On today’s show we’re talking about running a virtual organization. For many the idea of working from home is new. It comes with its own benefits and drawbacks.
When you get in your car and transition from home to the office, your mind shifts. You get into work mode. On the drive to work, most people spend their drive time going over the plan and priorities for their day.
By the time they’re in the chair with a cup of coffee close at hand, they’re ready to tackle what the day has in store for them.
The office has structure, systems, and processes. If you need something, you swing by a co-worker’s desk and ask them for help. If you need to call a meeting, the conference room at the end of the hall can solve problems and create a collaborative environment.
The face to face communication means that you can read body language. New people in the organization need particular hand-holding and training.
A study published by MIT in 2006 showed that the probability of communication in an office setting dropped dramatically the further people are apart. By the time people are 160 – 200 feet apart, they don’t communicate at all.
So here we are in June of 2020, a global pandemic has forced millions of people to work from home.
The good news is, you’re saving all that commute time twice a day. You’re saving gas. You don’t have to get dressed up. You can be in comfortable clothing. You can work when you want to.Together with all that flexibility comes the dark side. The dark side is full of distractions. The garden that needs to be watered, or that unfinished home improvement project. It would be really nice for the deck outside to have some sun shade so you can conduct conference calls from your back yard.
Before long, you’re working until 11PM at night. The work day and the family day get blended together. After a few weeks, you come to the realization that your life has no structure. You used to be so disciplined.
What I’ve discovered is that no matter where you work, the systems and processes for managing your day should remain the same. But if you’re working outside the office, you need an extra discipline. That also means creating streamlined connections with people, and you need to create and maintain structures that work. That means starting your day consistently, and ending your day consistently. If you have zero commute time, then have a virtual commute. This is a ritual task that marks the start and end of your work day. It might be as simple as closing the door to your office.
Even before the outbreak, most of my teams have been thousands of miles from me. Conference calls, video conferences, and screen sharing have been normal for more than 20 years. Most of my team were on different time zones. They were in France, or India or Israel. It didn’t matter.
Within our core team, we use a walkie talkie application called Voxer. It’s a push to talk system. There are quite a few out there. We use Voxer, but there are many others to choose from. No time wasted calling someone on the phone, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for them not to answer, listening to the voicemail greeting, and then finally leaving them a message that usually they don’t even listen to.
Sometimes we hold and entire conversation over the span of a couple of hours, just by messaging back and forth using voxer. It’s a private direct connection, faster than sending a text message. You can even perform group chats using the same software.
The key is to treat your team as if they’re with you all the time, the same as when you’re in the office.