Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke by Pixabay

“I’ve been many places and seen many things.  Therefore, I know many things.”  For those of you who haven’t met Ernie, this is his infamous line.  And indeed, he has knowledge.  So, I decided to FaceTime him and see what he knew about working remotely, as so many people have been forced to do this more because of COVID 19.

“Ernie, how are you?” I asked.

“I am fine but let me tell you two things.  One, I miss my Double-Double, and two, it is unprecedented how many times I have heard the word unprecedented.  And furthermore, I am feeling rather remote these days.  I guess that is three things.”

“Speaking of remote,” I said, “I wanted to ask you for some wisdom on how best to work remotely, given the current circumstances.”

“I am a traveller,” exclaimed Ernie, “and I have seen many things, but this is not one of them.  In fact, it is unprecedented.  Therefore, I have consulted many people and authorities on the matter.  They all tell me these are the ‘best practices,’ but as I told them, the best practices come after a loss, as in hockey.  Given the losses that have been faced by many in our country, I feel what they told me are indeed the best practices.  I have documented a summary of what I have learned,” Ernie said with a smile that showed he was proud of himself.

Below is his summary.

Workspace

  1. Take a break at least once per hour (preferably every 30 minutes) for your eyes and your body.
  2. Have a designated space that is conducive for working.
  3. Set yourself up with technology that fits with your work and your teammates.
  4. Create a chat area for your team so that you can post questions and have discussions.
  5. Make ergonomics is your friend.
  6. Keep it clean (that is, your work area and your electronics).

Communication

  1. Communicate (times 10).
  2. Build trust it will be more important now than ever. Be willing to be vulnerable and do what you say you are going to do.
  3. Use instant messaging for impromptu communication.
  4. For your virtual meetings (Microsoft Teams works well):
    • Have some agreed upon ground rules.
    • Limit distractions and respect confidentiality
    • Slow down and be over expressive
    • Do not talk for longer than two minutes at a time
    • Draw out the quiet ones, with respect
    • Have a purpose stated for each meeting
    • Have an agenda with desired outcomes
    • The first agenda item should be to co-invent what needs to be discussed that is not on the agenda
    • Distribute the agenda 24-48 hours in advance
    • Have a scribe and a timekeeper
    • Avoid complaining about situations or other people
    • Pre-load files to share
    • Pay attention to different personalities and needs (Everything DiSC is world class)
    • Mange your emotions and those of others (practice Agile EQ)

Motivation

  1. Be happy – you have control over plants, pictures, lighting and overall space.
  2. Have fun with your messages using emoji’s or Gifs.
  3. Create virtual celebrations for your teammates.
  4. Be personally accountable (it is now easier to hide) – set up meaningful metrics.
  5. Schedule follow-up calls especially for the “water cooler” conversations.

Getting (the right) Work Done

  1. Manage your emotions (you are a human being, not a human doing!).
  2. Remember it’s not how much you get done, it’s what you get done.
  3. Plan your day and prioritize your tasks – every day.
  4. Set boundaries for self, family, friends (e.g., here’s when I will be available; noise levels during business hours).
  5. Manage your emails effectively (e.g., let people know you will check emails four times per day).
  6. Set and maintain a consistent schedule.
  7. Block time for your high priority tasks when you are at your best.
  8. Have the right tools for the job.

 

“Very insightful, Ernie.  I owe you a Double-Double,” I said with much sincerity.

“Wouldn’t pass that up.  Now I don’t feel so remote,” Ernie exclaimed.