In a time of COVID-19, distance business means adjusting how we work.

For more than two decades, I’ve run a virtual strategic communications firm.  I was in the cloud when cloud computing was just getting started and when it was uncool not to have a physical office. Here are a few tips from the virtual frontlines on how to operate successfully in our new reality.

  1. Get up every day, get dressed in nice casual clothes even if no one will see you and for women, put on a touch of make up. It helps create boundaries between work and home life, even when they are in the same place. You also will feel more professional than if you’re lounging in your PJs. And you’ll be prepared for that unexpected Zoom call. A client of mine quipped that by the end of this crisis, we will all know what our true hair color is. (Now, that’s a frightening thought.)
  2. Identify the key things you and your team need to get done each day. Write them down to make sure your team knows what you expect.
  3. Have regular check-in calls or video chats with your team members with a clear agenda for what you want to accomplish. Build in time just to chat and find out how people are doing. That engagement time is critical for morale and continued connection.
  4. Turn off the TV (unless you are in PR, work as a journalist or have a specific reason for constant news monitoring). Only check in with your social media channels at specific times—before work, at lunch and at the end of your day. Otherwise, you will find yourself absorbed by doom and gloom or funny pet and kid videos, and risk not getting anything done.
  5. One of the biggest fears about remote work is that people will slack off because they aren’t in the office where you can see them. Remember, it’s not about how many hours someone is at work but rather how good the work product is. Hold people accountable for results.
  6. Communicate, communicate and communicate. You can’t overdo it.  Respond to your team’s emails as quickly as you can.  Even if you are busy, sending a quick “got it,” or “on it,” lets recipients know that their question or request hasn’t fallen into a black hole. When making a request, be clear about what you want done, when you need it and how you want it done.  And if you don’t get back what you need, pick up the phone and have a conversation.
  7. Say thank you. Let your team, your clients, your colleagues know how much you appreciate them. Don’t be obsequious but don’t be shy about praise and gratitude.  We all need to hear it, to know that we matter and that we are not alone at this challenging time.