Embracing Work-From-Home

Insights for employers

Ryan E. Day

May 13, 2020

As shelter-in-place orders make work-from-home (WFH) the new normal, some organizations are struggling with the transition to working as a remote team. But there are companies that have been doing so for quite some time, and we can benefit from their experience.

Covid-19 is forcing thousands of organizations to implement WFH programs, and it may well become a more common model in the future for a variety of reasons. Eric Doster, CEO of Dozuki, and Jennifer Dennard, COO of Range, have been working within remote teams for years. Their insight is built on experience, and we’re fortunate to have them share their hard-earned wisdom in this quick video touching on asynchronous communication, tribal knowledge, and isolation syndrome.

Enabling asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication is the art of choosing the appropriate tool for a particular communication need. A pool of communication solutions will include smartphones, email, and a networking tool such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Discord, Google Hangouts, or Skype.

Simple information is best shared via chat or text, while more complex or in-depth information often requires the speed afforded by voice communication.

For information that is going to be shared with multiple stakeholders and the thread preserved for future reference, email is a good way to go.

And then sometimes we struggle to find the right words to express ourselves, making a screen-sharing option indispensable. If you’re not comfortable with screen-share, just work with it until you are. If you can’t be right there in person with an employee or associate, screen-share is the next best thing.

Fighting tribal knowledge: Write it down

In business, especially manufacturing, operational knowledge that is held by only certain employees is referred to as “tribal knowledge.” The risk with tribal knowledge becomes obvious when the person holding the knowledge is unavailable for whatever reason. The solution is equally obvious: Write it down; document everything, and put it in a repository that is accessible to everyone but editable by only a few qualified individuals.

An accessible repository of information could include:
• Day-to-day operations
• Standard work
• Contact info
• Communication guidelines
• Relevant associate information affecting employee status

Basically, if it’s pertinent to running day-to-day operations, you should document it.

Staying connected

Although work-from-home has certain benefits, it also seems to challenge participants with varying levels of feeling disconnected from their company and co-workers. Isolation syndrome is a very real risk in WFH, especially for those who are newly thrust into the position. When transitioning to remote work, your employees may also struggle with motivation or lack of clarity in their daily workload.

Mitigating these risks may be as simple as:
• Intentional video conferencing. Intentional communication facilitates collaboration and team cohesion—doing it via video conferencing or video-chat helps reduce separation anxiety.
• When maximum concentration is not necessary, digital open offices can help mitigate isolation syndrome.

Building a culture of trust

New modes of operation are rarely our favorite challenge, and with WFH, questions of productivity are understandable. When implementing a WFH program, your natural inclination may be to micro-manage to ensure productivity, but clear communication, documented standard work, and regular follow-up can build a culture of trust that fosters productivity and engagement.

Now more than ever, we need to step up our leadership game. The silver lining to the Covid-19 outbreak just may be a discovery of business techniques that will actually serve us well into the future.

About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s project manager and senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20 lb tabby cat at his side.