March 31, 2020
Best Practices for a Remote Team
This past month many Extension employees have found themselves in the “remote worker” category without asking to be there or having time to plan for the current work environment. Most are learning on the fly as they deal with two main issues. The first is that they are not “home alone” as spouses, children, and pets are sharing the same space all day. Secondly, they are now members of a remote office team from wherever they are working.
Everyone may not have the ideal working situation. Some might be balancing a dining room table that is the office and the eating space, working on a card table in the bedroom, or using the sofa and coffee table. These may not be ideal, but do meet the needs for now. This is temporary, but may be fairly long term so it is important to take the time to set up a dedicated area and workable schedule even if it is not perfect!
Here are some quotes from our Extension workers across the state related to their current situation:
“I am in charge of the core academics for the children in the morning while my husband works and in the afternoon he is in charge of life skills while I work-all in the same house.”
“My pets are having a difficult time understanding why I am home all day-their routine and space have been invaded.”
“We pulled the RV out of storage and parked it by the garage. That is where you go to work or have school.”
“Having time to work on one thing without interruptions is like learning new technologies.”
“As I was preparing a work space to work from home, my children asked where was their school home office? I think things just got real!”
“I work early in the morning until noon and then spend the afternoon with the children.”
As a state specialist with KSRE Community Vitality I have had the experience of working remotely for ten years and have managed a remote team for eight years. Here are some best practices learned from practical experience that team members might find useful.
• Identify a core time each day that all team members can be available to collaborate on things. This does not mean you have to meet every day, it is just a time when you know that your team mates are available to reach out to. If, for some reason, you cannot be available during that time one day let your team know.
• Share with your team the times of day that you are most productive. On our team we have morning people and evening people!
• Pay close attention to what communication tool is most effective for the issue. Phone calls, emails, teams, texts and Zoom all play a role and should be used appropriately. Understand which of these tools your team members prefer.
• Create a virtual workflow tool such as Excel that you can use to track the progress of projects team members are working on individually or as work groups. We do a monthly “past 30 day accomplishments and next 30 day plans.”
• Set a time for a virtual team meeting. We meet every other Monday for one hour. One week we share highlights of our work plans and the other time we share program and resource ideas.
• Take time to connect. As one of our team members says, “it gets pretty lonely out here if we do not meet regularly.”
Just remember that we are all unique individuals and will adapt to the current situation in our own way and timeline doing what is best for ourselves, family and KSRE.
Paul Hill, Extension Associate Professor and County Director with Utah State University and coordinator of the Rural Online Initiative, is featured in this video addressing the “70/30” rule of dividing your work plan between asynchronous and synchronous time each day.
Socializing is important in the physical office environment and it is just as important in the virtual office environment. Next week I will share some tips on virtual socializing while social distancing. Share your remote work challenges or successes by sending an email to email@example.com so that we can focus on them in future articles.