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Your Newly Remote Workforce

home office photoWhile Unicon has had remote employees and employee telecommuting policies in place for years, the onset of the COVID-19 virus and the associated social distancing recommendations have forced many of our clients into the sudden adoption of a remote workforce. We wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the lessons we’ve learned as an organization about establishing telecommuting expectations with our teams and tips from our seasoned remote workers to help make the transition a smoother one.

Tips for Organizations Moving to a Remote Workforce

  • Set up the needed access to tools and systems for your remote workforce including VPNs, video conferencing, and direct collaboration tools such as Slack or RocketChat
  • Verify that employees have the necessary equipment (laptops, phones) and connectivity to enable them to work from home.  For critical personnel, do some test runs.
  • Reinforce organization security and privacy policies with employees, specifically highlighting items that apply to work done outside of the office
  • Establish and communicate a telecommuting policy that includes clear guidelines and expectations for
    • Core working hours for all employees
    • Required in-office days or events
    • Communication channels and response time expectations
    • Security requirements for remote work locations (such as VPN, locking file cabinets)
    • Notification of supervisors, peers, and HR of remote work location and status
  • Lastly, prepare to check in on remote workers frequently. Some will love the move to remote work, others will find it isolating and may need more support and mentorship to continue to perform at their in-office levels

Tips for New Remote Workers

  • Set up a dedicated workspace with good lighting and all the tools you need
  • Establish and communicate your working hours to your team; Stick to them
  • Be available during communicated working hours
  • Consistently monitor the communication channels used by your team - email, chat, phone
  • Structure your day; Take a dedicated lunch break
  • Check in with your supervisor often to provide status and re-confirm work priorities, as priorities may be shifting more frequently in light of the external factors driving the move to remote work

Advice from Seasoned Remote Workers

The remote working experience varies for everyone. Some individuals take to it immediately, seeing the boost in productivity touted in many research studies as they are removed from the hour to hour distractions of the office. Other individuals are challenged by the confinement and separation and will require time to build good practices that let them be successful.

Unicon Project Manager Betsy Burr has been telecommuting for over 23 years. Her keys to success have been establishing a dedicated workspace, keeping regular hours, and constant monitoring of communication channels to stay connected to her team.

System Developer Steve Cody has been working remotely for Unicon for 10 years.  He follows a few very simple guidelines to keep himself productive:

  1. Work in a specific location, everyday... your workspace. It may be in your house, but treat it as an office... a place to work. Don't work in your music room, or your living room.
  2. Set an early meeting. It keeps you from getting to your workstation too slowly. So, if your office hours are from 730 to 430, have a meeting right away to get started.
  3. Try to dress as if you are going to the office. One of the perks is NOT doing this... but it's a perk that makes you feel like a hermit. At least, try to do this 2 or 3 days a week.
  4. Set another meeting at the end of the day.  This structures your workday and lets you block the middle of the day for heads-down work.
  5. Set a specific lunchtime... that's important to make everything feel like a work day, rather than just getting stuff done.

As a self-proclaimed extrovert, System Architect Linda Feng enjoys working remotely when it is balanced with enough in-person client interactions, presentations, and conferences. She has been working remotely for 5 years, 3.5 with Unicon. These are a few of the tactics Linda uses to balance her structured meetings and remote work with her need for more human interaction.

  • Add more informal chat tool check-ins with teammates throughout the day.
  • Set up walking meetings/conference calls where both parties grab their cell phone and take a walk during the call so it feels more personal and less structured for a one-on-one conversation.
  • Budget some time in meetings for a bit of social discussion or schedule a remote happy hour at the end of the day to just connect to peers.
  • Schedule some changes in scenery throughout the day - maybe just moving around the house or to a coffee shop for a couple of hours to work on a particular deliverable.

These scenery changes can be key for extroverts to continue to feel engaged and energized in a remote work setting.

Wrapping Up

As with all workplace change, the key to remote workforce success is really communication. Once your organization has gotten the tools in place to empower your remote workers, the job is not done. Telecommuting expectations must be set and periodically re-enforced. Managers must engage employees more frequently, checking in not only on the status of their work and deliverables, but also on their comfort with the new working arrangements and continued connection to the organization.   

Unicon wishes you success in your transition to this new model--please let us know how we can help! We are also looking forward to getting back to working with you face-to-face as soon as it is safe to do so.

Additional Reading

Unicon: Response to COVID-19
Unicon: Supporting your Remote Workforce: Sharing Unicon’s Approach
Grow with Google: Work, teach, and learn from anywhere
Forbes: Managing a Remote Workforce
TechRepublic: 10 Rules found in every good remote work policy
Inc: Stanford Study Shows Astounding Productivity Boost of Working from Home

The Unicon Team

The Unicon Team

Unicon is a leading technology consulting firm focused solely on the education ecosystem with more than 30 years' of experience partnering with institutions and companies to create learner-centric digital experiences that transform the Learner Journey. Organizations leverage our domain expertise across numerous disciplines, including technology evaluations, identity and access management, data optimization, learning analytics, systems interoperability, learning experience design, application development, cloud services, and open source support. We believe in the power of technology to expand access to education, and in the power of education to create a better future for all.