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Working from Home Tips from HIStalk Readers – Avoiding Feeling Disconnected

March 12, 2020 News No Comments

Our company uses the Google suite, so we have instant messaging. But we also have buildings in multiple states and people that work in different buildings that need to work together, so it doesn’t really matter to me if you’re in the building a town away, another state, or home.

Communicate with colleagues via MS Teams, Outlook and phone.

ideo conference, chats, texts.

Talk on the phone vs. sending an email. Once an email thread gets beyond 3-4 responses, take the conversation out of email and schedule a 15-20 minute phone conference. This will expedite problem resolution and connect you with your peers more often!

Make all of the company web meetings you can. I’m one the few who seems ok with web cam, but even without this join and talk.

My team has a group chat on Teams that is very active and we also meet frequently on webex which keeps me connected at work.

Our team does a good job of using email to communicate ongoing issues. We use this method even when in the office, since a few team members are always out of the office traveling to clients.

Lots of phone calls. Some video conferencing. My kids are grown, so I do have to make an effort to go places. I power walk every day at the end of my day, that’s solitary too. And to everyone who says work from home is less productive, this is not my experience. I closed my brick and mirror office six years ago and I often have to log in and tell my employees to log off and go do life. We only have had one who took advantage. She was fired via video, that’s was a little weird. And I had FedEx pick up her assets.

Conference calls aren’t suited well for small talk. Take 3-5 minutes at start of small calls to just check-in about life. After being remote 10+ years, I have found this to make me feel more connected, and the calls are ultimately more productive because you feel connected.

Keep Slack and Zoom online and randomly video call colleagues to check in and discuss instead of using email.

More consciously leveraged the video capabilities through webex.

Lots of phone calls! Go outside for lunch.

Enjoy the bliss of solitude!

By talking on the phone with folks. I have never been a fan of texting, I prefer a quick phone call and human voice, when possible. I also use MS Teams for chat with some of my closer team members. I also like to just call to check in and say hi once in a while, see how life is, even if I don’t need anything for work. Just like you would if in the office at a water cooler. Our team also meets for happy hour or lunch about once a quarter, sometimes more often.

It really is impossible to replace the water cooler, but you can make an effort to stay involved. If I have the time, I will more often now pick up the phone and call someone when I have a question instead of emailing because it increases the odds we will chit chat for a couple of minutes which helps me to feel more connected. Additionally, we use our cameras when we have internal meetings to help with the face to face feel. And, I schedule morning coffee with a couple of co-workers who also get to work early. Before our days start to get busy, we turn on our cameras, drink coffee, and chat like we would do in the office – mixing work and personal life into our conversations.

Conference calls scheduled at regular intervals. Avoiding breaks in between that are too small to accomplish much. I prefer a few back-to-back meetings, with larger focus blocks (an hour or longer) where I can knock out larger tasks / follow-ups without being interrupted.

I feel connected. I have trouble disconnecting from work when I am working from home. I have to leave my space and close the door to get away from work at the end of the work day in order to disconnect.

Instant Messaging. It’s up 100% of the time I’m online and helps not only with communication, but also in keeping me accountable for being at my desk instead of doing laundry, etc. Also, scheduling lunch dates with friends to get me out of the house.

We use Slack collaboration software corporate wide to ensure everyone stays connected and have some “fun” Slack rooms in addition to work focused rooms. We pay attention to who is using this tool. If someone isn’t, we find out why quickly. It’s actually a part of our quarterly reviews. We also have multiple meetings a week using video conferencing. Twice a week with the entire team. That being said, we have experienced that some folks simply do not do well long term working remotely. Managers suddenly finding themselves managing new work from home employees due to Coronavirus should be aware this can be tough for some beyond the first week, and watch for signs of disengagement.

It is difficult because you are disconnected. Setting up regular video calls with colleagues, much the same as you would at the office. allow yourself to be interrupted by calls (Zoom is particularly good for this when talking to colleagues). If you live alone, get  o the coffee shop with your laptop or pad for an hour or so each day; go for a walk; just don’t sit in the house all day every day. I also talk to myself quite a lot – but that maybe something else altogether!

Jabber/IM coworkers.

Schedule video meetings. At least one. Think of it less as a “meeting” and more of a “staying connected.” Be more deliberate about the midday, not-work time you have at work. You still need that at home, too.

Jabber, Skype, MS Teams, my phone, and email. Lots of interaction with my client and/or company.

Some tips specifically for managers/leaders. Schedule more one-on-one meetings with your team members than you would usually have – like short (10 minute) check-ins every day or every other day – to take the place of them being able to stop by your desk or stop you in the hall with a question. Even if you are “available” via Slack or email, you will need to be more proactive about communication. All the advice about “don’t just sit around in your pajamas!” goes triple for people in leadership positions. Be able (in terms of your workspace and attire) to hop on a quick video call with your team at any point throughout the day – don’t fall into the trap of waiting until a scheduled call to pull yourself together. It will help maintain a sense of normalcy if you maintain your typical level of professionalism.

