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The Top Eight Tips to Prepare Your Teams for Remote Working
Suttons Creek is positioned to help you and your teams work to accomplish their mission while working remotely.
As I sit down to write this blog, I am wildly aware that we are all standing at the precipice of a reality we have no knowledge of. A little like a road appearing overnight in the city you’ve lived in your whole life. How long will it be here? How do we travel down it? Where will it take me? A new normal has been thrust upon us with no game plan, roadmap or end date. A coach of mine always reminds me that there is little power in the belief that things happen to you. Since this is a collective global conversation, perhaps we cooperatively exempt this reactive thought in light of some simple strategic choices that will not only foster control and success, but perhaps allow us some balance and humanity in this unique situational landscape.
I have the rare privilege to work for a company that can pivot quickly. We are deliberate in design to be agile and quickly scale up to meet the urgent needs of our clients and market. We are scattered across the United Stated and, even though we are used to remote work, none of us could have imagined the compiling dynamics of what got added to our professional and personal plates these last few weeks. As seasoned veterans of remote work, we too are finding the struggle to be real and strange! An odd paradox of required connectivity in a time of separation puts everyone in this unique predicament.
So, with that being said, here are the top eight tips for remote working. This blog has been heavily influenced by the personal experience of and advice from some of our best clients, colleagues and profession friends who have been kind enough to indulge my questions about what is making their remote work experience the most effective!
Lose the expectation that things will be the same while you are working from home.
For some, this will be the thing you want to hear the least. Especially in the pharmaceutical and medical device space, where we have an immediate critical incentive to be working smarter and more diligently and to be the definitive change that our world needs to see. What I will caution you with my number 1 is that is doesn’t mean you can’t be wildly productive, innovative and drive necessary change from home – in fact, I believe we can and will. What I am saying is that if we don’t relinquish the belief that it will be the same, we lose the possibility to embrace the difference and get work done.
• Define new expectations of your time – how you spend it and with whom.
• Define new expectations of your productivity – don’t attempt to do it all to prove how productive you can be. Pacing is the key here!
• Define new expectations of your capacity – you are still very capable at home, it just looks different than your physical work environment.
Replicate a boundary rich environment and old habits that support you professionally.
As great as it sounds to opt for conference calls wearing your PJ’s snuggled up in your bed, there is a more psychologically supportive vote to continue your your traditional workday patterns. So, try incorporating several traditional workday habits you have always had into your new workspace – maybe start with a shower and fresh clothes – so that you can replicate those professional creature comforts immediately.
• Maintain some of your morning habits. For me it is coffee, an educational PodCast and getting into my workspace by a certain hour.
• Set up your home office/workstation. This will look different for everyone. Some of you will have a home office already and some will need to improvise at the kitchen table, dining room table or tall dresser. Regardless, build your new workstation somewhere.
• Set your office hours and print them out so that you build the habit of remembering what your professional day looks like at home
Create accountability systems with your team and colleagues through video and or email check ins.
There can be a natural assumption that when you work from home, not as much gets achieved. There can be truth in that statement. However, everyone’s experience and effectiveness working remotely is different. Now, this particular remote-work mandate adds a dynamic to the mix that none of us could have anticipated – pretty much all of us are doing it at the same time. As we collectively shift to this virtual workplace, one great trick to staying accountable, productive and disciplined is to summarize your intended workday or week to your team, colleagues and professional partners.
• Summarize your daily or weekly tasks, priorities and achievements into a high-level update for your team. You can do this through written or video reporting.
• For small teams working on a tight schedule and deadline, the video chat can be particularly helpful.
• For larger teams, simply reporting priorities and achievements can be equally as effective.
• For more collaborative teams, consider implementing the use of a project collaboration app, built for organizing priorities, deadlines and responsibilities, as well as communicating ideas, furthering projects in a shared environment, and tracking progress.
Reassure your clients that you are here for them.
I have come to confirm over the years that unless I am clear about my thoughts, no one can read them. I wish they could but sadly, that has not proven to be true. I also have come to learn that, where information and communication is lacking, people will make many assumptions about how things are or aren’t without qualifying those assumptions with the source. My philosophy is to get in front of any potential confusion quickly so that you drive the correct narrative with clients to assure them there is a plan in play to support them.
• Quickly inform your clients of how you intend to continue to support them.
• Make sure you are deliberate in your efforts to communicate what they can expect from you during these inconvenient and confusing times.
• Re-negotiate expectations if your workspace limitations will in anyway impact them.
• Re-negotiate or shift deliverables if this situation has delayed, or will delay, work progress. We never like to be off track with our schedules. However, if it happens, make sure you clearly communicate the new timeline and seek feedback and agreement.
• Don’t discount the connectivity value in a quick 15-30 minute video check in with clients. This remote work for many maybe a reprieve but for the rest, it can be isolating.
Control what you can control — find ways to let go of the rest.
When my daughter was 5, I was begrudgingly an unwilling bystander for the original wave of the first FROZEN movie, and the song “Let it go” became a daily soundtrack/torment in our home. I am oddly amused now in retrospect by the simplicity and necessity to “let it go” as we face this historical precedent where so much we are used to controlling falls outside of that line. Today, the idea of choosing to control what I can and letting go of the rest has become an almost moment to moment task and one that will be a critical survival technique for remote work.
