I’m used to working from home – and I’m fortunate that my work provides this opportunity – but many organization and association leaders are still getting accustomed to this new normal. Given that social distancing guidelines have recently been extended to fight the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), non-essential employees could be working from home for quite a while. I’ve compiled a few tips with resources and personal recommendations, especially for association leaders who’ve realized that teleworking has its own set of challenges.
1. Assign a separate tech lead for virtual meetings
Every organization is different in the way it conducts meetings, whether by video or phone conference. If you are meeting with more than five or six people, it’s easier when those who are facilitating assign someone to manage technical tools. This doesn’t have to be an IT professional, but anyone who is familiar with the tools you’re using. When the facilitator is freed up to not worry about technical aspects, he or she can focus on leading with strategy, Associations Now points out. When leading a conversation, it’s critical to understand who’s engaged as well as be strategic in engaging others to give feedback.
2. Establish a regular routine, but be flexible
Distractions can run rampant when working from home. Limited childcare options might mean you have young children to take care of while you work. There may be times when your next-door neighbor is doing some noisy yardwork. Whatever the case, setting boundaries and following your regular routine as much as possible will help minimize distractions and be more productive. Communicating your routine to others in your household, as well as to other colleagues if necessary, will help you stay the course. When you do find yourself derailed by an unexpected distraction, be flexible (with your colleagues as well). Everyone is acclimating to this unprecedented situation in different ways, so it’s OK to cut yourself some slack.
3. Set up a workspace
Working from an in-home office is ideal, but if you don’t have that option, consider making a space for yourself where you’ll have some privacy and a desk or table that is well lit. I would not recommend working from the bed or couch – places that are less likely to be ergonomically friendly when you need to be in front of a computer – and it’s too tempting for our brains to be in relaxation mode in those areas. Designating a workstation for yourself will help you increase productivity and maintain a better work-life balance, Forbes suggests.
4. Build trust with transparency
If you’re managing staff, checking in occasionally is fine, but overdoing it can be counterproductive. How do you know if your staff isn’t bingeing on Netflix’s “Tiger King” all day? Inc. says the opposite is usually true – people tend to work more from home because it’s harder to “leave” work. To build trust, lead by example. Exhibit the work ethic you expect from your staff and promote transparency by openly sharing information.
5. Strengthen rapport
My last tip is essential to foster meaningful connections with your staff and colleagues. If your organization hosted regular activities to encourage camaraderie among coworkers, carry that over to virtual events. Not every activity has crossover characteristics, but you can still recognize birthdays and host virtual happy hours (memberplanet recently had its first virtual happy hour, too!) while practicing social distancing. Friendly banter in chat channels can also work to spark creativity. Consider designating a few channels for coworkers to have conversations that would usually take place at the water cooler.