NOTE: Master Control GxP Lifeline first published this interview with Enterey President and CEO,...
Effective Remote Work and Work From Home Strategies
The identification of COVID-19 coronavirus has made an impact on our economy, driven by the challenge to business operations in key market sectors. Most companies have shut down non-essential travel, canceled attendance at meetings or conferences, and even mandated that their employees work from home to slow the potential spread of infection. For some teams, this may be business as usual— for others, it could require learning new ways to work effectively.
The Enterey Approach to Effective Remote Work
As a leading life science consulting firm, Enterey has developed years of experience and established a proven track record of success working on projects that range from full-time on-site to completely virtual. We’d like to share some of our best practices to help virtual teams remain on track.
Enterey’s motto is that people drive results. Therefore, the most important component of success is to build a foundation with your stakeholders, maintaining relationships and driving efficient alignment.
Based on stakeholders’ interest and influence on your project’s success, decide how frequently they need updates. Keep everyone up to speed by building a communication plan that takes into account the information/content needed, the frequency of reach outs, and the different media that will be used (e.g. meetings, e-mails, newsletters, etc). Enterey requires this for projects as part of our Enterey Eight core project tools.
Your team members are home, but they need not feel alone. Invest some time at the beginning of virtual meetings to connect and share some personal updates if they feel comfortable - how are the kids doing, are they caught up on that Netflix show, etc. This personal connection time can go missing during remote work times, and it’s worth being intentional about bringing it back. At Enterey, we make time to share our Personal Best and Business Best moments with each other internally at least once a week, a reflection of our commitment to build authentic relationships with our team and clients.
Help recreate hallway conversations by holding mini team check-ins; they may only need to be 10-15 minutes long. Team members should know that the lines of communication are always open, so talk about your favorite ways to get quick alignment—are calls preferred or does a quick text carry more impact? Should we set up a WhatsApp group so we can share information and sometimes a funny gif? This is often more efficient than an email for minor alignment topics.
Implementing a process or methodology is imperative to keep everyone on the same page, even when not in the same building. Use proven project management processes and tools, such as the communication plan mentioned above. In addition to that, a clear project plan, aligned priorities, and an Action or To Do list are great ways to set expectations, prioritize what gets done each day/week, and align team members.
When preparing for meetings, share an agenda ahead of time, so your team can come prepared to hit the key topics and lock in decisions. Leverage your project plan for insight into what needs to be done this week. For this to be most useful, your plan needs to break work down into chunks small enough to demonstrate weekly or biweekly progress at a minimum. This allows you to follow up and confirm progress, rather than realizing something is off track too late to catch up or remove roadblocks. Enterey's life science consulting professionals are trained to develop and manage both detailed agendas and project plans as part of our Enterey Eight.
With so much work going on, it’s easy to lose focus as your email inbox fills up. Identify your key priorities for the day and week, ensure your team members are aware of what’s most important to you, then block out time on your calendar for working on these items without distractions. Plan time for responding to emails on your daily calendar, and consider leveraging inbox management tools like filters and flags to pull the most critical items to the top. At Enterey, we help our team prioritize their inbox with clear subject lines: include “ACTION” when you’re requesting a specific task, “INFORM” when sharing information, etc. With this structure, it’s easier to be efficient in your email time and responses.
Many people leverage to-do lists, but you can boost their effectiveness with a well-designed Action Item log with a few key characteristics: Clearly written tasks, only one accountable individual for each item, a concrete due date, and current status. For complex projects, actions can also be tagged and sorted by work stream, priority level, and/or effort level. Execute (or delegate) and follow up! Check in with your team frequently to review the timeline and ensure everyone is on track. As another essential piece of our Enterey Eight, our life science consultants are trained to manage an action item log in order to immediately identify and realign if tasks are heading off track.
Working remotely would be impossible without technology to support your processes and facilitate interaction with team members. Use collaborative tools (e.g., Google suite, Office 365, Sharepoint, Slack), and learn to work in parallel with your team to deliver complete and aligned work more quickly.
As with other processes, Enterey recommends that you first define the requirements of your organization and then select technology judiciously to enable them. Since so many different options are available for collaborative software, sites, and apps, focus on building adoption of a limited set that best fits your needs. This helps avoid the pitfall of over-proliferating your toolset, which can create confusion and misalignment. Enterey helps clients effectively leverage the tools available; internally we have aligned on a combination of Google Drive and SmartSheet to drive our collaboration.
Sharing Work in Progress
Some people like to work on a desktop version of deliverables, without sharing until it feels perfect. Whether on-site or remote, this creates bottlenecks by making work occur sequentially rather than in parallel. Try to become comfortable with working on openly shared documents to increase visibility and agility, and encourage others to do the same. Be sure to keep dashboards and project content up to date, so team members always have access to the source of truth for the latest data when working collaboratively. Enterey uses Google Drive for internal work and the client’s share drive for engagement deliverables.
It’s always helpful to schedule some time to video chat or set a norm of turning on your cameras for regular meetings. Yes, many of us start off with a bit of uncertainty around using video, but it helps with non-verbal communication and enhances interpersonal connection. It also creates an incentive to put on a presentable shirt and fix your hair—which can build your sense of normalcy as you go about your day. At least one study has demonstrated that business attire could increase your self-perceptions of productivity, trustworthiness, creativity, and more.
For more insight on optimizing results with your onsite and remote groups, take Enterey's Process Improvement Plan survey. Or contact our team of professional life science consultants to learn more about our project and program management solutions.