In our last blog, Ruth gave you some considerations when working from home to make things easier and become as effective as being office based – something that both of us have had to do many times as we worked on Global IT Projects. In this blog I want to elaborate on these changing ways of working and to give you even more practical examples of how to be effective whilst working from home.
For many of the projects we have worked on, Ruth was responsible for Training and I was responsible for Change and Communication and, as we lived in different countries working on the same project, it became natural for us to speak to one another online frequently to ensure ‘we were aligned and in good shape’, progressing well and meeting dates in the overall project plan.
However, during these projects we also had to be physically present with each other and with our stakeholders. We often had to come together, discuss and plan. We had to mobilise teams of testers, trainers and change agents. At times it made sense to bring members of these teams together physically into one place because it was more effective to do so. For example, during train the trainer, bringing in 27 trainers from all parts of the world who all had different ways of working in specific business processes, some with more knowledge than others. We were not only mobilising a team, we were also creating a community which formed part of the continuity plan. Here are some of those photos.
Another example of when physical togetherness is required is during User Acceptance Testing (UAT) where again a team of users came together to test and to check the solution met business processes and business requirements.
It is not to say that these events can not be done remotely, but it does need a lot more planning, structure and co-ordination to sustain the same level of effectiveness.
Physical togetherness is easier because you see people, hear people, can gauge reactions and you can find people easily to discuss issues – it is an effective way to communicate. So how do we do this online?
Effective Home Working
Having done a lot of home working, I have picked up ways of working which helped me to be effective and still deliver and meet customer expectations – how to ensure we see, hear, gauge reactions and find people to discuss issues without the physical presence. Here are just some of them.
To Do Lists are not new but with home working these are even more important. You no longer have the colleague beside you to remind you of deadlines; you no longer have the boss pacing up and down waiting for that report; you no longer have the disciplined environment that may drive completion of tasks. To do lists can help drive completion for you and make you focus, not only what’s due today, but also this week and perhaps next week. Having distractions around you at home can distract you from your tasks – having that constant reminder in front of you may help you hit those targets.
Online Meetings – these should form part of your To Do List. Ensure you know when your meetings are and how to work the technology. If you are sharing documents online, have them ready in advance and close anything you don’t want others to see. It’s even more difficult to get online audiences to listen to you than those in front of you in person. If you have problems with your presentation, sharing or even dialling in, people will soon lose interest so test the technology and make sure you know how it works. I always find myself dialling in a few mins earlier just to be sure I am online at the right time and ready for the meeting. Arriving late to any meeting is not good practice and this includes online meetings.
Speakers and Video – when having online meetings, some applications automatically show videos. Make sure you know if you are being video’d. I have known some users to cover their video with a post-it just to be sure! As for speakers, many laptop speakers just do not work. If they don’t it’s time to check with your IT Department to either get them working, or alternatively get them to invest in an external speaker such as Jabra which can be delivered to your home.
If you are a leader, regular Team Meetings are essential to connect with your team, even more so when everyone is in their own home with potential distractions. It enables your team members to focus on the priorities, any issues or concerns and actions to be taken by each individual. We used to have weekly meetings with our team of 27 trainers. It enabled everyone to listen to updates, discuss next steps and everyone had a chance to voice any concerns. Importantly, it also enabled everyone to learn from each other by listening to others whilst we were in the midst of implementing a new IT system.
Online Meeting Etiquette is also useful to learn. In physical meetings, everyone knows who is in the meeting and who is speaking because we can see everyone, but it is not always evident with online meetings, especially if videos are not used. If you are the chairperson, ensure you note who is online and let everyone know as you start the meeting. As an attendee of the meeting if you want to speak, mention your name first as not everyone will necessarily recognise your voice. At the end of the meeting, summarise the actions for everyone as you would normally and always follow up with minutes so that these can be presented at the next online meeting. Before you close the meeting, ensure everyone has the chance to make any final comments by doing a roll call, unless it is a particularly large number of people online, and try not to miss anyone out. It is important that everyone feels they are contributing or have been invited to contribute.
Reflection – during online meetings you can not read body language. When asking for feedback, allow a pause for people to reflect on the topic before moving to the next. It doesn’t have to be a long pause but it will give time for everyone to reflect and then offer any other comments on that particular topic.
Chat – how would we cope without all those apps that enable us to chat with anyone at an instant. It is the same with Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams, it enables us to chat instantly with others in the organisation, to ask a question, to check things out, to clarify anything, to have a discussion online with one or more people – almost as if you’re in the office. With some apps, you can check when they are online, as if you’ve seen them come into the office. I have used that many times, but felt that people thought I was checking up on them which was certainly not the case. For me it was a useful tool to know when they were online and working, so that I could ask that question – to see them arriving in the office.
When I have been working online, I have rarely felt remote from everyone. On the contrary, if you use the tools, it is just the same as if you are in the office.
Online working will become second nature, it just takes practice as with everything else. It may feel difficult at first but with the advice given above and in our previous blog, WFH – Working from Home – Part I no-one would even know you’re working from home. It is possible to see people, hear from colleagues, gauge reactions and find others online as you would in the office. Our course on How to Delivery Training Online will provide even more hints and tips on online working with a focus on training.
Evolution Culture specialises in change and training and has provided services through online working. We build relationships with customers and we offer value for money by charging for what we do. Online working helps us achieve this value, by charging for time only – no additional travel and time to customer sites, no travel costs, and onsite working kept to a minimum thereby charging less. Working from home has many benefits when done well and when we return to a more ‘normal life’, maybe we will meet physically when it is appropriate to do so but also start to work from home more frequently where it makes sense because the same results are achieved. We can all be just as effective when working from home and performance does not have to be put at risk. Good luck!
If you have any comments or additional hints and tips, please feel free to leave a comment and we’ll share them in our next blog.
4th May 2020