May, 2020 Samantha Temple Neukom

When remote working becomes just...working

In the beginning of the WFH shut-down, I approached work as if it were just like being in the office, only remote. I scheduled my day the same way. I booked meetings for the same reasons. I connected with team members in the same way, for the same amount of time.

After two months of remote working, however, I am ready for something different. When everyone is home, no one is remote. We’re all just working. And working within these circumstances can’t be approached in the same way as we approach work when we’re in the office together or when just one team member is dialing in from home as his dishwasher is repaired.

Working from home en masse means working differently. In education they talk about flipped classrooms and blended classrooms as concepts critical to making online learning work. Those concepts don’t have an in-person analog – they are simply different. The same applies to working from home when it’s the whole team (and clients!) and not just one person dialing in for the day.

When we’re all working from home, I’ve learned these differences matter:

  • One to one: 1:1 connection is a priority over inclusion of every team member in every meeting.
  • Downtime: Work time out of meetings is critical. Blocking downtime on your calendar for actual work time is necessary; if it gets taken by a meeting, ask to cancel or move another meeting to another day so you can maintain your allocated work time.
  • Shorter Meetings: Meetings should be efficient… what was :30 meeting can be scheduled for :15 with an agenda; what was :60 can be scheduled for :30 with an agenda.
  • Built-in Breaks: WFH means we must build in breaks for standing up, popping outside, and going to the bathroom. In the office, you can just pop out and join back in. On a screen, it is a little harder to do. So, end meetings five minutes early or set time daily during which you can get up, stretch, get a bite to eat, take a bathroom break, or walk around the block.
  • Speakers Only: The value of “silent participation” is very low in Zoom or Teams meetings. Better to give team members who do NOT have a speaking role the time back to do their other work. No one should be invited just to include them. If team members join but need to multi-task as they do not have a speaking role, we should acknowledge that and not expect them to jump in when called upon.
  • Digital-Only Contributors: Some project contributions can be largely made digitally (in our business this might be contributing names, editing copy, or the like). We can mark and track team members whose contributions can be fully digitized, or nearly so, to relieve meeting time and make more time for work.
  • Flipped Out: The practice of “flipped classrooms” can be applied to team collaboration and review time to reduce the amount of time needed in online meetings. This means connection over work in progress can be 15-30 minutes maximum, but only when:
    • Send the document in question ahead of time by several hours
    • Ensure team members have the down time needed to review and think about their comments, additions, and edits to what was shared
    • Show up at the meeting on time with NO NEED to review the documents/deliverables, but jumping into comments, questions, areas that need more work, and next steps

Again, no one is remote when everyone is remote. Working from home right now is a privilege, and we are all grateful to be busy and working. But when everyone you work with is working from home, it requires a few new tricks. Please share yours as we learn to be our best selves from home.

 

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Samantha Temple Neukom | Partner & Chief Brand Officer 

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