COVID-19 Information Center

Member FAQ: Working Remotely


How do we best transition our organization to working remotely?

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Member Answers: 

NSPA’s transition in 2018 from a brick and mortar office to a virtual office environment has been an absolutely fantastic experience for our team and our organization. Many of you are being forced into this decision based on the current pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing!

When NSPA decided to make the transition to remote operations, we had several operational objectives: to reduce overhead, to allow our organization to have access to a larger employee candidate pool, and to respond to employee requests for reduced commute times & schedule flexibility. Our research identified several benefits and challenges:

Remote workers are statistically more productive than their office counterparts: working an equivalent of 1.5 extra days per month, or 3 additional weeks per year. This is good for their managers, but can lead to employee fatigue and burnout.

Recommendations for Employees: Set Clear Boundaries for Self and Family

  • Create office hours, just as if you were working outside of the home.
  • Parents: establish shifts with your partner, if possible, and be prepared to work early/late/during naptimes, etc., as your schedules dictate.
  • Establish work zones in your home. It is important to create physical boundaries by designating a home office area, but it is also vital to move around to keep your mind and body active. Consider changing locations throughout the day, by moving into the kitchen and working while standing at the counter, for example.
  • Take scheduled breaks. Stick to them. Build in a faux commute – it’s important to have a time of transition between work and home life. Take a walk around your neighborhood, for example, before and after work.
  • Stay visible: communicate with your team more than you think is necessary. If your child or dog might burst into a call, let your coworkers know that you will take care of the situation right away and get right back to them. Keep in mind that in an office setting, you can close your door to avoid interruptions, but in a virtual environment, there may be multiple avenues for someone to reach out to you. I recommend telling your colleagues in advance if you will be working on a project that requires your focus and attention.
  • Do remember to maintain team relationships: set a time for a lunch or happy hour video chat that has no agenda other than connecting and catching up.

Remote Communication Protocols for Teams: Effective Conversations are the Key For Conversations that involve 2 people:

  • If a conversation will require less than 4 brief exchanges, use IM or chat.
  • If the topic will require more than 4 exchanges, please call.

For conversations that will require more than 2 people:

  • Use video chat for discussions, scheduled meetings, or if any party in the conversation feels it will be beneficial.
  • If your conversation needs to be documented, use email. Remember, however, that in a virtual environment email often becomes the default means of communication, and this can be overwhelming. Speak to your coworkers directly as often as possible, whether via phone or video conferencing.

Recommendations for Managers: Provide Clarity for Your Team

  • Weekly team huddles are incredibly important as you transition and gain a stronger comfort level in your new virtual workspace. Huddles connect your team members, keep your operation nimble, and allow you to address pain points in your remote working structure and environment.
  • Autonomy only works when your team has clear goals that you are working towards or managing against. That becomes critically important in the remote space.
  • Enforce clear communication by establishing measurable objectives with agreed-upon deadlines for everyone on the team.
  • Flexibility is very important, especially for parents. Consider establishing active response windows for team members who may be multitasking at home.

Jackie Bright, Executive Director, NSPA

National Scholarship Providers Association

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