Coffee & Conversation, Managing Productivity and Motivation While Working Remotely

This week’s Coffee & Conversation event featured two business leaders who have been pioneers in the growing trend of remote work. Even before the current business shutdown, the work from home movement has been growing exponentially, as it helps accommodate a workforce that increasingly uses technology in every aspect of life. Amy Anger, attorney, consultant, and national speaker on the gig economy and remote work strategies (and past president of Impact100 Metro Detroit), along with business owner/consultant Princess Galloway, spoke to a group of 60 I100MD members and friends about how to manage our own work from home experience, and how to help our employees (if applicable) do the same.

Amy was a team leader at Kelly Services while her sons were growing up. She decided to take her team remote when she came home early from work one day and found her son and several of his high school classmates in her kitchen during a school day. They had been instructed to leave the classroom to complete a series of assignments and tasks remotely as part of a school project. It was at that moment that Amy began to wonder what the workforce of the future would look like. Would it even be possible to hire these young people and put them in a beige cubicle for 8 hours a day? How could employers harness the potential of a tech-savvy generation of workers? Her experience in taking her team remote was so successful that her coworker, Princess, wanted to give Amy’s strategy a try, but couldn’t convince her supervisors until a crisis occurred. With several office buildings along the east coast closed due to a hurricane several years ago, Princess successfully took her team remote, as well.

Both Amy and Princess, who now run businesses from their homes, shared several important strategies and tips for anyone working remotely.

  • Be flexible – nothing will be perfect, and there is no “one size fits all” solution.
  • Workspace can be anywhere you feel comfortable – a home office, a spare room, or even the kitchen table.
  • Distractions will happen; the phone will ring, the dog will bark, the kids will need something. Being accepting of this fact will enable you to adjust and get back on track quickly, even if the dog barks in the middle of an on-line meeting.
  • Determine what helps you to be productive in an office setting and use the same strategies at home. If you thrive on checking things off of a To Do list, make one at home.
  • Embrace technology. Get used to being on video; don’t worry about what you look like on camera.
  • Try not to multitask. Focus on one thing at a time. Video technology helps hold you accountable. For example, in a meeting where others can see you, you may avoid the temptation to do something while you’re listening.
  • Be intentional about your time. Set a schedule for work time, family responsibilities, and personal time. If you have children, schedule your work time around their most important needs, and give them your full attention during their time.
  • Discuss scheduling with your partner and family. If everyone understands the timing, things will run more smoothly. However, be forgiving of yourself and others when they don’t. No plan is ever perfect; just keep working at it.
  • Put yourself on “airplane mode” for your work time when you can. Set aside distractions from your devices and other sources so you can accomplish a specific task or tasks.
  • Protect time for yourself, as well. Don’t fall victim to the “I’ll just do one more thing before I have lunch” problem, which usually results in never quite getting to have lunch at all. Self-care is vital for productivity.
  • If you’re working at home because of our current crisis, remember to reset your expectations based on the reality of the situation. All of our households are totally different right now. We are all doing our best.

Tips for remote employees:

  • If you want to work remotely, be cautious in your approach to your supervisor. Share your strengths and capabilities, and explain how they will work to maintain and/or increase your productivity.
  • Express your reasons for wanting to work from home, but remember that you do not have to share personal details (health and family issues are protected under privacy laws).
  • Know that remote work is becoming increasingly prevalent, and will continue to grow. This crisis is likely to only strengthen this trend.
  • If given the green light to work from home, set boundaries. Corporate culture can mean being available 24/7, but you can work with your employer to set a schedule of when you will and won’t be available based on family or personal needs. You can ask your supervisor how he/she handles this work/life balance to further the discussion.
  • Discuss ways to measure your productivity that are not based on spending 8 hours a day in an office setting. Being in the office is not, in itself, a measure of productivity.
  • Communication is paramount. If you get a text from your employer during time you have set aside for personal or family priorities, don’t ignore it. Respond with information on when you will be available.

Tips for employers and supervisors:

  • Be human first. Touch base with your employees at least twice a week and start by asking them how they’re doing overall, not just on the job. Establish a real connection.
  • Schedule team meetings (if applicable) in addition to individual ones. Reminding everyone that they are working together helps keep people focused and connected.
  • Know your co-workers and make yourself available to them. Remember to care about them and their individual needs (are they living alone during this time, do they have family needs that are different from the norm, etc.). Staying emotionally connected is important in all aspects of the work world.

Tips for individuals (consultants, sole proprietors, etc):

  • Look for connections in the business community using chambers of commerce, business-specific groups, and other resources.
  • Establish a community of your own. Reach out to others through LinkedIn or other on line groups. Find people you can talk to, and check in with them regularly to share strategies and success stories, and to offer help if needed.

 

In closing, moderator and Impact100 Metro Detroit board member Kelly Walsh noted that establishing connections, a recurrent theme of this discussion, is also a big part of the I100MD mission. This was evident today as many of the C&C attendees agreed not only to talk after the event, but to create a group of members and friends who would continue to share experiences together on an ongoing basis. In addition to staying connected with one another, Kelly reminded everyone that our commitment to our nonprofit heroes is more important than ever. We are currently working with two past grant recipients as they work to help those they serve. In a follow-up email, Kelly shared the following:

 

The power of collective giving for increased impact is a foundational tenant of Impact100 Metro Detroit.  The needs in our community have never been greater and we are highlighting two efforts in support of I100’s past grant recipients for your consideration.

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