Team suddenly working from home?
3 things to do... 3 things to stop.
At the time of writing, the YouCanBook.me team is just under twenty people - all working remotely in Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
We've been doing this since YouCanBook.me began. Indeed our own scheduling tool is designed to connect people and organizations with customers across timezones to get work done.
When we started, Working from Home was seen as a bit of a cushy gig. No-one was convinced that anyone actually did any work. Instead the suspicion was that people used the time to do laundry and 'surf the net'.
Nowadays, it's a positive choice for many companies to stay flexible and productive (especially for tech companies).
But, due to COVID-19, more and more companies are being forced to adopt remote working practices without a lot of planning.
Without trying to look for silver linings in what is obviously a global crisis, it may be that after we have managed to stabilize society again, companies might not want to go back to their old ways.
So we want to help make it work for people.
We've got lots of hard earned advice about handling some of the problems and pressures we know teams and colleagues today are grappling with.
3 Things to STOP doing
1. Email: Dump it as a way of primary communication in your teams
It's a collaboration spur, it can be passive aggressive, it's stressful, it's dehumanising and it's inefficient (it's mixed in with all sorts of other emails about other stuff, think about it).
Alternatives to Email.
- Any instant messaging tool that manages in-house chat and work threads (Slack being the obvious one, but there are many more)
- Video conferencing calling (We love Zoom, but again, there are many more)
- Updates via online collaboration tools (Basecamp / Asana / Google Docs / Monday and all the rest)
2. Quarterly or performance goals
This may be a once in a generation crisis. Outside of directly getting ill, uncertainty and fear will cause as much harm to our workforce as anything else.
So give your team a break.
There are a lot of other things competing for their attention right now. Their emotional processors are going at full pelt: they have friends and family who will be affected and life as they know it is changing from day to day.
Not only might your company's performance measures seem less important, they may also be a moving target for a few months until things settle into the new normal.
3. Communication Silos
Generally speaking, companies are always at risk of office politics: Who is in the meeting? Who is on the email thread? It can be difficult to avoid employees feeling insecure that they're not 'in the know'.
But when everyone is confined to working from home, there is even more risk. Keeping morale up for remote workers requires team collaboration and extra energy.
Trust is the most important condition you can foster.
The onus is on team managers to over communicate: be transparent, share, and collaborate in a way that the whole team knows what is going on.
It will be hard for a newly minted remote team to remember that not everyone is in the room, and can't 'overhear' what's going on. It's critical to make sure everyone has heard, has a chance to contribute, and knows the plan.
At YouCanBook.me we try to keep most discussions and decisions visible to the whole team on Slack, which keeps everyone on the same page.
There are plenty of great resources out there about how to work remotely - Helpscout has probably one of the best round ups on all the issues.
We've also written up a 'top twenty' from our own team, with their tips on how to work effectively in a distributed team.
3 Things to START doing
1. Help your customers
These are exceptional times and it's critical to think of solutions that ensure your business remains healthy, while your customer's businesses do as well. What can you do to help your community get through this crisis?
Here are 3 things our team has implemented to help our customers. We've reviewed our own tool and business and enacted immediate changes so we can help where we can:
For free users:
Lifting the paid restrictions on a useful feature like our Zoom integration, through to the end of June. This means we can offer a little more flexibility to those on the free version that find themselves needing to schedule more calls from home.
We're going to allow people to pause their subscriptions with us, so if you've paid for a business tool like YCBM but have to suspend your bookings during the lockdown, you can pause your upgrade, and restart it later in the year without losing the value of the unused portion.
We're also going to open up our tool for free to non-fee paying schools who need to use scheduling for things like remote teaching. State schools do not have deep pockets and they don't have a choice in this situation. So we want to help them.
2. Help your team
I've been thinking a lot about team morale. Not just this and next week, while all these adjustments are fresh and there's a huge adrenalin rush. How are we going to feel in a few weeks' time? In a few months' time?
We don't know how long this is going to go on for, and we have to cultivate new habits to make remote+lockdown work.
Consequently, we've upped our slack-social game.
- We now have a #youcancookme channel - to share our home cooking recipes. As the weeks roll on, it's going to start to dawn on people that they can't go out for food, and resorting to beans on toast for the 5th night in a row just isn't going to cut it. So we want to share and enjoy our meals and mentor those new to spices.
- Speaking of meals, we've also set up a YouCanBook.me page to handle all our lunch hours. By selecting a slot, we book a random member of the team for a potluck lunch-via-video. It helps us to maintain some sociability and allows us to chat to someone without feeling like we have to talk about work.
- We're also going to maintain our existing social channels - share tunes the musicians among us can learn together, and make use of our international team to learn a different language.
- We've also created a #ycbm-lockdown channel. This is for us to share specific updates, thoughts and general chat about it - so people don't feel like they have to interrupt one of our usual channels just to acknowledge the crazy stuff that is going on around them.
The sad truth is we will have plenty of time to keep introducing new ideas. These aren't just torturous corporate team-building exercises, these are using our social skills, our need to interact, and making sure that we have access to them. (Yes even you, introverted team mates, we see you).
3. Keep in touch
Not just about work, but about the lock down. In addition to their weekly 1-1s with their line managers, as CEO I've established fortnightly catch ups with each member of the team.
This allows me to keep close to individual circumstances and they can ask me directly any questions they have about how they need to handle specific situations, or the state of the business.
WeWorkRemotely has published this fantastic checklist for larger companies who will need to grapple with monitoring the wellbeing of their staff. The bottom line is, as employers, you can't just send everyone home and hope for the best.
Your duty of care doesn't stop just because there's no photocopier and water cooler. You need to stay in touch - be aware, make sure your channels to HR and senior staff are open so employees can access all the well-being support they need.
So those are my 3 things to stop (Email, KPRs and Silos) and 3 things to start (help your customers, help your team, and stay in touch)
The upcoming months will be some of the hardest that many of us have faced. I wish you all the best of luck in navigating the significant changes to our work and to our communities that lie ahead.
With solidarity and love
Bridget + every one at the YouCanBook.me team
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Bridget is CEO and co-founder of YouCanBookMe. She believes passionately in the power of technology to solve any problem. Bridget credits her earliest jobs, working in a pub and busking with her fiddle in the London Underground, with teaching her everything she needed to know about the risks and rewards of being an entrepreneur.