Updated: Dec 4, 2020
This is the third part of this series. Today we're going to talk about how to manage remote staff and how to work from clients if you have a virtual office. Now, my firm is a small firm and we do residential projects and small commercial tenant improvements. There will probably be different practices for a much larger firm. But look at your own firm processes (in relationship to min) and then scale it up. When managing remote workers there are some things that are important to keep in mind. If you already have staff and you're going to send them out now to be remote workers, there are some key traits to keep in mind that are key.
1. You really need to set clear expectations with your workers so that they know what is expected of them when they are working from home. Having written standards, they can refer to helps.
2. You need to be open and honest about the procedures, the way the firm runs or even firm culture. Remain open and honest because people know when you're holding things back.
3 Clear communications is very important, and you need to have some sort of protocols as to how you're going to actually speak with one another. In my firm we utilize texting, emailing as well as our task management system that allow us to talk to each other. Use phone conversations and video conferencing depending on the situation. We choose which technology we're going to utilize (depending on what needs to be communicated). Texting is only for finding out when someone is available. I don’t like have a conversation via text since it is really hard to keep records of texts. Texting can be used to communicate when can we talk and what we're going to use when we talk. For example: Are we going to talk on the phone? Are we going to have a video conference?
4. Consistent check-ins is key. Make sure that your workers know when they're supposed to submit things to you for review and also how often you're going to talk to them. I like to check in now and then just utilizing email. Then we set up times when we're going to have video conference so that we can have a good conversation. Phone and video are the best modes of communication because you can hear the tone of their voice or in video you can actually see in their face.
5. You need to have trust and confidence in your remote workers. In my previous video one of the biggest concerns for a lot of firm owners is that they don't know exactly what their workers are doing. Well, you're going to have to let go of that if you're going to be a firm owner and have remote workers. Have trust and confidence that your remote workers are going to do the tasks that you assign to them. I really like this video called, “Firm Owners and Managers: Stop Managing Remote Workers as if They're on Site. Check it out on YouTube https://youtu.be/gDFdHnkohLg It’s a great little 2-minute video.
People ask me about interviewing and hiring remote workers since they are used to having someone come into their office and meet them face to face. Basically, I say the process is the same as you would normally do if you're hiring an in-office employee but instead you're going to be utilizing technology and video conferencing for interviewing sessions. Some firms like to test candidates. That can be done with polling software through video conferencing.
When working with clients you need to be creative about your client-architect meetings and to be upfront from the very beginning what your processes are with your clients. Based on being a virtual office I like to have a lot of options available so that the client can choose what option works best for them. I like to have my clients come to my studio. You can see there's a big TV behind me and that's how we do our 3D BIM presentations. It's harder to do that in their home, so usually I asked them to come here for presentations. You will have to gauge whether a client really wants a professional office atmosphere or whether they're happy being casual. A co-working space is a way to get that professional office look. Does your client actually require you to hold face to face meetings or can you meet them through video conferencing? I've had clients who are out of the country but their projects here local to me. We've had video conferencing meetings and when I'm using Zoom, I can share my screen. There’s even a way for clients to annotate on the other end so that they can scribble on to on the screen and tell me what they're thinking. Meeting can be held at the client’s home, the client’s office or their place of business. Netflix is located near to me and I've had a client who always wanted me to go meet him at Netflix (he works there). They had some great spaces for us to hang out in and hold our meetings. Public place like a coffee shop, restaurant or a library can be used for client meeting. I've met with many clients at coffee shops, but please keep in mind that sometimes it can be very loud. So, make sure that you know that space pretty well before you go and meet someone there.
Right now, everybody's learning to be very flexible, so I don't really think meeting at your home is a stigma if you had to do that. I mean, I'm watching news reports and there's the weatherman at home with his kids in the background
Test different software. Whatever works best for your firm and maintains the professional level representative of your company should be the software you should be using.
I mentioned earlier that I use a co-working space. A co-working space is a space that has professional appeal of an office and it's shared with multiple businesses often of different industries. The membership is like a gym membership you pay each month. At mine, I have access to the open office and when I need to use a conference room, I just rent the conference room by the hour. It's also a great place to meet other businesses and network with people in the community.
Key terms: work from home, WFH, remote working, virtual office, virtual firm, architecture firm, architect office, architect practice, architectural practice.