Tips for Chambers Moving to Remote Workflows

Author:

Jason E. Ebey, IOM

As more chambers close their offices and move to remote workflows, it will take some time to adjust to the newness of telecommuting. We are here to help with some tips to get everyone started on how to make the best of this new situation.

Communicate!

We’re assuming you’ve let your member businesses and community know that you will not be present in the offices but will be working remotely. Be sure to make this information readily available on your website and chamber social media platforms. Give contact information as well. While it may feel a little odd to be working from your sofa, you will, indeed, be working. You want people to be able to reach you about chamber business.

One of the most important things to remember, both in terms of interactions with your fellow chamber staff members and with member business representatives, is that tone and inflection are much more difficult to infer via text or email than in person. Don’t take something as rude or angry from someone who would rarely be that way with you in person. Often teasing comments don’t translate well to the written medium. This is a trying situation for everyone. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Assume they mean well and that all comments were taken out of context or were meant with the best of intentions. If you are uncertain, ask for clarification.

Remember the Law of 7 Views… You will need to overcommunicate  – during this time, your members are going to be hyperfocused on their own businesses, and they may not see all of your posts. You will need to provide access to the information often enough that they might be privy to it despite the remote workflow.

Work at Home Like You Work at Work (Mostly)

One of the best ways to keep things moving relatively smoothly in a home office environment (even if that home office is your dining room table) is to keep to a few key tips.

If you typically reported to work at 8 a.m., plan to begin your workday at or close to 8 a.m. at home as well. Keep your normal schedule.

Even though we are being urged not to leave home and it’s tempting to stay in pajamas or comfy workout wear, get dressed. Even if it’s just casual wear. You will likely be on video calls at some point in the day, and you don’t want to be on camera in your college band tee shirt, even if it is your favorite.

Set timers. Take breaks. There are fewer places to go at home, so you’ll be moving less (unless you are also home with your children who are not in school… but that’s a different topic). Set timers for every hour, and get up and move. Do jumping jacks. Take a quick walk (unless you live in an urban setting and that’s not possible). Do a few yoga poses. Do something to get moving.

Plan those snacks. You thought there were lots of snacks in a chamber office! Snacking just got way easier at home. Don’t be tempted every time you walk by the fridge. If you need an extra coffee or some fruit mid-morning, go for it. But don’t leapfrog into 12 cups a day just because you now have the coffee pot at home with you.

Video Call Best Practices

We’ve all seen funny videos of videoconference fails. Here’s how to avoid being one.

First, prepare. Do you have children or pets in your home with you? Is there a room you could go into for the video chat that has a door you could close so you can take your call while a caregiver watches your child? If so, plan to use that room.

Next, practice. Turn on the camera on your computer and do a few tests. Where in your chosen room has the best lighting? How can you best adjust the camera to show your background? Look closely at the background… is there anything you would prefer someone not see? Some video conferencing platforms allow you to select a generic background, and the platform will drop that in behind you rather than having your location background appear.

Play with that until you are comfortable. Turn on the audio & do an audio test. Again, the platforms will all allow you to do these tests prior to an actual call so you can ready when the first call happens. Try it with your staff before you have video calls with member businesses.

During your calls…

  • Be dressed appropriately
  • Don’t have music or tv playing in the background (it can be distracting to others, and, again, this is work)
  • Have all of your material ready when the call begins so you don’t have to leave to get items to take notes or to present your information
  • Keep your mic on Mute until/unless you are ready to speak
  • The ‘chat’ box is only for work-related/call-related topics. Never use it to talk with a friend. Typically, everyone can see the chat box.
  • Make sure your desktop is free from anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see. If you need to share your screen, everyone will be able to see anything on your desktop, including folders and their names.

Communicate

Communication is going to be the key that makes remote flows successful. Set aside a few minutes at the start and close of each workday to review and respond to emails. Make sure you are on top of those communications as they will prove to be important to the success of your interactions during the day.

With some basic common sense efforts, your team can make the most of this time of remote work flows. You may discover that it turns into a time of innovation.

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