The current COVID-19 pandemic has many of us working from home and is pushing us towards virtual collaboration with our ministry teams, disciples, partners and churches. The following are tips that we hope will help you to adjust to our new realities during this season of time.
For other resources to help you process the complexities of COVID-19 look here on cru.org
Tips for Working at Home
- Simulate your daily work routine. Get up at the same time as normal, start working at the same time as normal. Take a “normal” lunch break. Have an end time. Let your family know what you’re planning for “office hours” and when you can take breaks to engage with them.
- Set up a good work space. Although it’s tempting to do work from your bed, in front of the TV or on the kitchen table, it’s best to establish your workspace in a specific and consistent spot in your home. This allows that space to signal “work” to your brain. It will also help your job to not intrude into the lives of other household members and ideally it will be a space where you can focus and concentrate.
- Keep engaged with your co-workers. Working from home is a discipline that won’t come naturally to all. Replace hallway conversations by initiating text or chat messages to check in with people. Especially if you are feeling disconnected – proactively reach out to your team leader or teammates. Set up team video check-ins to give updates on work progress and also video call break times when everyone can connect informally, catch up, and pray for one another.
- Get some fresh air. Get outside for breaks and take a walk around your neighborhood if you can. Spending time outside and seeing some nature lowers stress, helps you relax and clears you mind.
- Get some focused work done. Take advantage of the opportunity to work on tasks that require deeper thinking, planning and prayer. This could include writing, developing plans and proposals or creating content that requires extended periods of undistracted time.
- Minister to yourself and others. Make sure you’re taking time with the Lord to refresh your heart and mind. Consider scheduling a half-day with the Lord. Keeping your own heart and mind connected to the Lord and at peace in Him is critical to help you lead and encourage others in this time. This is also an opportune time to stay connected to ministry partners! Schedule time to text, message or call partners, ask for prayer requests and encourage them during this uncertain and potentially fearful time. Stay engaged with people from your church through texts and video calls.
- What if I have kids at home now too? Yes, all that sounds great, but now the kids are at home from school! Much of the above is hard if you have small children at home. A few ideas for that situation:
- Make a plan with your spouse. If both spouses are working, discuss and decide on a plan of action together for how you will divide time with the kids and work time. Then do your best to stick to that plan. Have ongoing discussions to adjust as needed and to continue to clarify desires and expectations.
- Explain the situation. Talk with your kids to let them know that you’re working, what the boundaries are, and when they should or should not interrupt you.
- Mix up your hours. If your work allows for it, take advantage of nap times as well as early mornings or night times when kids are asleep. It’s not ideal, but you’ll be more productive if you have quiet time to yourself.
- Try new activities. Find activities, toys and games that will keep kids engaged for longer times. Puzzles, legos or getting a new toy or game will allow kids to play on their own for longer periods.
Tips for virtual meetings
- Connect personally through brief sharing and prayer. Starting with even a short time of personal connection helps establish trust and relationship and will make the rest of your meeting time go more smoothly.
- Develop and follow virtual meeting norms. All meeting norms that a face-to-face team would use will still apply. For example: start and end on time, have an agenda, come prepared, use clear slide decks, take turns to speak, focus on the conversation (not multi-tasking), etc. In addition, you might find it helpful to clarify some additional “virtual meeting norms.” This could include practical things like asking everyone to sit in a quiet room (i.e. not a loud or distracting part of the house), be online five minutes early in case of connection issues, or raising your hand if you’re having trouble breaking into the discussion.
- Help your team master your meeting technology and collaboration methods. Make sure everyone knows how to use your conferencing and collaboration tools. Provide training as needed and test tools and connections when needed. Know how to mute your mic, show presentations, etc. Share tips and features as you learn them. If you don’t ensure everyone knows your tools well, you might see engagement drop and frustrations rise.
- Involve all participants in virtual meetings. If more participants have a specific role in the meeting, they will be more engaged overall. In addition to facilitating specific topics of discussion, participants could also be assigned a “meeting role,” such as taking meeting notes, action point recorder, norms monitor, timekeeper, etc.
- Keep notes and action points visible to all and promote group accountability. Leveraging shared document technology like Google drive can really help your team communicate and focus. Anyone on your team or in your network should be able to access a single document with “running meeting notes” that contain all notes from your meetings for a given year or season of work. This gives one place for people who miss a given meeting to catch up on the team’s work and makes it easier to see flow of discussions.
- Leverage collaboration tools to save discussion time. We often think of virtual meetings as being less efficient as being face-to-face. However, in some cases, a team can gather information and “think together” more quickly using online tools. Try having everyone type his or her input or answer to a question into a chat window. The facilitator can review answers and follow up on key points or questions. Google docs and sheets allowing multiple people to type into one document simultaneously is an extremely efficient way to quickly gather and refine ideas. Have everyone type in brainstorming ideas, answers to evaluation questions, or other small group or individual work that you want to compile, review and refine in real time.
- Adjust for language and cultural issues on multicultural teams. Slow down for translation when you need to clarify or to talk about cultural issues when needed. Consider taking notes in multiple languages if that will help various teammates understand and stay engaged.
- Learn, cultivate and improve your virtual meeting habits. Close your meeting with a few minutes to do a “process check” and ask everyone’s feedback on the meeting. What went well? What could you improve? Apply that feedback to improve your future virtual meeting habits and practices.
Looking for more ideas and resources?!
Here’s some additional reading from our friends at Help Scout…
Remote team collaboration
How to be productive when working from home
Leading a remote team