Social/catch up discussions as part of the meetings, i.e. be sure to avoid diving right into the meeting agenda before some personal discussions, to establish a sense of camaraderie.

Video-conferencing and phone calls over email as communication tools.

Chat is a good way to get in quick conversations and smiles with other remote employees. We also have an awesome internal forum called Remotely Interesting, that is geared to all remote employees. Keeps people connected with pictures of pets, daily routines, thoughts of the day, and podcasts.

Get out of the house when you can. The gym is my favorite, but with the virus going around, that’s getting harder. Walking around the neighborhood helps.

This is less of an issue for introverts ;). Use chat programs for quick questions that you would normally walk over to people’s desk for. The biggest issue I’ve seen having worked from home extensively in my past is that there are a number of managers who don’t know how to manage remote employees. Managers need to set clear expectations on what work needs to get done and by when and then trust employees to do that work without micromanaging. Have a daily check-in for the department scheduled if this is something new for you (a la a stand up in the Agile Methodology). Get a good sense of what each employee’s “blockers” are that they need resolved before they can move their work forward and work on resolving those quickly. As an employee, figure out what your own blockers are first thing in the morning after figuring out what you need to do that day and voice those items to people who can help resolve them.

Review internal websites for company updates. Listen to the radio to hear another human’s voice. Call into meetings. Video can feel awkward if the other end is not doing it, but suggest it anyway.

I try to see local teammates for lunch when possible. I try to allow time for chit chat with colleagues to keep a human element alive in our interactions.

Video chat with colleagues I’m working on projects with rather than just messaging. Also, step out of the house and work from a public space or coffee shop at least once a week if you can.

Skype and call folks on site during the day. For no reason, just to say hi or how about that Netflix show. Have coffee or lunch out with anyone at least once or twice during the week.

Use the telephone and actually make calls. IM or email enhances the disconnect. My thought is if I would have talked to them in person at work I will make an actual phone call.

To not feel disconnected from colleagues, have a “webcam always on” rule for meetings. Outside of work, you have to be more deliberate about planning. If you see an event like candle making or craft beer night that interests you, reach out to friends and invite them. Set up a standing happy hour or a night once a week where you and a couple friends rotate on who cooks and hosts. If you’re really social, go to a co-working space.

It is good to try to have your team online during a similar block of time so Instant Messaging and team meetings can keep everyone connected.

I have not found that to be a problem. My company has a large percentage of WAH employees. Either via Slack, text message, phone, or conference call, I usually speak to a couple of dozen people daily. However, I recognize that I could be the exception that does not need a lot of interactions to feel connected. I also recognize that I waste less time working from home. All of the hallway, lunchroom, water cooler chit-chat is minimized making for a much more productive day of work.

Fortunately my role has me on the phone with people all day long. I also use our internal “inmail” to touch base with my team mates and other friends in the company. However I set it on busy or do not disturb for at least two sets of two hours so I’m undisturbed.

I chat other coworkers throughout the day, hold weekly meetings with team members, and interact with others via Facebook and Twitter.

Text with colleagues… send appropriate memes. When in doubt, ask if you can have a call. I don’t find that I am any more connected with a web / video meeting” vs. phone call. Also, I like to take advantage of going for a walk in the community.

Of course it depends what you job is, but email and messaging should allow you to keep up and contribute. Texting if it is a normal activity already.

Chat with colleagues – make sore to have “adult” discussions. Maybe schedule a team meeting just to touch base.

Frequent online team meetings and a direct phone application the receives and makes phone calls that appear to originate at my office. In most cases, people I interact with don’t know or realize that I’m not in my office.

Mandate that all participants in any remote meeting have their cameras on – no excuses. This makes sure everyone comes to work in as professional a manner as they would when they come to the office.

Videoconferencing for most of my calls, lots of chat messaging throughout the day. And real person-to-person interaction – run out to get lunch at least a couple days a week to see some other humans.

I don’t. I am actually more comfortable this way. But I also spend time chatting with friends and family via the phone (remember, you can still just talk to people on them!), FaceTime / Skype, and through email and text. I’ve had some friends that were doing “digital happy hour” where they would all pour a drink (or four), get on a multi-person web conference, and just hang out. I hated it and stopped, but they’ve been doing it a few times a week for years now. Seems that they enjoy it. Use the extra time in your day (you’ll have it, I promise) to come up with something relevant to your work that actually improves connection to co-workers. Something specific. I’ve never been a “status update” person on my work, but since I’ve been home, I do it every day, and so does my entire team. It’s a cool form, it opens up discussion, it has room for non-important updates, which are usually filled with anecdotes, stories, jokes, etc. to make the others feel a bit more connected. But when we share them with each other, it does provide a bit of the Monday morning water cooler like connection to my colleagues.

Email, video capabilities within MS Teams, RingCentral or webex work well too. Take a break and hit the coffee shop or telecommute from a Starbucks of DD for an hour or two.

Requesting that people turn on video for web meetings feels much more connected than voice only. Scheduling more daily video check-ins to take the place of impromptu office chats. Go for a walk in your neighborhood and work with the windows open (weather permitting) so that you have less of a feeling of being locked away in a bunker.

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