Lessons and Tips of a Work-From-Home Culture | Joe Goes on Vacation | COVID-19 News Updates
Happily Dapily Tuesday!
I read an article today titled “Don’t Buy Into The Work-From-Home Hype“. The author talks about some of the benefits of working in the office, as well as the dangers of being isolated from growth opportunities in a more interactive environment. I agree with some of the dangers posed, but I think it is possible to overcome them without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
To be certain, working from home is here to stay. Maybe not for every company, but for some significant quantity of them that have learned how to do it. With a small amount of reservation, I’ll say I am pretty sure we are one of them. (There are two weasel clauses in that last sentence in case you didn’t catch them). I think that the ability for each company to succeed at maintaining a work from home culture depends on several factors. Here are a few that spring to mind….
Vision and Leadership are important. One thing we have learned at CK is that we MUST be able to help a person understand what is expected in their role and how it fits into the overall picture. If we don’t know what we need them to do, they probably won’t either. You have to know your business model and know who needs to be where doing what. If you are a fly by the seat of your pants start-up where everyone “just does what needs to be done” this will be a lot harder. You might be able to solve for it with daily video calls to sync up until you can get better role clarity and reporting in place. If people don’t know what they are supposed to do, or what results are expected, it will be a lot easier to let things slide.
Vision and/or good leadership (they are not the same, but can create similar outputs) also compels a person (or should) to WANT to drive things forward. Your team, and especially leaders, should be laying in bed at night thinking about how to accomplish things. When the vision is that compelling, you’ll be much more likely to be able to rely on your people to perpetuate a performance culture, no matter where their butt is parked. And vision doesn’t always have to come from the top (although it should start there). Don’t underestimate the inspirational and passionate leadership of mid-level managers and leaders to achieve the important things necessary to drive the business forward through their people.
You’ll benefit from good reporting – You can’t rely on hallway conversations to fill you in on how a project is going since you’re not having them. Be intentional. Who needs to report on what, when? Determine what you did in the office and make sure you are at least doing that, but take this opportunity to refine the expectations and reporting to help you run the business well.
Also, the accountability that comes with good reporting is important. There is some FALSE sense of accountability when you can SEE someone in the office, but that doesn’t mean they are getting anything done. Defining the expectations will help you begin to frame out what the reporting should look like.
Focus on Outcomes. As much as possible, when redefining roles, accountability, and reporting for people who work from home, try to focus on defining the expectation of outcomes more than activity. Giving a sense of purpose to each team member helps them make their own decisions throughout the day that drive the desired outcome, instead of only measuring their efforts based on inputs of time … or worse, them feeling like they can simply “be available” (queue fingernails on chalkboard).
Be flexible. By focusing on outcomes and having good reporting, you can also allow your staff to work at times that are more convenient for them. It doesn’t make sense in all scenarios but I’ll bet there are many where it doesn’t matter if the team member works several hours in the morning, takes a long lunch into early afternoon, and works a little more when the kids are in bed, as an example. I have one leader who tends to have meetings at 10pm! It works well for him and his team. Crazy, but effective – for them.
We have another leader that likes to go camping. He and his family have loaded up the camper and set out on a Thursday. Once they were set up, the family went out and did things Thursday afternoon and Friday while he knocked out some work he needed to complete. Then he shut the laptop and enjoyed his weekend.
Change is necessary. We as leaders must determine what it is that needs to be done and what no longer does. Johnny may be fantastic on the phone and give good relationship advice, but if working from home means you no longer need a receptionist you have to find him a suitable position in your new reality or free up his future. Work from home doesn’t create a “have your cake and eat it too” outcome in every scenario. There are trade-offs. Sometimes you need to change how you do business to accommodate the new scenario. Be open-minded from the start and constantly ask yourself “what do we do as a company and what is necessary to do that?“. Some things will clearly be “in” and some things may be “out”.
We found that this scenario forced us to face the fact that there were things that we “liked” doing or liked “having available”, that really were not necessary. While it may be uncomfortable to make those changes, they are necessary or at least prudent.
It’s not for everyone. It’s not for some companies, and it’s not for some people. Maybe you are the owner of a small company and you just do not want to invest time in building and managing remote teams. Give it serious consideration before you write it off, because the stakes may be high (if you don’t allow your staff to work from home, someone else might). But, at the end of the day if you do not want to build and run a virtual company that is your prerogative (Did you realize there is an r after the p in that word? Think of the Bobby Brown song from the 80’s and imagine if he had sang the word as it was spelled, or as spoken in British English)
Also, some of your staff may not WANT to work from home. That doesn’t mean you need to keep the office open, but you may need to think differently. What if you had smaller regional offices, or leveraged co-working facilities, or even suggested that people that live close to one another might invite others over to their kitchen table for a co-working day. Sounds nuts, but is it really?
