- How to adjust the home for remote work.
- Selecting and learning to use the right technology.
- Why connecting with colleagues remotely may be easier.
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Staffing.com Editor-in-chief Paul Estes recently spoke with John Wang, a partner with Aon Inpoint and longtime remote worker. Wang offers advice for the millions of people who suddenly find themselves working from home, as well as those who, like himself, have found their home office a little crowded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: What's been the biggest change now that your entire family is under one roof?
I’ve been working from home for years, long before the shelter in place happened. The shock wasn’t that I had to be home but that everyone else was going to be home with me. I don’t technically have a home office because I usually have the entire house to myself. Now that my daughter and wife are home, too, there is a lot more noise and interruptions. On occasion, my daughter will pop in when she’s bored. For me, having people around is more disruptive. For my wife, who is used to going into the office, trying to adjust to the lack of interaction has been difficult.
Q: How is your team handling the fact that all of Aon is suddenly remote?
My Aon Inpoint team is a dedicated virtual workforce, so all of my colleagues are hired into a virtual capacity. However, our team is getting used to working with the broader organization who is now remote.
For instance, we’ve had to learn to use another conferencing tool, in addition to Webex, because Webex is being taxed in terms of capacity. So, we have had to learn to use Zoom as a backup. We’ve also had to adjust to conferencing with more people on the call.
We’ve been teaching the value of having a presence when communicating. I always recommend that the video feature is turned on when having a conference call. Using the video makes the meeting shorter because everyone’s engaged. Before coming to Aon, when I worked in an office, I never turned on the video. And if I’m being honest, it's because I was doing other work and I was distracted. When I went to work for a distributed team, the video is on and you’re present. The meetings are actually shorter cause everybody's engaged.
Q: How do you know things are getting done?
We use Slack. It's a great communication tool that allows me to see the activity of my team and know if they are being productive. I would encourage others to explore ways of collaborating with Slack or Google Hangouts or others. It’s far different than texts and a way to be more connected with remote colleagues.
Q: What are three specific tips that you would give people who are just starting to work this way?
Get the right technology, especially around headphones and microphones, and then understand the settings. Get those right first. You're going to be spending a lot of time online, so the basics are important.
The second tip is to understand everyone's schedules as they try to accommodate the work-life balance. Schedule changes will occur, so plan for those. To help with the balance, block time for work, family, and yourself, leverage the tools used by your team, and find ways to communicate effectively across the organization.
Lastly, be patient. Everyone is trying to ramp up quickly and learn how to work effectively from home. Be willing to spend time working one-on-one with less tech-savvy people to help them adjust. At an internal meeting yesterday, one of my colleagues had a great headset, but he had switched it to the computer microphone. We could hear every time he moved. After the meeting, I explained how to switch over his mic. It was basic, but it makes a difference.
Q: A year from now, after everyone has experienced remote work and the flexibility it offers, what will the new normal will look like?
I think people are going to learn to love it or hate it real fast. This is a real test to determine how we manage working in an isolated environment.