Today we are all facing challenging times personally and professionally as a result of COVID-19. When it comes to business, many of us are reinventing how we work, lead teams, communicate with customers and partners, and are finding new ways to gather around the water cooler with teammates.
Yet, for Wovenware, this isn’t the first time we’ve faced a major challenge. We learned a lot of lessons from our experience dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, especially about flexibility, agility and resilience. We recognized that the typical ways we were doing things wouldn’t work anymore, and we found new ways to adapt.
Ironically, while during Hurricane Maria we were working to keep generators working and employees in the office, today we’re working to keep them home. Yet, fortunately for Wovenware, our employees can easily work remotely given the nature of our business and our IT infrastructure which can support that.
Nevertheless, today we’re facing unchartered territory with the coronavirus, but we know that just as flexibility and resilience helped us get through Hurricane Maria, so too are we able persevere and achieve our goals now.
Our employees are the linchpin to our success – and I’m sure the same goes for all companies. During difficult times, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you are listening to the needs of your employees and supporting them any way you can. This goes a long way to creating a cohesive team that helps each other weather the storm and get through the hard times.
But, a big part of the challenge many companies are facing now is keeping operations running smoothly when remote working is no longer a corporate perk, but a business necessity.
Below are five best practices that have worked well for us:
- Choose face-to-face communication whenever possible. Use video communication as much as possible – there’s nothing that is a substitute for seeing everyone’s faces. Video creates a feeling that you are all “in the same room,” enables more natural communication and boosts emotional well-being. In addition, because everyone can see facial expressions and body language, it can promote better understanding.
- Over-communicate. While it’s important to make sure you are continually communicating with stakeholders at all times, when everyone is working remotely, it’s even more critical to overcommunicate with your team. The purpose of the calls is to check in with team members – personally and professionally – and keep the team apprised of activities underway. Likewise, it’s incumbent upon them to communicate status updates, especially when they finish a project or important task.
If there are any issues that arise, handle them quickly through a video or phone call. When people rely on email, Teams Chat, text, IM, Slack, and other written methods of communication, it can lead to inadvertent misunderstandings. If you’re in doubt whether a colleague will want to know something, err on the side of sharing it.
It’s also important to over-communicate with customers. They may be wondering what you are doing on their behalf and if you are able to be truly productive. Don’t wait for them to call you, but proactively call them often to let them know the progress that is being made on their projects, share written communications and best practices and demonstrate other ways you can be of service.
- Be Proactive. To keep assignments on track and operations running smoothly, management should communicate clear expectations for team members. Establish daily and weekly task lists with the team, and make sure they are completed on schedule. At the end of the day, send out an email to the team listing all the activities that have moved forward. Check in to make sure team members have the tools and information they need, and if anything is impeding their work or their ability to meet their deadlines.
- Protect Your Workspace. Speak with family members or other people in your household about the hours you are working from home and set up ground rules around the noise level, interruptions, etc. Even so, expect interruptions, such as a delivery person dropping off a package or your dog barking in the background. Try to anticipate these interruptions and avoid them as best you can, yet since we know we are all facing the same challenges, try to be understanding of any interruptions on their end.
- Recognize the role of IT. The ability to communicate, collaborate and keep business running as usual largely depends on a well-functioning IT team. Include the IT team in general management meetings and let them know their significance to the company. It also gives managers an opportunity to share with them what is and isn’t working. When it comes to technology, be careful, not to deploy unnecessary changes to current systems, apply non-critical patches or install non-essential security rules. It’s not the time to introduce any potential glitches to the system.
While it is a challenging time right now, today’s telecommunications, mobile and other technologies enable companies to operate beyond the brick-and-mortar of a corporate office. But success requires agility and paying attention to what matters most – your employees and customers. We learned this from Hurricane Maria and we’re applying those lessons learned to the latest challenge – COVID-19.
We’re all in this together and together we will all get through this – and we’ll come out stronger and more resilient than before.