As we face the current societal and organizational struggles of a worldwide health crisis, many employees and teams are finding themselves working from home for the first time, or for the first time on a daily basis. Managing a virtual team isn’t easy, and it’s easy to become disconnected from your team members if you are used to working in an office environment. The key to organizational success in a work from home setting is communication. Keep in touch. Over communicating is far better than under-communicating. Establishing a routine and habit of being responsive and proactive with your team members and superiors is the best way to ensure success in a virtual team. Here are some other tips for working from home:
- It’s easy to work a 16-hour day from home – so don’t! Schedule your day. Establish some structure by documenting when you are supposed to start and finish. It’s easy to keep working or return to work late in the evening, as you have everything you need right there. But it’s healthier to maintain set work hours, and your superiors may have specific hour requirements for you so be sure to establish this right away.
- Before getting straight to work, set up your home office. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it needs to be separate from the home activities, especially since many kids are out of school. It should have the basic supplies so that you don’t have to go search for a pen and paper if you need to take notes and your computer suddenly freezes. Make it your own, and make it cozy but structured. Sit up straight and maintain a general office environment. This will keep your head in “office mode” and less likely to drift off-task
- Install any new software or communications tools and apps being used to increase productivity and communication among teams and employees. MS Teams and Skype or Skype for Business are the primary messaging and meeting apps. Use Toggl or other handy tools to track your time. Use Project Management tools and charts for maintenance tasks. Trello and MeisterTask are the most commonly used at IIL. We can assist you in setting up and managing these boards.
- Tell your family what your requirements, hours, deadlines, and rules will be. Let them know what to expect, and how important it is to not be interrupted during work hours. Working from home needs to be as similar to your office working environment as possible to stay on track. Let them know you have obligations that have to be met, and set clear boundaries for breaks and when it is okay to interrupt.
Day to Day Operations
- Get dressed!! Don’t make the mistake of lounging in your pajamas. Waking up and doing a normal daily routine will keep you on track. Splash some water on your face, wear a decent blouse or button-up, particularly for face to face virtual meetings.
- Avoid bringing work into the family environment. If you have deadlines, escalations, and other intense (which is code for “stressful”) situations, be aware of the impact it can have on your family members. They may see or overhear you handling difficult issues and, as a result, they might internalize that stress or worry.
- Manage your home time carefully. Not having that commute can be fantastic. In fact, staying home makes it easier to engage in family time. But it’s important to manage it so you don’t get burned out by being home all day (and night).
- Be respectful and patient of other team members’ home office environments. Some folks will have home offices that are well established, with a professional look and configuration. Others, who are new to working from home, may not. Some may struggle to carve out a workspace in their homes or need to share that work environment with a spouse or significant other, which can cause background noise and distractions. If you hear a dog bark or a baby cry, please be patient with them, and try to minimize noises in your home office as much as possible.
- Structure your day with breaks. Walk the block, smell the roses, or do a call from the garden. If the walls start closing in, change your scenery. Rest your eyes and stretch your legs every hour for just a few minutes.
- Schedule lunch and eat it away from your office. Don’t put in 12-hour days (or later) with back-to-back calls and forget to eat or eat poorly. You need both a mental and nutritional break, so take a lunch break. But do it away from your computer. Read a magazine or a book, or catch up on personal messages.
- Don’t forget to exercise. Some folks will squeeze in a quick run, hit the Peloton, or go to the gym for 30 minutes. Follow their leads – it’s a great way to clear out the mental cobwebs and re-energize your body.
- Schedule quick 10-minute calls with colleagues or friends. Under normal office circumstances, you might enjoy catching up with folks over the water cooler. While you are home, simulate that connection by scheduling WebEx calls with your buddies. Talking to them not only refreshes your brain but is great therapy.
- Avoid taking personal calls during work hours. Extended family should know about your situation to avoid interruptions.
- BE AVAILABLE. Don’t make your superiors or team members hunt you down. Respond to emails immediately, even if you are simply letting someone know you’ve received the message. In times like this, communication is of the utmost importance, as things are confusing enough with these new ways of life and everyone is trying to manage new work environments during the biggest health crises and societal disruptions in our lifetimes. So it is very easy to get distracted and forget you have promised someone a task will be done. Set timers and reminders to help you remember.
- Don’t underestimate the benefits of a digital assistant. Siri, Alexa, and Bixby can all help you with reminders and lists and will integrate into many of the tools you will be using.
- If you are able to order high-speed internet, you will be a lot less frustrated with your WFH experience. There are many service providers offering much lower prices during this crisis
Read more about Managing Virtual Teams Successfully from Dr. Willis Thomas, PMP, CPT. His publications have received global recognition from associations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) where he received the Cleland Award for “The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.”
About the Author
Roxi Nevin has worked in the support, On-Demand learning, and marketing departments for the International Institute for Learning for seven years. She is also the administrator of operations for the Center for Grateful Leadership. With an educational background in History, Psychology, Business administration and the tech sector, and a previous professional background in political action, her writings based on these broad experiences of topics in these areas have been published in various online publications and blogs. She currently writes a monthly column called Grateful Parenting. She enjoys cooking, painting, and photography in her spare time.