I want to share with you what I have learned about remote work, especially during this time of our new “normal.” Some tips and tricks and best practices about working remotely.
I’ve actually been working remotely over twelve years both as an employee and as a business owner. I’m a certified records manager – very interested in being able to manage information safely. I’ve also done a lot of online software training, so I’m very comfortable with being able to teach and work over the internet and over a remote session. In addition to being a trainer and doing a lot of that over the internet, I’ve also presented webinars which are very helpful for business owners who are wanting to talk about their services or products as well. Over the years, I’ve gone through different platforms from the presenter perspective and as someone joining different platforms because my clients may have them. There are commonalities between best practices across all those different platforms.
As we all know, this is the new “normal.” We know there are restrictions in place as far as us being able to meet with others and see our clients or customers in-person. And we know it’s going to be this way at least until May 1st, if not longer through the summer. So, it’s good to plan and get familiar with this new way of being.
Even if the restrictions are lifted, clients may still feel more comfortable meeting virtually as well. If the government tells us we can start conducting our business in-person, there may still be some lag before we actually do that. For those who normally travel to client or business sites, think of the positives that are there. One of the big positives that I’m hearing again and again is that you’re able to save time on travel. You don’t have to go and drive to certain places. I have a client who’s out of Philadelphia, and he used to travel an hour to an hour and a half into the city and now he doesn’t have to worry about that or the parking, and he is more productive because he’s able to use the time for work purposes. Plus, he now gets that commuting time back in his day. Think about the different advantages like scheduling in additional meetings if you want to and more productivity during these times.
In my case, we have our two young girls who are elementary school age and we have to manage both while doing our work activities. We’re starting to prepare for distance learning for them next week in the Elk Grove School District. You have to build in some time and flexibility so you can do both your work duties and any other home duties that are now necessary. Those are just things to keep in mind.
For those who are now just setting up a business home office, some of the recommendations that I would give is try your best to find a quiet space where you can set up your computer if you don’t have one already. If you have a place where you can close the door that would be something that’s preferable because then you can differentiate. You need some quiet time to talk and do business.
For those who are using video, you’ll want to dress professionally. This is your workplace, so you’ll want to do the things you would normally do when you go into the office. The other thing to put in place is to make it a comfortable place. Some people are able to work from their kitchen table and that might be their quiet place. But if you have young kids around, you may not be able to do that so another area that is quiet may be needed. Get a comfortable chair. Make sure that this is a place where you can do your business when necessary.
One of the things that you’ll want to do is understand your virtual platform and some of the security settings. Take, for example, Zoom. Many have been talking about what you need to have in place so unauthorized people can’t come on to a platform such as this. Don’t share the link on your Twitter account to everybody and their mother. You want to make sure only a certain amount of people have access to this link. Institute a waiting room so only people that you let in can have access to the virtual room. Use passwords. These are the kinds of things that you’ll want to understand, whatever platform you choose. How do you make sure only those people who should have access have access. You may want to also limit who can share their screen or video. And you want to understand what settings are in place for running a meeting efficiently.
If you don’t have a nice background, you want to fix that to be able to share because maybe your business office that you’ve created in your home isn’t business appropriate or it’s messy or something else is happening. You can use a virtual background. Or you can have a green screen where you just put it behind you and then it’ll project whatever background you want to have on that. Or you can always fix up your area if you want to display yourself on video so that it is presentable.
The other thing I would say is run a test meeting with another person. I’ve run a test meeting before with myself and you’re only getting half of the perspective. You really need to have another person on there to do a true run-through so that you know that your speakers are working, video is working, and that you’re able to share appropriately. Definitely make it a point to do that.
If you’re going to do this regularly as a part of your business, you’ll want to think about having more than one monitor because having multiple monitors allows you to share one screen and then have your notes on another screen or access something that’s more confidential that you don’t want to show everybody in a meeting. Having more than one screen or monitor is going to be helpful in those cases.
You’ll also want to actively listen during your meetings. I’ve been using Zoom particularly for over five years. Most of my business is done on these virtual meetings, a majority being client meetings, and there’s differences between meeting somebody in person and doing a virtual meeting. One of the main things that I note is that if you’re not doing video and you’re just doing audio, it’s like talking to somebody on the phone. You don’t see their face. You’re not able to get as much feedback from a virtual meeting, especially if you’re not doing video. Something I tend to do is check in with the other person regularly to make sure I am understanding what they say. When I listen during meetings, I often repeat what the other person says to make sure that a) I understood them correctly and that b) we are communicating effectively; that our attention is still on each other. Make sure that you’re confirming. If you’re not hearing somebody respond, you’ll say, “does that make sense?” Ensure that communication is continuous.
Now, if you’re not the person who’s speaking and especially if you have multiple people on a call, you want to mute yourself. The reason I say this is that sometimes people are working, maybe writing up an email, or trying to do multiple things at the same time. I can tell you this, I’m a very heavy typer. If you don’t mute yourself, the people on the phone or virtual meeting are going to hear you typing. Maybe there’s somebody in the background who is sitting next to you, they’ll also hear that. If you want to make it a lot more clear, etiquette is to be muted if you’re not talking.
Meetings don’t always have to be formal. Especially in these times where we don’t have that water cooler or coffee maker where we all come together and chit chat and if you’re missing that, have those check-in meetings with your team. That way, everybody is getting that facetime they need.
Something that I find very helpful is to record meetings. That helps people see it on their time. It also helps if you need to run the meeting and take notes. I do a lot as a project manager so I’ll record a meeting and then if I want to come back to write up some notes, it’s better for me to worry about note-taking later and just record that meeting and come back to it.
The last thing I would say is… give everyone a bit of grace during this time. Everybody is working through, trying to figure out how to do the virtual meetings, have their business at home, work while taking care of any home obligations at the same time, so give everyone a little bit more flexibility during this new “normal.”