The coronavirus pandemic is causing disruption for everyone around the world. Nearly all of us are working from home these days. For some, it's business as usual, me included. But for many, working from home is all new. For teams, it can be quite a challenge, especially if you rely on each others work product to get stuff done. The good news is there are some pretty simple - and fun! - ways to stay connected and keep the firm humming right along. Some involve tech, of course. But not all. Here are 5 tips to support your team when working remotely.
Talk About It
Get the group together on a video call. There are plenty of options, including Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime and more. Pick one platform and book a group call. They are all super easy to use and most are free.
Once you get the group together, encourage everyone to speak honestly about the change. No doubt they will have concerns about the switch to working from home, the impact to the firm, questions on how to accomplish tasks, etc. The first step is encouraging everyone to just kind of vent. Be supportive, but honest. No one knows what the next days or weeks will bring... but we do know we are #InThisTogether.
Staying connected is key.
Create a Plan
I can still hear my mother... failing to plan is planning to fail. That is true in this situation, for sure. Especially if your team isn't used to working remotely. There are plenty of distractions when working from home, especially when family is also at home. So be mindful of that. It's a tough time for everyone, with anxiety, fear, and possible illnesses within the home, too.
Talk with your team about a daily or weekly plan, depending on the level of support your individual team needs. Set reasonable expectations about what can be done working remotely.
- Group Meetings: How often should the entire team connect on a call? Remember, you can change frequency as needed.
- Individual Meetings: Do some individuals want to check-in daily? Others every other day? Or are others comfortable working independently so you need only check-in if they have a need?
- Communication Tools: There are so many options here, which are covered below in greater detail. But you will need to decide how and where the team will communicate. Emails can start overwhelming people fast...
- Work Product Status: Who needs to know what, when? How will this be tracked and how frequently are updates required?
For some teams, very little will change. However, if you are also adding technology in order to continue to work, remember to build in some time for the team to adopt the technology and new workflows.
Well, you know we love technology. There are so many options out there.
- Video chat tool: Of course, you can also use the video chat tool to communicate and connect with clients, co-counsel, or anyone else, too!
- Email: Of course!
- Online chat tools: Our team uses Slack... a lot. Online messaging platforms, including Flock, Ryver, Discord, and others are also great options. Trust me... this option drastically reduces the number of emails flying around.
- Cloud-based solutions: Like SimpleLaw, of course.
- If you have not adopted a legal tech platform, the time is now, whether you choose ours or another option. You and your team can view and update information on any matter, track billable and non-billable time, create invoices, receive payments, connect with current and potential clients, and so much more.
- In terms of document storage, Dropbox, OneDrive, and GoogleDrive are all great cloud-based options to ensure everyone is looking at the latest version of a document, rather than following the email chain...
The trick is once you have selected and activated your technology toolbox, set some guidelines on when each should be used. For our team, we use Slack for most team-only communications, whether one-to-one, a small group, or the whole team. We use email primarily to communicate outside the team. I love Zoom for online meetings where I want to share my screen or go through a document. And for matters? That's easy. All of that information is stored on the case and practice management platform where everyone with approved access can see it.
The trick here is to not follow every bright shiny object. Get the basics in place. Start using them. Adjust as needed, as you implement.
Be Available and Flexible
Change is the only constant. Never has this been more true than right now. Make sure you are as readily available to help as possible. Be flexible with yourself and your team. The very reason working remotely is required right now is scary enough. Add all of this change to it, too, and you have a potentially tenuous experience for your team.
Be understanding if things aren't going smoothly right off the bat. Provide extra support to those on the team that need or want it. Have someone on the team who is a tech whiz? They can help train the other team members, too. Remember, it doesn't all have to fall on your shoulders... but be sure your team is feeling supported.
Stay Connected Socially, Too
For teams, a lot of the benefit is working with other people. Working remotely nearly eliminates that benefit. But with some creativity, you can keep that connectivity going.
Some fun ideas include having lunch together once a week. Book that video chat tool and get the group together to just connect. If you have the option in our area, set up a pizza lunch party and have pizzas delivered to the home of each of your team members. Feeling generous? Order enough for the whole family living in that home.
Take some time off of work as a team, too. Connect. Staying connected is key.
As my mother used to say, this too shall pass. And it will. We don't know when and we don't know what the path to that resolution will include. But for now, we can set ourselves up to work remotely to do our part in preserving the health of our nations citizens, our local community, and of course, our co-workers.