Gravitate Solutions has actively supported teleworking /remote work for our whole team from our founding in 2007. 85% of our people are located at one of our two office locations (Alexandria, VA and Springfield, MO) but we also have individual employees working in 6 states and 3 countries.
Embracing remote work has allowed us to recruit (and retain) the best possible staff – a key priority given the specialized knowledge we are looking for in most positions (a combination of member-industry experience and subject matter expertise in their function).
In addition, it has been a priority for us to take full advantage of the benefits that this geographic spread can offer our clients.
In this blog, we offer a brief list of Tips and Techniques that we have found helpful in supporting, managing, and deriving optimal organizational benefits from remote work. We hope you find a few practical takeaways!
1. Commit fully to Video Meetings/Videoconferencing
Video meetings have transformed our ability to sustain and enhance remote work. Like many organizations, we might not have initially recognized the tremendous difference between hearing only someone’s voice and also seeing their gestures and facial expressions. Much of our work is highly collaborative (helping to implement a new AMS or helping an association provide data analytics to staff and sometimes even members) and throughout all of these multifaceted and extremely time-sensitive projects involving teams spread across multiple locations and time zones, distributed teams have been every bit as productive as purely in-house teams – BECAUSE they both see and hear fellow team members in meetings. In our experience, video can make distance very nearly irrelevant.
Tip: If one or two people don’t appear on camera, it implies that all do not have to be on camera. Set expectations prior to the meeting about camera-readiness, with the meeting organizer leading the way.
2. Help Remote Workers Feel Included
Gravitons everywhere gather for a Monday All-Hands video meeting led by our CEO in which we take 15-20 minutes to provide quick updates given by department leaders, general company announcements, and heads-up notifications related to the coming week. This meeting concludes every week with what we call “Shout Outs” – every employee has the opportunity to express thanks to a colleague(s) for assistance, kindness, extra effort, etc. – and each of these Shout Outs is applauded by everyone on the call. The meeting is positive, full of smiles and occasional laughter, and we believe it does a great deal to keep everyone feeling close as a team, feeling recognized for their work, and building a positive culture.
Tip: ‘Small’ successes would be celebrated in the office. They should be regularly be celebrated on-line too.
3. Schedule for Structure and Regularity
We have found it important to schedule daily and/or weekly check-ins with internal teams. These are typically one-on-ones with each employee’s manager, but often include teams. We find that regular scheduled meetings support a sense of “office normalcy” in remote-work situations, and if any employee needs to feel accountability or project-specific urgency, knowing that these conversations are coming can be beneficial. For what it’s worth, we have found remote workers to be extremely productive and efficient, and when lagging productivity has become an issue, it has almost always been due to extraneous circumstances unrelated to work that could have impacted someone coming to an office.
Tip: we suggest that remote workers get up and prepare for the day and have scheduled internal appointments just as they would if they went to the office – with the exception of ‘slipper-casual’ days, perhaps. This helps establish a routine and normalcy to working at home.
4. Children at Home
Children are not typically at home during the workweek, but for many of us, they are now. We have had situations in which children were present and staff members recommend the following:
Schedule time with children during your day, exactly as you would a meeting
– Lunch/snack breaks
– Walk around the block/neighborhood
Provide the children with a daily schedule of their own
– When you are available
– Key elements of their day (schoolwork, any chores, relaxation)
Early in Gravitate’s existence, our CEO, Tim Ward, worked from home when he had young children. He worked with them to color in a stoplight sign, one side green, and the other red. This helped them understand when they could come into his office. If Nucleus had been created at that time, it would have shown about a 50% success rate, but it was better than nothing!
Tip: Give a little grace. As we navigate our way through COVID-19, we will all need wiggle room to handle the curveballs, and attending to our loved ones is the highest priority.
5. Be Open with Staff About the Situation – and Ask Questions!
Some employees may struggle more than others with the lack of face-to-face interaction with their manager and perhaps other team members. The entire Gravitate culture is supportive and employees know they may speak their minds and express concerns or difficulties – but not all will volunteer this information. Create an atmosphere of safe communication and ask open-ended questions such as “How is remote working going for you? What have been positive and negative surprises? Is there something we could do to help with anything?”
A related topic is whether any staffer is having difficulty finding information or getting questions answered, whether through an internal system or when questions have to be asked of colleagues. Again, open-ended questions can uncover communication or information issues that might be reducing someone’s efficiency.
Tip: pay special attention to the introverts on the team. They may not speak up if they are struggling or stressed.
The current situation is dramatically accelerating trends in everything related to spending more time in our homes: home deliveries, increased streaming and internet consumption, and both learning and working from home. We hope that this handful of takeaways from our experiences in supporting and managing telework for the past 12+ years is helpful and that you continue to consider Gravitate at your disposal for our expertise and assistance.