Ten Tips for Your Remote Office Operation
Space to Focus Coaching and Consulting is a Nonprofit Connect Business Member. Bruce A. Scott, principal, draws upon 35 years of experience as an executive director to provide executive coaching, team development, and succession and transition planning. Learn more about services.
Confronting our new pandemic reality has demanded a lot from nonprofit professionals. Since caring for people and the quality of our community are “essential business,” most organizations are still running – maybe with less revenue security and more consumer need.
But your offices and services have been reduced, and you’ve had five weeks of experience with a remote workforce. You’ve learned a lot and could write your own ten tips. As a consultant I work to be a “broker of good ideas,” and this includes what I’ve learned from some of you recently. So here are my ten tips:
1. Overcommunicate Updates
Information and misinformation are both plentiful, so everyone is overwhelmed and can easily be absorbed by stress. Use a predictable schedule and format to communicate with your team. This can be structured for example around a “top three pandemic priorities” list, or as one executive director shared: what we know, what we’re working on, what we’re watching carefully/worried about.
2. Appoint a Virtual Office Czar
This person has probably already risen in your ranks. They’re smart and fast on all things digital, and patient with others, so officially make them the go-to for the mechanics and the lead explorer of how to do it better.
3. Consider Small Fixes
The number one complaint about video conferencing is background noise because of bad microphones. The easy fix for large groups is muting everyone, but the mute button slows down interactions in real team meetings. Invest in headsets. An even easier improvement is to put a lamp on your desk for front lighting.
4. Share Good Humor
Don’t double-down on sharing junk. However, so much good humor is being generated about the work-from-home experience so go ahead and share it
5. Hold Office Hours on Zoom
Create a breakroom or “open door” office hours. “Please drop-in and chat between 10 and noon.” If you want short private conversations, use the waiting-room function and admit people one-by-one.
6. Use the Situation to Learn about Each Other
Cats on desks and kids in the background put us into each others’ lives, and that’s a great thing for building trust on a team. Find time in your meetings to ask “who is that?”
7. Check-in More, Not Less
Leaders and managers may hesitate to check-in on people working remotely because of the appearance of checking-up on people. Check-in more, because people need you and want to know you care about what they’re getting done and where they are challenged (and how they’re doing – see number 8).
8. Stretch on Empathy
You’re not as visible to the people you lead and work with when you’re confined to a waist-up view on a 16-inch screen. Body language and eye contact are dulled. Ask more directly, frequently, personally and heartfully – “How are you doing?”
9. Take Advantage of the Good Things
Individualize your work experience, schedule and space. You may feel distracted, but you are probably more efficient out of the office. Take advantage of the new rhythm to take walks and even naps.
Finally, we’ve come to tip 10. Start thinking about and discussing what you’re going to keep – and focus there. This great pause is changing many things, and is an opportunity to find what we’re happy to leave behind in the way we’ve been working. You’re learning how to use some great tools that you shouldn’t drop. Work/life boundaries are different right now, so which ones were really good for us and which ones will we leave behind? Five weeks have moved us from rational panic to rational hope, and some of that hope is for improving the way we work.
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