Build a Culture of Connectedness while Working-From-Home
We are all learning our new normal – juggling working from home, kids running around, virtual communication, leading groups, all while keeping our nerves at ease. The idea of maintaining balance may seem overwhelming, but there are many tools and helpful tips that make working-from-home rewarding and productive.
Our team of consulting leaders have collectively created our proven list of best practices that have been impactful for our teams. As industry leaders, our consultants have tried a plethora of processes and now are sharing the ones that stood up to our extensive reviews.
You can have a strong culture of connectedness while remote, here are our core requirements to make this transition a success.
ENCOURAGE FACE TIME / CONNECTEDNESS:
Humans express a lot of emotion as they are talking and engaging. Use technology to add context to what people are saying and leverage this to engage with people in their natural surroundings. Introduce family, hobbies, etc. to build a personal connection. Remote group activities like engaging in a walking step challenge or other remote pursuits outside of daily tasks can add a lot of value. Keep the culture intact while apart to strengthen your team’s community.
CREATE ENGAGING DAILY STAND-UP MEETINGS:
At AIM Consulting, we are still having our daily remote stand-up meetings with the full team, which provides outlets for people to voice challenges they’re facing. Ultimately, we aim to ensure that no one is left struggling or stewing for more than 24 hours without an outlet. This is not a tedious management meeting, it is truly a place for the group to request support, point out roadblocks, and move forward the rest of the day more effectively.
COLLABORATIVE PLANNING TO BUILD A JOINT MISSION:
Take time to plan as a team and identify effective tools that support your project goals. It’s important that people understand the broader implications of the work they are doing so they stay energized with the overall mission that they are contributing to.
There are many project management tools that can support your team to stay on track. With so many options on the market, our team leans towards Asana and Jira. Asana is great for dependency management, spotting potential bottlenecks and avoiding situations where others are waiting to complete a project. On the other hand, we recommend Jira when the team really needs to be focused on specific tasks and utilizing a Kanban board system. It is most effective if you set up the tasks and workflows with output and cycle times. Don’t forget to use the sprint reports feature, burn-down/up charts and real-time visibility to keep your project on track.
COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE:
There is no such thing as over-communication during this time. We have lost the ability to meet in-person so making sure your team stays connected is important for productivity and unity. The communication that happens between teams at the office can be brought to their desktops with programs like Slack, HipChat, and Teams. Communicate with teammates, share ideas, content, even a GIF or two. It is important to use a tool that works in real-time and on mobile devices. But don’t just stop with one-on-one chat messages, create a structure of community and project groups, or a full company board for important news and updates.
As we mentioned above, we highly encourage the use of face-time tools for communicating. Web conferencing programs like Teams and Zoom are top of our list on ways to stay connected virtually. Teams is a great option when using the full slew of Microsoft Suite products, especially SharePoint for sharing and collaborating documents.
Teams also has a feature that allows your team to blur the background during video meetings. Why is this important? Have you ever been on a conference call and a dog, child, spouse, walks behind the individual talking? The conversation is immediately pulled away. In an environment where all meetings are remote, having a blurred background keeps the conversation focused and professional. Great for interviews and client calls.
Another web conferencing tool becoming increasingly popular is Zoom, popular for its easy set up and usability, plus flexible cost options. The company was also praised for its generosity when CEO Eric Yuan gifted K-12 Schools with Zoom video conferencing tools to help with remote education programs. We use Zoom for organizing large groups, events, collaborative calls, and screen sharing. The dashboard is very user-friendly, great for calls outside of your organizations, and perfect for client meetings and interviews.
No matter the video conference program you choose, keep these helpful tips in-mind:
- If your communication tool has closed captions, turn it on. It’s surprisingly good at capturing people far away from a microphone in group meetings.
- Start the call a few minutes early if you are the organizer to respect others calling in.
- Ask everyone that is not speaking to kindly put themselves on mute to avoid background noise.
- Make sure you have sent the agenda prior to the call and stick to it.
