This article first appeared on LinkedIn.
Katie Hagan and Rick Staisloff
rpk GROUP has been a remote firm since we opened our (virtual) doors nearly a decade ago. In that regard, the past month has been ‘business as usual’ for us, within a ‘business-not-as-usual’ world.
We’ve learned a lot along the way and are increasingly asked how we do it.
How do you quickly shift to a virtual presentation now that your conference has been cancelled? How you keep serving clients from remote locations? And how do you maintain a sense of being a firm, when you no longer see each other every day?
Below, we share our top four thoughts on how to move successfully from F2F to a virtual work experience.
1. Be Intentional About Creating Community. When we’re face-to-face, it’s easy to drop by the office or gather in the break room to hear about a favorite Netflix series or the little league game. The accumulation of those little moments is what creates a sense of community. Once you switch to 100% virtual, the need to create and feed a sense of community is just as important. Here are two practical ways to accomplish that:
- Set up a regular cadence of team meetings. For rpk, we have a regular Monday huddle to walk through projects and issues.
- Resist the temptation to jump right into the work. We start instead with celebrations. These include shout outs to team members that really delivered in the past week, personal moments from our families and goofy moments that let us laugh.
2. Set Clear Communication Norms – You are probably being inundated right now with different technology tools and platforms promising to help keep teams connected virtually. However, tools can lead to inefficiency or communication breakdowns when teams aren’t in agreement on how and when to use them. At rpk, we set norms to create consistency and reduce duplication of communications, and revisit them quarterly to ensure they continue to meet the needs of our team.
- For informal project communication or ‘water cooler’ chats, we use Slack. For internal weekly team meetings, we use Zoom and strongly encourage videos to be on for all team members (casual dress is okay!)
- Client communication or items that need more urgent attention happens via email, and we dress professionally for video calls with clients.
- Document storage is Cloud-based in Dropbox.
- Phone calls are fine during work hours.
- Texting is the least preferred method of communication.
3. Focus on the Experience. In addition to operating as a virtual firm, rpk supports clients with virtual engagements. We’ve had great success running full day workshops, board meetings, and design sessions virtually. When designing those engagements, we are incredibly thoughtful about the participant experience.
Some strategies we’ve found to be particularly effective to avoid loss of attention or disengagement include:
- chunking daylong engagements into 90-minute segments with 30- to 60-minute breaks in between;
- using polling tools and virtual breakout rooms;
- and involving multiple people—either participants themselves or outside experts— throughout sessions to offer new and different voices. All of these are strategies that good facilitators consider for in-person meetings that we’ve simply modified for a virtual setting.
4. Trust your people. When we tell people we all work from home, one of the main questions our team gets asked is: “How do you do it?”—usually with a high degree of skepticism from industry leaders. Those leaders want to know how you keep team members from doing laundry and other household chores, or not working set hours. The short answer: you don’t. Our focus at rpk has always been on hiring the best talent, and establishing clear outcomes and deadlines. Empowering the team to run their lives in the way that best works for them and their families while doing great work for our clients has always led to fantastic results.
Is your organization, institution, or firm operating in a fully remote setting for the first time? If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to connect over video and share more of our successful strategies.
Ready to discover more insights? Sign up to receive the monthly rpk Update.