By now, you have probably adjusted to where the glare comes from on your computer screen as you try to conference call from the living room or exactly which light to turn on to give you that movie-star-in-quarantine look when you flip on your webcam for your team meetings. We are in very unique times for many work professionals.
Many of us are accustomed to getting dressed, commuting into the office, sitting down at a desk, and enjoying the occasional water-cooler talk or team lunch. Now, thanks to the amazing efforts of those companies who can afford to work virtually, we are instead waking up and trying to juggle personal and work commitments from our homes.
Here at Red Hat, we thankfully have had a bit of experience with virtual work as a large portion of our company functions as what we call “Remotees.” Situated all across the globe, these individuals have been screen sharing, web conferencing, and virtual working for years. For my team, our Consulting and Training organization, we have been fortunate enough to offer many modalities of learning from a training perspective, and we have built our mentoring-focused Consulting models on both on-site and remote activities. This helps give customers a view into how their skills are growing but also gives our consultants a break from the grind of travel.
Even so, Red Hat is still learning! This is unique for all of us. As we enjoyed our Virtual Happy Hour last week (see more below), I asked our management and leadership team to document and vote on the virtual work strategies that are working for them in the field today. We highlighted the most effective items in some social media posts and below I’ve included all of the strategies our team felt were making an impact on day to day virtual work internally and with our customers.
Host a Virtual Happy Hour or Game Night
Build team camaraderie by scheduling a weekly 30-minute or 60-minute meeting where you don’t discuss work, but instead you check in on one another, discuss the topics of the day, and learn more about each other's families. This has been the single most amazing thing we’ve started doing at Red Hat, even before COVID-19, and it’s been so well received we now see dozens of groups across the company doing it, and we’ve even started hosting for our Customers. We even had a team host a virtual Pictionary game last week!
Utilize Your Web Camera Whenever Possible
Ask your team to use your web cameras (when appropriate) to allow a better face to face interaction. This helps build a more personal touch and makes folks feel less disconnected. You will also be amazed at how subtle facial expressions and hand gestures help eliminate those awkward transitions found on normal phone calls. Managers can set a good example by always using theirs, and no doubt, the rest of the team will follow.
Break The Ice When Starting A Meeting
Take a minute or two to connect with other meeting attendees on a personal level before getting down to business. You would normally do this in a conference room or the hallway, and it's one of the things that helps ease tension and create trust in the office. Try sharing a funny story around what’s going on in your household to lighten the mood. One of our team members had a mishap with the kitchen trash can during a call, and bringing it up just helped relieve a noticeably tense situation.
Don’t Micromanage And Do Practice Empathy
You may tend to want to ask for more documentation and more statuses. Try to fight that urge and trust that your team will be as productive as they can be. If we can take this time to practice empathy with our teams, it will ultimately help produce better outcomes, and the way we handle this as peers and managers may very well define our leadership style for months and years to come.
Remember to Keep a Schedule
This sounds simple, but it can be easy to forget to drink plenty of water, eat meals, exercise, and even stop working on time. I encourage you to set an alarm when needed and to schedule regular activities or placeholders on your calendar to set a cadence. We can take advantage of hallway time in the office and those personal interactions to get work done, however with virtual work, we see calendars get loaded from 8 am - 6 pm with no breaks. It’s not sustainable without proactive time management.
Get Up and Move Around During “Listen-only” Calls
If you know you have an upcoming call where you are not expected to speak, but instead listen, use that time to get outside for a walk or take a stroll around your house. You can even just use it as an opportunity to sit outside for some fresh air or sunshine. This will break up your day and keep your mind fresh.
Create A Consistent Work Space
Creating a space for your “home office” is a good way to key your brain into when it should be in work mode or home mode. Context switching is hard - taking up energy and breaking productivity. By setting boundaries we will see better success in our work activities!
Utilize Chat Tools and Messaging
Use a team chat tool to stay engaged throughout the day and be open to non-work related chat. The connections your team makes socially will inform the collaboration and productivity they have - it will also start to build better response times and accelerate feedback loops.
Offer Flexible Work Hours
We are all dealing with our own personal home situations. Understand that everyone on your team may not be able to work from 9 am to 5 pm. If you can be accommodating and flexible, this will ultimately let your peers and team members find out when they can personally be the most productive and will ultimately breed the best outcomes for your organization.
Schedule Daily Scrum Calls
If you aren’t following the practices of agile and scrum yet, what better time than now to start. These quick 15-minute “stand-ups” allow each person on the team to say what they have done, are planning to do, and any blockers they have. This can help save everyone from extra emails, chat messages, and those pesky written statuses described above. One tip though, be sure to timebox the call to 15 minutes and “parking lot” things that need more detailed discussion.
Yes, wear pants. Putting your body into a regimen that includes getting up, showering, getting dressed, doing your hair will continue to reinforce the “I’m going to be productive today” and “It’s time to work” mentality. Your mind and body will thank you for this.
If you’d like to hear more tips and tricks for virtual work, Red Hat hosted a Virtual Webinar event on April 7th. You can watch the recording here.
You can also share these tips with your coworkers via our Remote Work Tips & Tricks pdf guide.
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