It was in March 2020. Connected about current situations, you suspected it. You had advised your team members to bring their laptops home. It was the last day you shook hands or if you live alone, that you shared a hug.
During his daily press conference, your provincial premier announced the lockdown. While staying at home, in a few days, with agility, you and your team members, well equipped or not, became teleworkers. Quickly, instinctively, without a training plan, you developed the technological skills and abilities to work from home.
To allow you to shine confidence and credibility at a distance as much as face to face at the office, I present you the know-how to organize yourself to optimize your working hours, while dealing with the crisis as well as the confinement that is in perpetual evolution at home and in your relationships.
I – SET UP A ROUTINE
You have heard it over and over again. I repeat it. With almost a decade of experience as a self-employed person, I confirm that beyond discipline, after an attitude of “Just do it”, routine is the key to the success of telework.
At the beginning, as you may have experienced, even the most hated domestic chores suddenly become attractive.
To avoid deviating from your schedule and to ensure optimization from your working hours:
Organize your workspace. Here is an article Organize your office for ultimate productivity to help you optimize this space.
Validate the expectations of your employer and do the same with your team members.
Include the activities of your family members in your calendar.
Plan your tasks according to your energetic biorhythm and allow others to do so too.
Assign a preparation time to get ready for work, including dressing in a comfortable outfit, but also one that will allow you to perform and especially continue to be perceived according to what you want to shine.
Include regular breaks; virtual coffees or calls with your colleagues, customers and other members of your professional community. They could also include “walk and talks” while each of you are in your own neighbourhoods.
Within your team, officialize non-connection hours. Don’t make exceptions.
Include “me” moments, just for you.
II– CHOOSE THE RIGHT MODE OF COMMUNICATION ACCORDING TO THE SITUATION
Many work teams have made the virtual shift to a collaboration application, like MS Teams. They organize files, follow up on conversations, manage meetings and give a global overview of your collaborations.
If this is not yet your case, inspired by your intention, choose your communication method carefully and review the etiquette rules that apply to each mode,
It is the mode of communication that most closely reflects an in-person meeting. Now ubiquitous in our professional and social lives, it allows us to see and hear, be seen and be heard, in order to anchor the message.
Without travelling time or even walking to go from one meeting to another and time to freshen, in telework mode, it is necessary to avoid scheduling them to close to one another. Because, if you don’t, you risk losing the thread of conversation or your mind…
Under the best circumstances, screen-to-screen attention time is reduced. Thus, within the COVID-19 crisis, assign a limited time. Respect it. The others also have other occupations and count on you to maintain their integrity towards their other commitments. Then, to make sure everyone is ready to participate:
- Send an agenda.
- Contextualize your message.
- End the meeting with actions.
- Poise your voice. Adjust your tone. Use a simple vocabulary, common to all.
- Let others lead the meeting.
- Bring interactivity: discussions in subgroups, screen sharing, creation and modification of online documents in real time, group viewing of videos, a webinar or stretching exercises.
Before taking action, adjust the light and your camera by referring to Videoconference: light, camera and action in eleven recommendations of the best practices.
Because focusing on full-time video conferencing can be difficult, the phone in earning back in popularity these days. It is not that easy to look at the little hole in the camera and nod while making an effort not to have “crossed eyes”. Simultaneously, you have to be aware of your non-verbal language while taking notes. It may therefore be wise to entrust your more delicate, fragile and sensitive messages, to the telephone. Without being seen, your body will be more relaxed and comfortable. You will then be able to give your full attention to the other’s tone. You will benefit from his vocal cues, including his breathing and his silences.
This sensitive awareness also applies to messages left in your voicemail. This also applies to your voicemail. Call yourself and listen. Is your message welcoming, confident and poised? Congratulate yourself or adjust accordingly.
With emotions on edge and home distractions on the rise, the risk of email misinterpretation is also increasing in the era of COVID-19 lockdown. Limit the number of emails on the same project. Instead, opt for a videoconference meeting, a call or use a virtual application to manage your projects.
Fast, instant and less formal, they can be effective. But beware, if you have several business partners, receiving a high number of texts can interrupt your work flow, which is already limited during this crisis. Know that some employees are currently choosing to reserve text messages for their family members. Again, here too, validate the communication expectations with your team and partners.
III– SUPERVISE WITH REGULARITY, RESPECT AND RECOGNITION
At a time when all that seems most usual, “normal” is work and all that seems most familiar is another meeting with colleagues, assign fixed periodic appointments. Be on time. These regular meetings are reassuring and even comforting when at any time there could be a burst amidst your household in confinement.
Refer to and present what is stable, what has not changed. Mention what activities are continuing, those that are repeated, with or without adjustments. Review and announce transfers and priority changes. Assign yourself goals inspired by the rule of three; per week and per day. Review them at the start and end of the day. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they are! Confetti shower for you. 🙂
Like you, each member of your team deals with extraordinary circumstances, their obligations and their responsibilities. Make sure that everyone is safe. Ask the once trite, “How are you?” » to find out their state. Observe and listen carefully. Let the other speak. Ask about the settings and the environment. If necessary, refer to employee assistance or technical support. Allocate training budgets for new technologies or allow for ergonomic adjustments. If necessary, adjust the work schedule.
Overnight, you no longer see and hear your subordinates. Far from you, you are no longer aware of everyone’s whereabouts. To avoid being perceived as a micromanager, which will add to your stress and give more pressure to your employees, just trust. Few people abuse it. While being specific and concrete about responsibilities and priorities, give everyone their autonomy or as necessary, guide them towards their autonomy. Offer factual feedback, as quickly as possible. Pair with an empowerment partner and encourage your team members to do the same.
As premier François Legault does daily, get in the habit of thanking and recognizing various employees or groups of employees. Thank yourself and encourage your team members to thank their collaborators and partners. Gratitude has exponential powers and can is more contagious than the COVID-19 virus.
Then because in this global COVID-19 pandemic we are all making history without instructions, be transparent. At a time when masks are in short supply, show your true face. Leave masks for the staff who need them to save lives. When you don’t know, say so. When you need more time, ask for it. When you can’t take it anymore, confide. Vulnerability and authenticity are necessary to get through this. Take off your mask and hope that this new way will be a positive consequence of this historical situation.
Translated from my published article in La référence de l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines du Québec (c) Julie Blais Comeau