PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.
“We are a small association tossing around the idea of moving our office to completely virtual in the aftermath of COVID-19,” Katie Hathaway, CMP, meetings manager, Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, wrote to the PCMA Catalyst community. “Does anyone have best practices to share in going from in-person to remote full-time work? Appreciate any tips!”
Great question. I wonder if a lot of organizations are going to think about doing the same. I work remotely full-time for my organization — I worked in the office for nine years, and have now been remote for five years. Not sure if you’re looking for an organization’s experience with transitioning from an in-person to remote office, or if you’re looking for individual suggestions from moving in-person to remote work, but here are some are some thoughts I have based on my own experience transitioning to being a remote worker:
- Establishing/maintaining a routine — This will vary from person to person, but I’ve found it most helpful to get up and get ready as though I’m going to [an office]. Remote work can be exhausting given time at the computer, and so it’s good for routines to also include breaks.
- Avoiding burnout — I also try to preserve non-work times. Meaning, I try not to be online all hours of the night or on weekends if it can be avoided. Clearly, certain times of year call for extra hours, but given my work station is right there, it can be tempting to hop on to work whenever I have a spare moment.
- Maintaining connection with staff/managing teams — The use of video goes a long way with staying connected to people. [It] makes you feel like you are part of a team versus a worker floating in the remote work universe. I think it’s helpful to have regularly scheduled check-ins with staff. My team meets once a week to review conference-related work. I then meet with individually with my staff on a bi-weekly basis, among other staff meetings I’m involved with. Not having that regular connection can make you feel isolated and can also lead to things falling through the cracks. Finally, in my situation, where I’m one of the only remote employees, I visit my office once per month to retain an in-person connection. If you’re going all remote, maybe there’s a way to build in-person team meetings/retreats/activities that can provide for that type of interaction.
- Managing email — When I started working remotely, my email blew up! Because staff could not just drop into my office, they resorted to asking all questions via email. And while I think email is a fine way to communicate about some things, I opted to using online tools for quick conversations. I started with Google Hangouts, now we’re using Microsoft Teams. Also, I try not to discuss super complicated matters that can lead to long back-and-forth email chains. Instead, I suggest having short meetings to discuss the issue (then follow up on solutions/next steps via email). I find this a more efficient use of time.
- Ensuring an appropriate setup — We’ve now had two employees come to us about working remotely full-time (and we’re proceeding with allowing for this). [Now], our employer is considering questions around, “Will employees have proper spaces to work? Will the employer provide furniture/computers/printers/scanners/internet/phone/etc. or reimbursement for these items?” I think it’s important for people to have work setups at home that allow them to work efficiently.
— Mariellen Morris, Director of Conferences, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research
Our company has been remote from the beginning in 2010 and it’s been amazing. In addition to Mariellen’s suggestions, I’d add:
- We have Mondays meeting-free. Everyone is available for a quick call if anyone needs help, but no meetings are scheduled that day so everyone can focus on projects without interruption.
- ‘Scrum’: [A term] from the developer’s world, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, each team has a short 15-minute call to briefly go over what needs to get done and discuss any roadblocks.
- Weekly company video meeting: We meet with the entire company once a week to share anything new and catch up no personal topics, too.
- Chat: We chat daily for quick questions and have different groups depending on the topic. Just like Mariellen said, for anything where you expect more questions via email or chat, use a call/video call instead.
- Use a project-management tool like Asana where all team members have access and you can easily keep track of progress.
— Silke Fleischer, Co-Founder, ATIV Software/EventPilot