A number of our clients have asked us about the best way to approach remote working. For many employees, this is the first time they have worked from home, and circumstances mean people will appreciate guidance and reassurance.
Active remote management at this time will be absolutely key for keeping people engaged and healthy, mentally and physically. We are happy to speak further about managing remote teams.
Here are some tips for video conferences or conference calls.
- For big meetings run a test call to ensure kit is working.
- Ensure everyone has dial in/login info in the diary invites.
- Remind them of this info an hour before the meeting.
- Set a timed agenda for long meetings.
- Put the agenda in the diary invite.
- Ask everyone to ‘arrive’ 5 mins before the start – otherwise you will lose 5 minutes while people get logged in, sort out camera, unmute etc.
- Get everyone to say hello at the start so you know you can hear them.
- If they have background noise, ask them to mute when they are not talking.
- BUT, otherwise make sure people stay off mute. People are more engaged when they are not muted.
- If video calls start lagging, get people to turn off their cameras and/or stop sharing screens.
- Remind people to look into their cameras while speaking otherwise they are not making eye contact.
- Treat it exactly like an in-person meeting - no one should be working on other things, checking their phone, trying to take care of a child/dog etc.
- Have an assigned chair and notetaker before the meeting.
- Remind people of the objectives and agenda for the meeting at the start.
- Sum up actions at the end.
- Papers should be shared beforehand and can be viewed on shared screens to guide discussion.
- Preparation beforehand improves discussion.
- If a large group is meeting then a a webinar format might be best – this will enable people to present info and for participants to post questions etc.
- It’s not just about big formal meetings. 1-1s can be delivered remotely too and will need to be. You can use phone or video conferencing.
- Experiment with informal remote get-togethers now. Halpin opens an online room at 11am each day for colleagues to drop in for a chat over a cuppa. We’re also planning a ‘drinks after work’ event!
- Internal comms is really important, so if you don’t yet have a platform such as Slack then now might be the time to get one.
- If you’re transitioning to remote working you ideally need to have a tech go-to person to trouble shoot. Have some written guides to getting set up.
If you come across other approaches that work for you then incorporate them, and please let us know. The next few months will be an enormous learning curve for all organisations, and we would like to ensure that we learn alongside you.
All good wishes for the coming months, from Shaun and Susie and all at Halpin.
Here’s Halpin’s Head of Marketing & Communications Olivia Dunn on some of the risks of remote working, and how to counter them.
Risks of remote working
At Halpin, remote working is standard practice, which is reassuring to our clients - especially right now given the news.
I’m a big fan of remote working – it gives me tremendous flexibility, I don’t waste time commuting and there’s no doubt I am more present for my daughter. But continuing on Halpin’s theme of risk, there are naturally some risks to remote working too, and I’m sharing a few here, along with some suggested ways to mitigate them.
Things can go wrong with technology, and they often do. Whether it’s your hardware, your software or your wifi, a last-minute panic can be very stressful indeed. To combat this, always insist on a test call an hour before any important meeting. This is the best way to check your hardware is working well. Bear in mind that it doesn’t matter how robust your tech is, you are always at the mercy of those on the other end and their set-up.
If you know your wifi isn’t very reliable, delegate the hosting of the meeting to someone who has better wifi so that if you drop out the meeting can continue. Be clear in your instructions before the meeting, i.e. is it audio or will they need their webcam? Who is chairing? Is there a dial-in option for those without wifi? If your wifi is a bit under-par consider investing in boosters, a better hub or ethernet cables. It’s a wise investment for work and home use.
Space to work
If you can, identify a space which is dedicated for work, and make it as comfortable and effective as you can. If you are doing a video conference, make sure the backdrop that will appear behind you is appropriate for work. Invest in a good desk and good chair and make sure your set-up is as ergonomically sound as it would be in a normal office. Consider an extra screen if you use a laptop so you are not looking down all the time, and get a good webcam if you are going to do video conferencing.
Never switching off
A big risk of remote working is that it’s very hard to establish boundaries between work and life. Everyone has different tactics for this, but I find that closing my office door helps as a physical barrier to getting sucked back in. Admittedly I am not so good at turning off phone notifications - and while there is no expectation for me to do so I find it too tempting to reply to emails or check work updates when I am also cooking dinner – perhaps I should shut my phone away too!
Whether it’s a postie, a child, a dog or a neighbour with a hedge-trimmer, Murphy’s Law dictates that they will simultaneously leap into action the minute you’re on an important webinar. While you may not be able to stop this, you certainly need to know where your mute button is. Consider putting a note on your front door asking visitors not to knock. You can’t do much about external nose from neighbours, but if you know you have an important meeting coming up perhaps pop round and negotiate on timings with them – or find a nearby office to rent for an hour or so. And pet-sitters are your friend!
Working from home has its perks, but it has its cons too. One of the biggest disadvantages is the lack of human connection. Many villages, towns and cities have shared office space where you can go and work alongside your fellow human beings. Some people set up working groups in their homes with friends and neighbours in a similar situation. Working from cafes is another great way to get out of the house. Whatever your solution, make yourself do it regularly. Also - a team may be able to communicate and function remotely, but the benefits of regular in-person meetings cannot be overstated – so don’t let face-to-face meetings disappear from the diary completely.
Humans rely on non-verbal signals to interpret intended meaning. Eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and body language go a long way towards filling in the gaps. Don’t hide behind phone/audio - using a webcam might be an awkward experience to begin with, but you’ll get used to it. And if you don’t show your face/upper body language you are limiting your communication (but I should add that making accurate eye-contact on a video call is impossible!)
There will be days when you just can’t concentrate. While in an office you may go for a walk or have a yarn in the kitchen with someone, if you’re working remotely the temptation can be to slide down a social media/news rabbit hole, and before you know it the existential doom has crept in. If you find yourself doing this then stop, get up and do something completely different – away from your desk. A walk in the fresh air is a much better idea.
While you may be up for remote working, your clients may need a little more reassurance. The success of your webinars relies as much upon their tech resources and skills as it does yours. They may be reluctant to carry out interactions remotely and instead insist on meeting you in person. There is a balance to be struck here between giving them what they want and reassuring them that remote meetings can work just as well (not to mention save them travel time and money and help them reduce their carbon emissions!). Now is a very good time to embrace remote working, even with the risks it may present – and sometimes all it takes is to highlight the benefits in order to change someone’s mind.
It’s inevitable that remote working is going to become more commonplace, and despite the risks outlined above we believe at Halpin that this is an excellent thing. As a company we are committed to offsetting our carbon usage and doing everything we can to look after our planet and take our responsibilities seriously. By conducting more of our business interactions online we’re saving our clients money, reducing our travel time and costs, increasing efficiency and building resilience.
At Halpin we love a chat over a cup of coffee – whether that’s virtually or in-person! If we can support you in any way as you navigate these choppy waters, drop us a line.
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