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Teamwork From Home: Pros Share 9 Tips For Govs Affected By COVID-19

COVID-19 is providing firsts for many people. While private companies have increasingly included remote workers, government agencies are sending many employees home for the first time.

If this is your first time, you might be nervous that working from home means you won’t be able to provide the same stellar service to residents. Or that work won’t get done. Or that it will be difficult to communicate with colleagues. The Host Compliance team (now a part of Granicus) has had a remote workforce since the beginning. From product development to customer service, our teams have been collaborating from places as far apart as Vancouver, British Columbia and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. While COVID-19 has changed a lot, it hasn’t changed how we work together to provide quality short-term rental compliance & monitoring solutions.

So what’s our secret? We’ve compiled our tips and strategies for business continuity during social distancing. Here are 9 ways to work effectively as a remote team.

Take Care of Yourself

To be a productive employee and coworker, you must first take care of yourself.

1. Create a designated workspace.

This workspace should have ample room for you to spread out supplies, paperwork, computer monitors, etc. When you create a designated space in your home, you prevent work trickling over to your personal life and vice versa. This space should be free from distractions. You’ll be able to focus on tasks at hand and important phone calls, and meetings won’t be interrupted. If you’re using webcam conferencing, your workspace should be well-lit and clutter-free.

2. Keep a routine.

When you wake up in the morning, follow the same routine that you would if you were going into the office. While it may be tempting to stay in your PJs, it can keep you from getting into the right mindset to work. Because you aren’t in an office, you won’t be getting up to walk to meetings or to talk to colleagues as you normally would. Build similar breaks into your workday to get up, move, and look away from your computer screen. Mark time off on your calendar for a lunch break so you don’t forget. Make sure that when you finish work for the day you don’t return to it. It can be tempting to hop back online to work “for just a second” if you see an email or text.

3. Focus on your health.

The two tips above can certainly help maintain a healthy work-life balance, but make sure you don’t forget the obvious: maintaining your health. Keep water at your desk and your fridge stocked with healthy options — snacking is easier with the kitchen right around the corner. You could also use the time you would normally commute to the office to exercise, read, or meditate. It’s a stressful time right now, and you’ll be able to focus better after a simple healthy habit.

Overcommunication Is Key

You don’t know what you don’t know! It’s important to communicate what you’re up to while working from home so your coworkers know what you’re doing. Everyone will be happier knowing that others are working as hard as they are. Overcommunication also prevents frustration from miscommunication or lack of communication.

4. Keep your calendar current.

It’s already difficult to find time to connect with others remotely; make sure that your calendar is up to date. This prevents double bookings and rescheduling and lets others know what you are doing that day. You should also add projects, deadlines, and times when you don’t want to be disturbed to your calendar. Coworkers can easily see what you’re working on and know if you are heads down or open to switching focus to help with an issue.

5. Use a webcam and/or chat service.

If possible, employees should use a webcam for meetings or lengthy discussions. Over 90% of communication is non-verbal, and a webcam helps facilitate nonverbal cues. There is much less room for miscommunication when a meeting includes video of your coworkers’ reactions. Webcams also make sure everyone in the meeting is present for the duration.

Use a chat service to maintain water-cooler chat and communicate quickly. With a chat service, you can stay in touch with coworkers, continuing the friendships you built in office. You can also quickly ask questions, provide quick updates, and maintain dialogue on ongoing projects that don’t necessarily need an email.

Private companies are no strangers to webcams and chat services like Slack. Many government agencies, however, don’t have these types of tools in place. The following are free video conferencing solutions you can get up and running quickly:

  • Zoom
  • Google Hangouts
  • UberConference
  • Skype

If all else fails, make sure everyone on your team has one another’s phone numbers and use text messaging or apps like GroupMe and WhatsApp to connect quickly.

Caveat! Double check your agency’s policies and guidelines about using services like these for official business.

6. Hold frequent and consistent check-ins.

This looks different depending on what works best for your team. At Host Compliance, some teams have a quick 15-minute meeting each day to communicate any good news or barriers to their work as well as what they are working on that day. Other teams meet once a week. Managers should meet with individual employees weekly to ensure an employee feels supported, is on task, or needs help.

Hold Yourself and Others Accountable

Working from home requires more accountability. It’s easy to get distracted, so make sure you:

7. Meet only when necessary.

Make sure that meetings and virtual trainings don’t derail or waste time. Every meeting should have an intended outcome and an agenda. Record meetings or have someone take notes of action items and next steps. You should send a summary email after each meeting for future reference or for those that may have missed it. No one can say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that.”

8. Be clear.

Define expectations and deadlines of an assignment. Let others know what you will need from them and when to complete your assignment. Add deadlines to your calendar and invite coworkers to the event. Provide timely feedback on assignments for improvement on future tasks.

9. Speak up.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure or ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. Let others know what you’re thinking. Part of being a team is stepping in to help others to get the job done. If you’re working in an office, make sure those that are remote are given the opportunity to offer their thoughts. If someone speaks over another coworker (It’s okay, it’s going to happen.) make sure to come back to that coworker for their opportunity to speak.

It’s a Change, But You Can Handle It

While working remote has its perks — you’re saving lives by self-isolating — it takes some adjusting to do well. Host Compliance has been using these strategies for over three years to provide stellar service. You can still take care of business from the safety and comforts of your home. Good luck!

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