I am a fan of the virtual workplace. For more than half of my career I’ve worked from home, attached to my team by phone and eventually GoToMeeting and Zoom. Once, when I was not working virtually, my company discovered asbestos
in the building and everyone in the building moved home within days. With COVID-19 quarantine, lots of colleagues are joining me in the virtual workplace.

Here are a few lessons I learned that may be of help:
1. You have to be disciplined. Check in and check out. You may be tempted to do a little housework midmorning. Don’t. More importantly, when you walk by your office after dinner, don’t boot up your computer “for just a few
minutes.” It’ll be a few hours.

2. Without the water cooler, you’ll need to make a consistent effort to check in personally as well as professionally. How is Jane’s mom doing? What’s happening with Denny’s kids?

3. Silver linings: at home you can play your music loud, subvocalize, and write off a percentage of space and utilities on taxes.

Leading Remote Teams:
Keeping a scattered team on task, in synch and motivated is a challenge. For several years, I led a global communications team, tied together with a monthly teleconference call.

Here are a few things I learned that made remote collaboration work for me and my team:

1. Distribute an agenda and stay on track.

2. Start with one-on-ones. You need to know team members – what are their work issues, how are they managing through the COVID-19 quarantines? Are there kids at home? Parents? Roommates or partners sharing internet?
What would be the best way for them to work with the team?

3. Teleconferences are better than nothing, but bad teleconferences can be worse.

Here are some fundamentals:
– Start with a structured check-in from everyone.
– When you lead a team conference, it’s your job to surface issues, make sure everyone is participating, and create space for innovation and challenge. It’s easier for people to “hide” in a teleconference than in a team meeting. Find a way to draw everyone out. Inject some fun.
– End by summarizing issues and listing actions and responsibilities. Schedule the next call.

About the Author:

Deborah Hudson, ABC – Vice President, Member Retention; Past President

Deborah is a writer and communications consultant, providing advice, research and coaching to business partners, as well as developing and facilitating writing skills workshops. As a corporate communications leader, she was Global Editor-in-Chief and Global Head of Employee Communications for Zurich Insurance. Previously she managed internal CEO communications and community relations strategy for Farmers Insurance. She is a graduate of Yale University. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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