COVID-19: How to telecommute if you're not used to it, per workplace civility experts

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of office workers who aren't used to telecommuting, or have never done so before, will now be working from home for the foreseeable future. Telecommuting has its perks, but there are many challenges that come with eliminating face-to-face interactions — that can lead to some misunderstanding and miscommunication, especially given generational and personality differences in your office.

The National Conflict Resolution Center, is an expert in workplace relations, having led thousands of trainings and presentations for companies of every size in bystander communication, civility, management, conflict resolution in the office and more. The organization has been providing tips about the impact of large numbers of workers now suddenly telecommuting (all while balancing family) due to the COVID-19 crisis. As you can imagine, this has been a popular topic with journalists, and the team at Scatena Daniels has been busy managing media interviews featuring NCRC's Director of External Relations, Ashley Virtue, who shares these tips with a wider audience. Check out this video from her interview with KUSI-TV in San Diego.

Here are three of her tips on telecommuting:

1. Set clear expectations for staff, colleagues and partners. If you acknowledge the realities of working from home, and communicate your expectations for remote work and meetings, your transition to a telework office will be that much more seamless. Establish guidelines for how you want your team to check in with you, as well. This will also eliminate the challenge of your team members either over-communicating, because they are unsure and want to demonstrate that they are doing all their work, or under-communicating, because they are not accustomed to giving virtual updates on their work.

2. Don’t assume the worst in people. Facial expressions can't be read over email or chat platform, and it's sometimes hard to catch subtleties and emotional cues via video chat. Don't assume that a coworker who isn't contributing to the group chat as much, or checking in as much, isn't working - they may just have a different communication style in telework situations.

3. Stay calm and acknowledge this is a fluid situation. It's going to require flexibility and grace from all your colleagues to make this situation work. As this is a rapidly changing and emerging situation, be sure to clearly communicate with your colleagues, and realize that we're all in this together.

Virtue has released a "COVID-19" video series as part of her weekly "Mindset Monday" series, helping viewers communicate better with family, friends, and coworkers in the constantly-changing times we're in.

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