situation.
· Establish your expectations for your staff. – Teleworking is very different from working in the office and may require a new set of protocols. Employ your HR department to help you write separate protocols for a teleworking environment if needed. Communicate these often so that your staff can make the necessary adjustments.
· Establish your communication tools and methods. – Every way that you communicate will now be different. There’s no more hopping up from your chair and taking a few steps to poke your head in someone’s office. Again, there are plenty of tools (some mentioned above) that help you communicate remotely.
· Over-communicate (a bit). It is going to be difficult to make up for those human interactions that being physically present provides, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try. However, don’t disrupt productivity with too much communication, switch to a micro-manager (if you are not), or corrode trust by displaying a lack-there-of. Over-communicate also means to listen more. Pay more attention to the emails, phone calls, messages board posts, etc. as signs that your team is working. Look at the progress & project reports as confirmation that things are progressing as needed.