I had the pleasure of seeing Barbara Corcoran speak at a conference about a year ago. She is a very successful businesswoman and always has great advice. I recently read an article where she gives five tips to help your team remain productive while working from home. They are all great reminders as we enter month eight of working remote.
1. Set up a dedicated workspace – For Barbara’s team, who is in New York City, this is more difficult than it sounds. Space is a premium there, and most of her team live in tiny apartments with roommates. But she still advised them to find a spot. Not necessarily a room – just a spot that could be their dedicated workspace. She even had them send her a picture of their setup. She said she didn’t do this out of a lack of trust, but to create a deadline. As many of you know, even before the pandemic ASE supported remote work. Our policy does state that the employee should have a dedicated space for work – not the sofa or kitchen table. Having a dedicated space allows for less disruption and an area to focus.
2. Have the right equipment and supplies – When Barbara asked her employees to think about what they needed they all replied with a phone and their computer. But it’s really more than that. Barbara actually sent all her employees a printer, because she felt they needed one to maintain productivity. She also ensured that everyone had high speed internet. But it’s also all the little things such as, sticky notes, scissors, pens, etc. She had them all pack up a bag of office supplies. I think the key here, whether it’s supplied by the organization or not, is to remind employees to set themselves up to succeed. Make sure they have the technology and the supplies they need to remain productive.
3. Set meetings to check in – Barbara’s main concern, which I share as well, was how to keep the team comradery going with everyone being remote. Barbara mandated a number of meetings each week in order to keep communication flowing. We did the same at ASE. Each department initially had daily huddles that were meant as a quick 30-minute check-in with each other. We still have the huddles, but most teams have moved to twice a week as we’ve all adjusted to working remotely. We also have monthly staff meetings and do virtual happy hours every 4-6 weeks to keep the comradery alive. Our most recent one featured virtual bingo, which was a nice break. It’s important to be creative during this time.
4. Encourage a flexible schedule – Barbara encouraged her employees to be flexible with their schedules. She realized that this was their chance to see when they are the most productive. When in the office, her employees came in between 9-9:30 a.m. and stayed until 5:30-8:00 p.m. But if someone is an early riser, she encouraged them to start work at 6:00 a.m. while working remote. ASE also gives the opportunity for a flexible schedule. We do have core hours where we want everyone to be online. But outside of that, employees can flex their hours as need be.
5. Adjust your management style – The shift to entire offices working remote was a big one for most managers. Most businesses, including Barbara’s, had some people working remote at any one time, but typically not everyone. Barbara stated that she had to give herself a lecture each night before bed to remind herself that even though her employees were at home, she could still communicate often and give them to-do’s as needed. Communication throughout the day is key to make sure you don’t feel disconnected. My teams at ASE are in constant communication whether via email or a Teams video call. I think some teams might even be communicating more!
While we all miss the live, human connection, I think organizations have done a great job of accepting remote work and ensuring productivity and engagement remain or even improve. How have you adjusted? Have you seen a difference in productivity? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.