Video meetings are a must. Start with 5-10 minutes of “how was your weekend, how is the family”, etc. Basically DO WHAT YOU DID in the office. Have a relationship. In the past, working from home for one day may have meant you were knocking out work but skipping meetings. Working from home all the time means that you have to engage in the normal again. Video meetings are, in my very strong opinion, a necessary component of maintaining human connection in the absence of in-person human interaction. No checking email or multi-tasking in (most) meetings. Be present. If you wouldn’t be checking email in person, don’t cheat and check out on the video call.
You still need to get together. Physical interaction is an important part of maintaining culture and relationships. There are things you do in person that you won’t do on a video call and it’s the little things that build rapport and friendship. Gather as many people as you can as often as you can in a meaningful way. We are targeting at least a quarterly “all staff” picnic or outing of some sort (COVID aside), and maybe even monthly at some point. We are also experimenting with randomly suggesting “hey, do you guys want to do that meeting next week in person?”. We have done that once and it was cool. We met at the office but I could just as easily have hosted that at my house instead. If your company is too big for all staff gatherings, break them up into several smaller ones. You can figure something out, but find ways to keep people connected.
At CablesAndKits we have experienced or gone through all of these things and more. It has been a transition for SURE, but I truly believe that what’s on the other side is worth it. Each company is different, but if you are committed to the outcome you can work through the details. And if you need any advice about what we did, feel free to reach out!
From Joe, our friendly Safety Supplies Product Marketer:
It turns out Joe is on vacation this week. And I knew that and somehow forgot from Friday till Monday. Ha! So I guess the good news is he wasn’t abducted by aliens after all. While he is out I’ll do my best to keep you up to date.
UVC Sterilizers – We have some that just arrived and we will get them on the site soon. It might be next week since Joe is out. I will email out about them as soon as we have them up. They will be great for sterilizing things like keyboards, eye glasses, or other things with nooks and crannies.
Crannies – that’s a funny word. If you made raisins out of a cranberries it seems like that would be a good name for them.
“The whole lot” – Don’t forget to browse and check out the full selection of Safety Supply products we have available. Go to the Landing Page, or navigate the top-level Safety Supplies top-level menu item.
I hope you are enjoying these emails. If you are, I appreciate it when you let me know! If not, or if you have ideas for how to improve, by all means, please let me know! Sometimes I “can’t see the forest for the trees”.
As always, please let me know how I can be of service to you. If you need assistance with something, advice, or even if you just need someone to pray for you, I am here and listening.
Craig Haynie – CEO
P.S. Don’t forget to go follow us on Facebook here: CK Facebook Page.
Main Safety Supplies Landing Page: https://www.cablesandkits.com/c/safety-supplies
COVID-19 / Business News for Today:
- Over 11,705,000 people worldwide have recovered and over 2,448,000 people in the US have recovered! The death toll in the US stands at 158,900.
- U.N. Secretary General António Guterres warned that the world faces a “generational catastrophe” due to school closures and since mid-July more than a billion students have been out of school.
- As Congress continued to engage in protracted negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill on Monday, Trump said that he would consider using his executive powers to stop evictions and lower payroll taxes if a deal wasn’t reached.
- Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction said that it was “unlikely” that schools could safely reopen by Aug. 17, setting up a potential conflict with Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who has said that schools that don’t offer at least some in-person classes will lose out on funding.
- Seven St. Louis Cardinals players and six staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing Major League Baseball to postpone another series of games.
- After Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, a top NFL draft prospect who opted out of the upcoming season, accused the school of being lax in its novel coronavirus-related protocols, Hokies Coach Justin Fuente defended his program’s pandemic approach and said he felt “much better” following a conversation with the player.
- Turning parking spaces into outdoor dining rooms has been a wildly successful experiment in New York City — so much so that it will return next summer, even if social distancing is no longer mandatory. In June, de Blasio’s administration followed other major world cities by allowing restaurant owners to create temporary outdoor seating areas on streets and sidewalks. Doing so permitted small establishments with cramped indoor dining rooms to safely reopen and turned otherwise unsightly parking lanes into attractive sidewalk cafes.