Among many of us who are leading creative, marketing, digital and proposal development teams, the coronavirus has been the most disruptive force we have ever had to manage. While our companies have put a number of plans in place to keep our families and us safe, remote work has been the most powerful and common response available. Whether your team is a newbie to remote work or an experienced veteran of the off-site working model, there are some best practices you can adopt to ensure that it works for you, your team and your company.
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Technology Tips for Remote Work
The most basic need when it comes to remote work is the availability of portable workstations, aka laptops. Whether you’re Mac- or PC- based, laptops have evolved into powerful graphics workstations that were unimaginable even five 5 years ago, and they’re an essential component of a remote work model.
In addition to having the proper graphics, project management, social media and video editing software loaded onto said laptops, you will also need powerful access and communication platforms available to your team. VPN (virtual private network) is a must-have, as are video conferencing and chat solutions. Your team will also need access to a network infrastructure that provides the bandwidth required to transfer larger graphics, video and audio files.
Security Standards for Working Remotely
Hand in hand with technology comes security. VPNs are only as secure as your team’s security hygiene. Some standard best practices for security include:
- Not sharing your email address on public websites
- Being cautious when opening email attachments
- Encrypting your emails whenever they contain sensitive information
- Using passwords that are lengthy or even phrases – the strongest passwords contain a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters
- Avoiding using anything too personal or obvious in your passwords (e.g., names or the word password)
- Not leaving your laptop and other portable devices unattended in a public place
- Not displaying information that is confidential or sensitive in nature on your screen, where unauthorized people could potentially read it over your shoulder
- Locking “strictly confidential” paper documents away in a safe or a secure deposit box
- Not storing “restricted” or “strictly confidential” information on a public share
- Not printing documents that are confidential or sensitive in nature in public places unless you can supervise the printing
Accessibility and Communication Requirements
It’s critical that your team of remote employees be as accessible to managers, peers and clients as if they were working on site. This means that everyone working remotely must be clear about the hours they will be available via their laptops or phones and immediately notify either their manager, or an appropriate project manager, if they will be unexpectedly inaccessible during an agreed-upon work schedule. Your team should provide current contact information in all emails and on voicemail greetings, and include their IM status, current location and contact information on their IM platform.
Encourage team members to err on the side of overcommunicating when they are working remotely. For example, they should stick with one platform (texting, email or a project management tool) to communicate on a particular issue so that there’s an easily traceable thread capturing all the correspondence. Using the platforms most conducive to specific communications is another best practice – i.e., for detailed instructions that need to be referred to, email is best. For more nuanced conversations, such as reviewing or critiquing a project, a phone or video conference may work best.
Files should be stored and transferred to and from secure servers, whether they are cloud-based password-protected solutions such as Google Drive, Box or Dropbox or company servers behind your corporate firewall.
First and foremost, leadership needs to be buttoned up when it comes to resourcing, making assignments and reviewing projects or tasks. The requests should be clearly stated – in terms of what needs to be done as well as when it should be delivered and how long it should take to complete the task.
Individuals working on projects should record their time on a daily basis. Any issues that are encountered need to be resolved or escalated as they occur. When a task is finished, the individual should not only communicate that it’s been completed, but also hand it off promptly and properly. They should not be working directly off servers; instead, they should download work in progress to their workstations before opening the working files. Proper file naming and archiving protocols are necessary to ensure version control, and are especially critical when a team is working remotely.
When it comes to a person’s workspace, several factors and recommendations should be considered. Where your teams work impacts how well they work, so designing an environment that is conducive to maintaining focus and concentration is critical to an effective off-site model. Proper lighting that includes multiple sources of light (and hopefully daylight) along with a space that is relatively private and quiet are requirements for a work-friendly space. Ergonomically designed furniture that encourages proper posture and positioning of arms and hands help to avoid common repetitive work ailments. It’s also important to get up from sitting at a laptop on a regular basis. Walking around while on calls is a good way to promote muscle and cardiovascular health.
Though not as tactical and seemingly practical as many of the practices mentioned above, maintaining a strong sense of team is equally important, given the collaborative nature of the work that we engage in. Team sites that act as virtual water coolers, frequent but informal check-ins by managers and coworkers, group video conferences and even non business-related conversations are the glue that holds remote work teams together -- by fostering loyalty, accountability and a sense of shared purpose.
Working off site requires a level of social and business due diligence that’s not as critical when teams are working in the same physical location. That being said, the availability of enhanced technology and a workforce adept at using social media means that, by adopting best practices that optimize the remote work model, almost any team can adapt to external challenges and unexpected events such as the coronavirus outbreak.
If the shift to remote work is creating difficulties for your organization, know that we are here to help. For decades, Cella has employed and managed remote-based professionals to assist our clients in unleashing the full power of their creative, marketing and digital teams. Contact us to find out more.