Home has fast become the dominant workplace. Whether you’re a seasoned remote employee with a private office or a newly work from home (WFH) rookie set up in your kitchen, the number of remote workers is skyrocketing because of COVID-19.
With this surge comes a new set of workplace challenges, which are complicated even more by the number of parents who are balancing home school or caring for ill family members.
The EBI Marketing Team is uniquely qualified to help you make the most of this new remote working environment. Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, half of our team was WFH. Now, we all are. With a few small adjustments, we are just as productive, creative, and cooperative as we were when in the office.
Here are five easy-to-implement tips we’ve learned as a team that we hope will help you maximize your remote meetings.
Digital tools will connect you while you’re not co-located. You need a hub that integrates video conferencing, instant messaging, app integrations, and document sharing, among other capabilities. You’ll be spending an extraordinary amount of time in front of your screen, so you need something that not only streamlines your work but is dependable. On any given day, our EBI Marketing Team has at least one group video meeting (usually our morning standup) and several smaller breakout video meetings. In between these meetings we are chatting with one another, sharing items, and yes, IM’ing an occasional gif to keep things lighthearted.
There are plenty of solutions at plenty of price-points available right now. Some are even free. Our EBI Team prefers Microsoft Teams. The high-quality video conferencing is clear, audio is adjusted with one click, screen sharing is a snap, and Teams features the same security and compliance of Office 365.
“Teams has been a core tool for our marketing team for years. The ability to bring together instant messaging, voice, video meetings, and file sharing all on one platform gives us the ability to collaborate as effectively as it would if we were in the same room,” said RJ Frasca, EBI’s Vice President of Marketing.
Microsoft Teams is available on our desktops, laptops, and our mobile phones. We can chat, call, meet, or collaborate with any of our team members at anytime from anywhere. This is extremely important and useful in this environment where many of us are balancing an active homelife and possible caretaking with our work duties. Teams provides us the flexibility to tune into tasks and read messages while we’re venturing out to stock up on groceries or providing our children on a much-needed recess break.
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Video meetings, especially during a time where people are starved for human connection, can be like the Wild West. Everyone’s slinging hello’s, ideas, updates, and announcements all at once. Add in a roving preschooler, a kid in a Google classroom session, and another working parent, and it becomes noisier than the O.K. Corral.
Video meetings require some guidelines. Here are some pointers you may find useful:
We are big fans of the mute feature. After an initial group greeting, most of us who have noisier households (those who have children or open workspaces) mute our microphones. We can still hear everything that is being said, but other attendees don’t hear our background noise.
One Microsoft Teams feature that is often overlooked but is super helpful to parents whose children are naturally curious about the video meetings is the ‘Live Caption’ option. Microsoft Teams presents real-time captions so you can read along to the meeting. This is also an inclusive feature if you have participants who are deaf or hard of hearing.
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Even if you don’t normally have a Project Manager on your team, designate someone to lead your daily remote meetings. In our case, we do have a PM, Kate Neilson, and she conducts our morning standup. Neilson organizes these meetings in a roundtable, project-based priorities format so the entire team understands our priorities and is aligned on their respective goals and outcomes.
We each present our priority projects for the day, our status, any questions, and outline what’s left to do. Neilson documents these meetings and immediately adds new details to our digital project management tool (we use Asana).
“Using a day-by-day mindset for these meetings helps us focus and move things through the production cycle more consistently,” she says.
“Virtual meetings should be treated like an in-person meeting,” says Andrew Rowe, our Digital Marketing Manager. “Having an agenda keeps everyone on track and trims time spent in front of your screen.” You should create an agenda, invite pertinent individuals to participate, document what’s been presented, and follow up with action items once the meeting is complete. These steps should be followed whether it’s a team meeting or a small group meeting.
Outlining short-term Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will help keep you and your team on task even as normal routines are disrupted. And presenting these smaller, daily ‘wins’ – either at a meeting or in a wrap-up email – help keep morale up during this challenging time.
Just as our brave medical professionals are adapting to this unfolding crisis, you may need to remain agile as a team. Feel free to explore different meeting formats until you find the one that works best for your team. “Try something for a couple days, get feedback. If it doesn’t work, tweak it until you find something that does,” says Neilson. “But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it will work forever.”
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to conducting remote meetings. What works for one team, may not work for your team.
Working from home is all about adapting. Your meetings may need to adapt, too.
In just a few weeks, COVID-19 has affected our short-term economy and changed our workforce. While this remote hiring binge is in response to a short-term event, it may have long-term benefits for businesses and employees. A 2019 study of remote workers found they are happier and more loyal to their companies. Another study shows remote employees are more productive and work more days each year.
As this new WFH situation evolves, we will continue to update you on the important hiring and screening information you need to know. In the meantime… get to know our EBI team and speak with one of our experts.
Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
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