• Know your limitations. When a situation pops up that you used to be able to control but now see you cannot, take a minute to breathe, and then evaluate alternative paths. We are good at this in our industry, we just need to stretch our brainstorming muscle here.
• Be willing to change and experiment. If something isn’t working that is part of this new normal, stop it. This is the wild west; everything is up for grabs. Change what isn’t working for something that could. Try the new idea out for a few days and see if the results are better.
• Once you have wrapped your head around another way of doing things, share. Share this with your team, colleagues, clients. It is amazing how many new tips I have picked up from just asking people what they are doing that is working.
Co-share your work life with your home life.
This one thing that seems to be a resounding challenge point for working parents is watching their work lane merge with their home one. For many of us, this has been the biggest point of resistance for the first few weeks. Determined that nothing would be different, we stressfully joined video client calls with our trigger finger on the mute button for fear of a screaming child, barking dog or random doorbell ring would give us away. Here is the thing: so many of us are in the same place. Instead of killing ourselves trying to prevent it, realize it will happen and find some healthy ways to cope with this new reality.
• Create your new work/life calendar. Since your lives are colliding at home (personal and professional) find a way for them to co-exist every day in a structured way. The fastest way to set yourself up to win is locking down a successful calendar. For those with kids, get them involved with its creation. Make agreements and boundaries for all of the people sharing your new home office space.
• Schedule breaks in your work day that allow for personal care and, if you have a significant other or kids, family time as well. You would not work at the office without taking a lunch break or coffee break(s), so give yourself that time to recoup and be a person at home as well.
• It’s okay to acknowledge that there are small humans in your home. You can even introduce them when they wander into the background of your video conference. We are all uniquely getting to know each other more as people when we do this. You have the power to turn it into more of a connection than a distraction.
• Set your work hours and your home hours and communicate them! Clarity between “work” and “you time” will keep colleagues from reaching out or expecting responses when you should be off. This will support your differentiation between the weekdays from the weekend too…and keep you from feeling like you are trapped in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog’s Day as he relived the same day over and over at nauseum.
• Don’t overcompensate in your professional life by being available 24/7. No one is expecting that of you. In fact, for most, the expectation either remains your typical work day or has shifted to less, considering our new obstacles. You need to keep a balance so that you are healthy enough to be effective professionally and personally. Being too available sets an unrealistic expectation that others can have of you as well as a pace that is unsustainable.
Find the humanity in this situation.
The business of being busy has become an artform in our culture. If you haven’t noticed, there are no national nominations for the busiest person and no gold trophy magically appearing on our doorsteps when we are. One unexpected dynamic that has emerged in this situation is how we are all getting to know our colleagues and clients better as people when we brush off the “busy” of our days and just connect. The favorable byproduct of this is that we are sharing more of our lives, getting a glimpse into each other’s homes, and seeing our colleagues and clients in their natural habitats. Here are a few ideas to deepen the connections this situation has afforded us.
• Check in with your colleagues not just about work but about how their work-at-home life is going. Share photos of your innovative work set ups. My favorite so far is a colleague that has made a stand-up desk using two wine barrels and an old door.
• Learn something new every day about your kids and spouse. Ask them different questions, and really listen for the answers.
• Get social in this time of separation. Add your clients to your social media connections, text them pictures of your work and home life, and inquire about their health and safety. Don’t forget that, often, trust and relationships are solidified when we share more of who we are with the people around us. I know this isn’t always natural or easy, but notice the difference it is making in your own life when people check in with you!
Lean in as Sheryl Sandberg suggested in her book — listen, collaborate and support.
When life resumes its normalcy, we will either look back on this time of isolation in one of three ways. 1. An annoyance that cost us, 2. An indifference that is tough to articulate or 3. A time of reinvention and connection. I am already choosing 3. Sheryl Sandberg talks about the concept of “Leaning In.” Our default setting may have us attempting to do the opposite as we fight this shift, however, what is the worst that can happen if we give in to this?
• Listen more to those around you by asking more questions.
• Be more interested than interesting. This can be tough at times but the value of this out ways the alternative.
• Find collaborative partners in your work life, home life and parenting life. Include the people around you to participate in the ideas and strategies.
• Support those around you. Wherever they are, be a shoulder, an ear and a hand.
As the great poet Patrick Overton once said,
The facts are: we can’t go back to the office, our kids can’t go back to school and we can’t celebrate a friend’s birthday in the traditional sense of the word. But here is what we can do: we can create a new normal in all the change and find some peace in what life will look like for a little while. Because, like Patrick Overton’s optimism reminds me – there will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly. With the right mindset, there is no option to fail!
Julie Gordon: Vice President of Organizational Development & Strategy – Julie Gordon is an Organizational Development Consultant and Executive Coach who has specialized in sales and human capital strategy for the past 10 years. Julie’s has worked with numerous Fortune 100 & 500 Companies, Start-ups and Franchise Business Models in the Financial Services, Mortgage, Real Estate and Pharmaceutical Industries. She consults, coaches and enjoys delivering relevant and prospective-rich keynote speeches and trainings across the country.