Kittelson & Associates joins organizations across the world in preparing to go fully remote as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.
As a consulting firm, our priorities are serving clients and taking care of our staff. We need to keep our projects moving forward on time and on budget, and we want to make sure staff have the opportunity to be productive remotely and genuinely feel connected. This is particularly important for those who are new to working remotely or who don’t have as many meetings on their calendars.
Here are the strategies and principles that have guided us. We hope this sparks ideas for your organization and we’d love to hear your ideas, too!
- Reach out to clients thoughtfully, considering what they need and don’t need. The coronavirus is an information overload, and it’s not particularly helpful to regurgitate information that’s already been circulating, or inform clients of procedures Kittelson is implementing that will not impact their projects. What we can do is provide credible information that answers the actual questions our clients are asking. Before reaching out, we should be asking ourselves, “Will this information benefit this person/organization? What else do they want or need to know?”
Bring a solution mindset to your conversations with clients, and show them you’re committed to keeping their projects successful. It takes creativity to work through the unique challenges this situation brings – an example in the transportation world is not being able to do planned traffic counts because of irregular travel patterns. Clients want to know that you’re proactively thinking of solutions on their behalf and that you have their backs.
Prepare programs to operate outside your network. For example, our CAD team led a work session last week to help staff set up AutoCAD and Microstation to be more efficient for working remotely. The steps included copying support files from the server to their laptops to reduce software loading times outside our VPN. (We’d be happy to share our approach with anyone interested.)
- Turn on video during meetings. You may not be dressed as well as you would in the office, or you may be taking the call from a random room with an odd background, but seeing faces (as opposed to your coworkers’ “stock” photos) can keep you feeling motivated and connected.
- Clearly define where questions, advice, and stories should be directed for company-wide sharing. We set up a Yammer feed for internal dialogue about COVID-19, including questions for the leadership team and helpful articles or advice for one another. We also set up new channels in Microsoft Teams dedicated to sharing photos, stories, and encouragement day-to-day.
- Meet via video for coffee or lunch. Many individuals in the firm have taken the initiative to set up “virtual water cooler” meetings for the other staff in their office. Since we don’t have the benefit of interacting ad-hoc throughout the day, this gives people the chance to make a cup of coffee or enjoy their lunch and chat with one another for a few minutes before returning to work.
- Look for ways to use live video instead of all-staff emails. Rather than sending every internal update in a mass email format, our CEO has been scheduling all-staff video meetings, where he briefly provides a live update and takes a few questions. Email then serves as a follow-up to recap what he shared in the meeting.
- Don’t skip the small talk when using digital tools. When using an instant messaging tool (for us, it’s Microsoft Teams), it can be easy to drop a request and move on. We are asking staff to consider how they would handle the conversation if they were approaching their coworker in person. Start with a friendly “hello” and “how are you?”. Err on the side of over-communicating what you’re asking, always explaining the why behind your request and timing.
- Ultimately, understand that connection is more than tools and technology. Technology provides an avenue for connection, but it doesn’t provide connection itself. And one of the most important ways this happens is on an individual level. In addition to group check-ins, we are encouraging our staff to reach out to one another throughout the week. Few things are more meaningful than a personal phone call from someone who is thinking about you and wants to make sure you have what you need. This responsibility falls to all of us to support one another.
What strategies is your organization implementing? Send us a message to let us know!