In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, businesses and trade associations alike have shifted to remote work options, making many adjustments along the way. We hope that all of you, your coworkers, families, and friends are safe and remain healthy — and have transitioned well to this new reality. Today we share some tips from a lively internal email thread at AEE, where some of our staff have worked remotely for more than eight years (some for 15 or longer in prior roles), and now the rest of us are working from home as well. We have refined many tools and systems for productive, impactful advocacy work from dispersed locations. But the current situation is far more extreme, with travel restrictions, offices closed, and shelter-in-place orders. We need all the tricks of the work-from-home trade to succeed in our work and in our mental state. Here, we share the best of them with you.
Like many of you, we have cancelled or postponed in-person meetings and shifted to online or telephone gatherings to pursue our mission while keeping everyone engaged and safe. We are also trying to support each other, stay socially connected virtually, and keep our sense of humor. In that vein, here are the Top 10 practical tips from our crew below. We welcome your comments to share your best tips below.
- Social Connection is Key to Good Teamwork. We have always used Zoom for “All Hands” and other key team calls to stay connected. Now we use Zoom for more routine calls, virtual lunch gatherings, coffee break chats, and Friday Happy Hour sing-alongs with the kids. There’s nothing like seeing your coworkers’ faces, sharing a collective laugh or sigh, celebrating wins, and of course collaborating and sharing screens for project work. Team members also recommended reconnecting with old friends, former work colleagues, distant relatives, getting beyond your normal circle, and logging in to spiritual congregations.
- Embrace the Latest Technology. Besides Zoom, we rely on GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar for virtual member and industry gatherings, and plan to add more industry engagement offerings in the coming weeks. We stepped up our internal Slack communications channels for specific work teams and informal sharing, from notable member news to heartwarming #DogsOfAEE pics. Trello project boards keep our advocacy work on track. We depend on Google Calendar for scheduling internal and external meetings/calls, blocking out-of-office or ‘not available’ time (especially as many now share childcare and homeschool duty), and staggering member communications. Salesforce and Hubspot support our contact database, external outbound and driving inbound communications, as well social media posts. AEE employs Sage Intaact for budgeting, timesheets and project coding; Bill.com and Expensify for efficient processing of bills and expense reimbursements; and Meltwater to track industry news. Finally, we use AEE’s PowerSuite tool to track, flag and search for regulatory and legislative activity on the federal level and all 50 states. And you may want to invest in a good set of earphones (our expert recommends Bose 700 or Sennheiser HD 4.50).
- Take a Shower, Keep a Routine. Establish a daily routine that sets you up for a productive work day. Go to bed at the same time every night and set a wakeup alarm. Take a shower, which may double as welcome quiet or reflective time. Swap out those pajamas for ‘work’ jeans, sweats, slacks, or yoga pants. Walk to and from your metro station in lieu of your regular commute. Keep a schedule with work blocks on your calendar. If interruptions or procrastination disrupt your flow, try the Pomodoro technique to get back on track. Create a clear end to your day — close the laptop, walk away from your work area — to create that work/home separation.
- Exercise! Social distancing means it is still 100% okay to exercise in the great outdoors. Our team’s new habits ranged from forced 10k marches, jogs or hikes to wear out ansty youth to 26-mile bike rides, in-home workouts, solo runs, shorter bike rides, long walks on empty streets, extra dog walks, or hitting the erg. Whatever your sport, keep it up — or better yet, step it up — to stay in shape, manage stress and anxiety, and have a better night’s sleep while you shelter-in-place.
- Check Food Supplies. With families gathered together surviving under one roof, we learned about critical food staples to have on hand. One AEE parent of a teen noted “...no amount of food that you buy can keep them satisfied. Watching YouTube all day is exhausting. For teenagers, cereal and milk appear to be the Number One seed; cereal for breakfast, cereal for ‘snacksies,’ cereal for lunch, after real lunch, [and] at 11 pm, because you need food then too.” And apparently our young ones like their peanut butter — so much peanut butter! Work in a healthy variety as much as you can.
- Pause, Reset, Try Something New. Several colleagues suggested using these unusual circumstances to reset personal pursuits and goals that keep us happy, inspired, and sane. One staffer noted it’s a good time to revisit and recommit to New Year’s resolutions. Others have tried something new like an online Yoga class (like Down Dog) and creative outlets like practicing piano and painting.
- Leverage “Free” Labor. And Play Games. Kids suddenly home from college means free labor for parents with home maintenance projects previously deferred. Time to git ’er done! The K-12 set can also chip in with daily chores, large and small, not to mention help with cooking and baking. Engage "remote babysitting" assistance from distant grandparents. And have some fun. One colleague offered up a range of favorite games: “Qwirkle (a particular AEE favorite), Sushi Go, Trouble, Qwixx, Pass the Pigs, Shoots & Ladders, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, War, Risk, Yeti in My Spaghetti, Dominion, online Pictionary and Uno among others... Repeat!” Also, coordinate with neighborhood parents to put fun things in the windows for kid scavenger hunts at acceptable social distance and chalk drawing in “safe” family corners of the sidewalk.
- Stay Healthy. Follow all shelter-in-place guidelines, wash your hands, get enough rest, eat well, and take a break from the barrage of news. Drink plenty of water and watch the coffee, tea, soda or energy drink intake. Get outside. Seriously. Even if it's just to stand on your porch and feel the sun on your face for 15 minutes. Move around; take standing or walking breaks from your work area. When returning home, put keys, phones, etc. in a container by door, go straight to wash hands before touching anything else. Then come back to disinfect these items and doorknobs with rubbing alcohol/clorox wipes.
- Rally Support for Frontline Workers, Charities. One colleague’s teen suggested supporting Asian grocers like H-Mart as some businesses are down due to misinformation. Post hearts in windows and doors to thank and show support for our frontline workers at hospitals, grocery stores, delivery services, military etc. There may also be safe volunteer opportunities for fundraising, shopping for the elderly or sick, and finally, if your finances allow, donate to local or national food banks and other charities to support those struggling with furloughs, layoffs, and business closures.
- Be Grateful. We are so grateful for amazing, supportive co-workers, members, and funders, plus our health, family, and friends. We are grateful for staying busy with fulfilling work and being part of an industry that will significantly aid our nation’s economic recovery as we get past this health crisis. We hope you feel the same way.
We don’t have all the answers for smooth operations in unprecedented times. There are more great tips here to demonstrate you are crushing it while working remotely. Please submit your top tips via comments below or @AEEnet.Be safe, stay healthy, and let’s keep advanced energy moving forward! And, if you haven’t already, try AEE’s PowerSuite tool to support your clean energy advocacy – wherever you are.