March 23, 2020
By DEQ Communications Office
Social distancing isn’t new. In August 1665, just as the bubonic plague was ravaging London, Cambridge University closed to protect its students and teachers from the disease. A young Isaac Newton was one of those students.
To get away from the rats and fleas that were carrying the plague, Newton retired to his family’s home in the country. The work he did while away was instrumental in developing what would later become calculus and his theory of gravity. And, as the story goes, from his desk at home he could see an apple tree.
As Utah and its residents look to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many workers were sent home last week to telework or work remotely. Although the occasional bad apple is using this as an opportunity to burn through a Netflix queue, most employees are looking for ways to maintain their performance and progress in their careers.
As promoters of clean air and reduced emissions, Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has been touting the benefits of teleworking for years. During that time, we learned a few things about working from home. We didn’t expect to be sharing these tips under these current circumstances. Nonetheless, here are some ideas on how to make the most of teleworking in the coming weeks.
With teams spread out and using digital tools to communicate, it’s easier for messages to get lost, overlooked or simply ignored. The key to effective communication in a telework scenario is to quickly develop an effective cadence of communication.
Start by updating your manager frequently on everything you’re doing. At the same time, make sure you’re communicating with your teammates and coworkers. It’s easy to end up disappearing into a void of teleworking, so keep the chatter going digitally with instant messaging tools, texts and even social media.
Next, regularly check in with employees you manage to ensure they are on target and have clear objectives for their daily and weekly work. Without conversations that happen organically in the office, you can schedule more frequent, shorter meetings. But be cautious about slipping into a role where the team lead starts micro-managing otherwise effective workers. Lastly, don’t kill your teams’ momentum by inviting them to countless, irrelevant teleconferences.
Check Equipment and Software
Teleworking is possible from just about anywhere— Escalante, Madrid and who knows maybe one day Mars. This, however, requires the right equipment. While employees are away from the office they will need laptops, monitors and phones—maybe even printers. Make sure your staff has all the needed tools to keep operations going.
Teleworking will also require a lot of conference calls and video conferencing. Try to promote one universal platform for teleworking. Employees should be able to work seamlessly with other groups in your organization without having to download a new teleconferencing program every time they are asked to join with someone outside their team.
Look at using some of these tools to continue to build culture, too. Scheduling a virtual water cooler chat on Zoom or coffee break over Hangouts can effectively use these teleconferencing tools to ensure work life goes on as close to normal as possible.
Have A Plan for the Kids
Give yourself, your coworkers and the children a break. Teleworking, social distancing and home isolation is a significant disruption. It is likely you will experience some short fuses, ornery children and elevated stress levels.
Having a plan is the key to navigating these waters. Managing your work schedule with your partner’s work schedule can help free up “power-working” sessions where one of you occupies the kids while the other drills down on work. Nap times, early mornings or after the kids go to bed are also times when you can work uninterrupted.
It is helpful for the whole family to understand the new expectations for the day. Let the children know when a parent will be available and when they need to work.
Lastly, managers should respect that kids’ are at home, too. Keeping calls and teleconferences to a reasonable length will go a long way to keeping productivity and morale high.
Don’t Forget About “Non-Employees”
Craft a plan to communicate with workers who might not automatically receive official work communications. These workers might include volunteers, independent contractors, vendors and interns. Think about the people who are part of your team but are not official employees of the organization. They need to know what’s going on, too.
Forward Your Phone
In the sudden need to work from home, it’s easy to forget one of the most important steps—forwarding your desk phone to your mobile or home phone. Customers and clients are still expecting you to pick up when they call.
We hope these tips help you find stability, balance and of course productivity in your home office. Have a tip you would like to share? Join the conversation here.