- Use blur background option if available.
- With the inability to host in-person meetings, it is important to protect yourself from eye strain and headaches. Take breaks away from your screen and avoid going from call to call. A five-minute break can do wonders for focusing your attention, process, and health.
- Don’t hesitate to send meeting recaps as a method of over-communication.
- As meetings are often back-to-back, be considerate of everyone’s time and when possible allow for a break by ending meetings five minutes early. While working in an office, breaks naturally occur. Conversely, at home you need to walk around, build in breaks, and refocus throughout the day.
MEASURE OUTPUTS NOT HOURS:
People feeling trapped at their desk in a remote location (or your home) is almost worse than feeling trapped at your desk in an office building. Make sure that people understand expectations on productivity and allow them the freedom to contribute. Understand that circumstances are different when working remote with families at home. Some specific hours are required to ensure people collaborate during the day, but flexibility and work/life balance should be celebrated. This will put your team at ease and create more accountability and productivity long-term.
Encourage the team to use productivity tools that help keep everyone on task and allow for a balanced schedule, a few to check out are Todoist and iDoneThis. Productivity tools not only provide clarity to project deadlines but are known to create calmness for getting tasks out of your head and written down. There’s nothing better than checking each item off your to-do list.
Keeping the team communicating and connected is number one and to do this we have a few recommendations on the best headsets and video camera options on the market.
Jabra Engage 65 Wireless Headset, Mono – Telephone Headset with Industry-Leading Wireless Performance, Advanced Noise-Cancelling Microphone, All Day Battery Life
Cost for New: $241.35
Although this product is on the high-end for price it comes with all the bells and whistles. Move around the house easily with a range of 490 feet, grab another cup of coffee while staying connected to the team — all while maintaining quality sound and service. Overcome interruptions with an integrated busy light that acts as a do-not-disturb signal for people in the house who may not realize you are on a call. With over 13 hours of talk time, you will never need to stop mid-day to charge. Most importantly, it has a high level of hearing protection. With all meetings now done by phone it is important to protect the health of your ears and safeguard against wearing headphones too long.
Cost for New: $85.28
The Plantronics Voyager is an excellent option for the cost. Providing noise canceling features to block the background (TV, kids, families, you name it), it is perfect for the work-from-home office. It has a comfortable fit with a range of ear shape options, built-in Alexa, and voice detection software. The battery life is a little less with about 7 hours of non-stop use, however taking a break to charge will also allow your mind a reset too.
Logitech C930e 1080P HD Video Webcam – 90-Degree Extended View, Microsoft Lync 2013 and Skype Certified
Cost for New: $289.00
The Logitech C930e 1080P HD Video Webcam is the top of the line option to take your video conferencing abilities to the next level. With a 90-Degree extended view plus pan, tilt and 4x digital zoom you can actively whiteboard presentations and product demos with ease. Many of our consultants lean on this product to provide client meetings the same benefits as working through problems on a whiteboard together. It has eaay connections to web conferencing tools and is perfect for larger team meetings, product demos, learning and brown bags, and daily stand-ups.
Cost for New: $89.00
For smaller teams and one-on-one conferencing, the Microsoft LifeCam Studio provides a sharp and high image quality video call. Comes with a high-fidelity microphone for natural, detailed audio. A 1080p HD widescreen sensor allowing for larger visibility than your standard computer video options.
Have more tips you’d like us to share? Drop a comment below and we will share them on social media!
ABOUT AIM CONSULTING
AIM Consulting, an Addison Group company, is an award-winning industry leader in technology consulting and solutions delivery. AIM’s differentiation is our collaborative engagement model that provides cross-functional results. We work with clients, shoulder to shoulder, for one goal – their success. Founded in 2006, with offices in Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Houston, and Chicago, we are ranked among the fastest growing private companies and best companies to work for due to a long track record of success with our partners and consultants. Our long-term relationships with the best technology consulting talent allows us to deliver on expectations, execute on roadmaps, and drive modern technology initiatives.