Its been a few months since I did my last blog post. Not making excuses, but working at an IT Director at a large Biotech can be challenging :). I finally have some time to share some good tips I shared with my team and end-users during this COVID-19 Pandemic. Having a good WFH (Work from Home) environment is key to keeping the balance at work and at home.
Get your technology in order
Technology is what enables remote work in the first place. So make sure to take your laptop home, and don’t forget your dock and charger. Also, take home your mouse, keyboard, and monitors — anything that might make working on your laptop from home a little easier. Then there’s the software. Make sure you have the right applications. Lots of remote workers are leaning heavily on Microsoft Teams. Slack, WebEx, and Zoom. In fact, Microsoft is giving MS Teams out for free to use.
Iron out what your team is planning to use ASAP. and of course, you’ll want to make sure all your technology actually works from home.
Make sure you have bandwidth
Another thing? Internet access — is yours robust enough at home to allow you to video conference? Many conferences and almost all nonessential work travel are being canceled right now, so people want to use online video conferencing, which requires a good Internet connection. If your bandwidth is low and you’re on a video call, try shutting down other programs to lighten the load on your connection. If your connection is really choppy, you can often shut off the video portion of a call and participate with audio only, which defeats the purpose of seeing your team but will still allow you to participate in the conversation.
Another Internet hog? Kids. If your connection is not robust, set some ground rules about when kids can’t be online because mom is on a conference call, or stagger your video meetings with your partner or other family members if possible
The kids are alright — but they’re home too
With school closures and concerns about putting kids in daycare, as well as staffing those places up, parents are faced with a challenge, especially parents who have to physically go to work because they have no remote work option. If you are working from home with kids in tow, you’ll need to make a plan for education and entertainment. Stock up on books and puzzles. Also, it’s OK to use streaming services (Common Sense Media has good recommendations for kid-appropriate content)
Manage expectations with Work
It’s wise to have a discussion with your manager about what can actually be accomplished from home. Ask your manager what the priorities are, and discuss how tasks will get done. How are teams going to track projects they’re working on? How will they meet to discuss this? Will you all be connecting on Microsoft Teams or email? Will there be standing meetings at a certain time to get everyone coordinated? This should be an ongoing conversation. Remember, going fully remote is a new experience for many companies and their workers. Be honest about what isn’t working or can’t get done in these circumstances. More overall communication is going to be necessary.
Embrace the webcam
Conference calls are tough — there are time delays, not knowing who’s talking because you can’t see the person, people getting interrupted on accident. Webcams can solve a number of these issues: the sense of isolation and that confusion. “To be able to see the person you’re talking to I think is important,”. And also, because we miss cues when we aren’t working together in person, make doubly sure all colleagues understand their marching orders. “Personally, I tend to overcommunicate, and I think that’s a good default setting,” Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is this clear?” You can even try repeating back what you heard the other person say, to make sure you interpreted the person’s meaning correctly.
One undeniable loss is the social, casual “water cooler” conversation that connects us to people — if you’re not used to that loss, full-time remote work can feel isolating. To fill the gap, some co-workers are scheduling online social time to have conversations with no agenda. Use Microsoft Teams\Slack chats and things like that if you miss real-time interaction. Again, embrace video calling and webcams so you can see your colleagues. Try an icebreaker over your team chat: What’s everyone’s favorite TV show right now? What’s one good thing that someone read that day?
Are you a Manager of a Team? – Have a Daily Stand-Up Meeting with your Team or a Virtual Lunch and Learn
Keep them quick and make sure everyone participates. We do this in my IT team every day. It keeps the team engaged. I plan on having virtual lunch and learns and have the company pickup lunch for the team. Again…Keep everyone engaged.
Hopefully everyone is staying safe at home and off course keeping social distancing…Until next time and Stay Safe…..Rob