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Working Remotely – Efficiently and Effectively: Part II

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Half-hour touchpoint, one-hour meeting, 15-minute daily scrum, two-hour working session, half-day workshop, all-day training. These are examples of scheduling terms that many of us are accustomed to hearing every day. Schedules organize our hectic, busy life and like Calvin, having an “ETM” system is critical to help us balance our day and move onto the next assignment, whether it’s blocking an hour at a time or partitioning your work assignments into one-minute increments. Whatever floats your boat.

4. Scheduling

In today’s world of COVID-19 and WFH, scheduling can be an obvious challenge since there isn’t the possibility to catch someone at the local watering hole (meaning the office Keurig machine) or walk by your colleague’s cubicle at 5 PM like Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. Similar to the first three challenges (Culture, Communication, and Connection), with so many technology options, having an open dialogue and good communication with your colleagues, project teams, and clients will lead to success. Simply communicate the schedule, set a cadence, and book in Outlook with your project team. Use the technology to allocate your time for a client meeting, personal quiet time, or even a staycation. Scheduling is a two-way street: be sure to check your colleagues calendars as well.

Syncing your technology

The beauty of syncing technologies like Outlook, MS Teams, and the phone is that calendars appear across all three platforms. This produces 3x the annoyance of notifications, but also offers 3x the convenience to notifications, meetings, and appointments. This is particularly useful when team members are unable to be by their computers and equally important that people are not stuck to their desks and chairs. Since WFH became an option (especially now that we are more likely to WFH), we’ve all probably been there where the kids (Rey and Kylo 2.0) were running around with lightsabers and you hear a crash. More than ever, being able to have access to your schedule and Teams chat in the palm of your hands is crucial in moments like these and may even allow you to multitask and problem solve two things at once: how do we architect a streamlined multi-ERP data supply chain, while figuring out which child of yours is force-sensitive. One of the best features of syncing technology we use at Aimpoint Digital is being able to join Teams meetings, answer individual Teams calls, and attend video chats in real-time from our mobile phones.

This produces 3x the annoyance of notifications, but also offers 3x the convenience

Syncing your time

With a company that spans 4 time zones, we need technology that can work with us. Outlook has some features that allow us to set up multiple time zones on the calendar and some of us find it useful to keep a world clock on the desktop. This helps synchronize time between team members located in the US west coast to those in the United Kingdom and pinpoints exactly when we should bother each other. When it comes to scheduling time with clients across different parts of the world, adjusting to and being aware of different time zones identify preferable openings to meet, which also gives us the opportunity to plan our day more efficiently. The more important component to scheduling is communicating the schedule with our team members and clients, so no one is scheduling 4:00 AM calls unless they really want to. In addition to how spread out we are, we work with global clients from North America to Europe to Asia. Being candid and open with each other allows us to stay connected and aligned, especially through tight deadlines and quick turnarounds.

Syncing your workstyles

Being upfront with each other is also important because we have different working styles and different personal needs. Some colleagues wake up at the crack of dawn to end their day at 3 PM to take over dinner and kid duties. Others aim to work a normal 9-to-5, but may have certain days that have big pauses to run errands, take their dogs for a walk, go on a run, have lunch with their family, or possibly rest their eyes and transition into a very very deep meditation (AKA the mid-day nap). And there are always those few team members who believe they think better as night owls, and somehow have never adjusted from being a college student, so they work the nightshift. Understanding everyone’s work style, being flexible with their schedule, and accommodating their personal needs ahead of time helps reduce last minute requests, scheduling risks, and misalignment. When people know, expectations are managed. Whichever the case, be open, work with your team, and sync that schedule.

Let the tools do the syncing

Work and life can have many moving parts. Even though the where and how we work has changed, leveraging some simple and standard technologies can create effective and efficient scheduling. These technologies give us accessibility, mobility, and productivity. They do not keep you glued to the computer, nor does stepping away from the computer take you off the grid. In a Human Computer Interaction course at Georgia Tech, one lecture discusses the User-Centered Design (UCD) concept – distributed cognition and the cognitive load. Cognitive load is your mind’s ability to handle certain amounts of information at a time, and distributed cognition suggests that artifacts add additional cognitive resources. Every task you offload to an artifact decreases your own cognitive load, while increasing your productivity and working memory. Using these scheduling tools as artifacts, as well as syncing these tools distributes the cognitive load and eliminates the need to memorize meeting schedules. So take advantage of these tools and take a walk, pick weeds from your garden, or join your kids in the greatest lightsaber battle the galaxy has ever seen.

Next up: Part III: Organization

Missed Part I: Culture, Communication, and Personal Connection?

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