Luckily, working remotely has been part of daily business for most us for a long time: we are used to working in different client locations, on trains and buses, at the airport, or at home. Nevertheless, working 100% remotely poses a few challenges. But we've found ways to solve them, and we'd like to share our findings so you can benefit from them, too. Here are 4 tips for consultants working from home!
1. Switch on the camera
Many consultants prefer working on location. There's a reason for that. A lot of things are easier to do face to face – for example, conducting interviews, providing status updates, and organizing workshops. And let's not forget about building relationships and trust, or sensing someone's concerns. Simple eye contact can add greatly to the conversation.
The good news is, you don't have to lose out on such opportunities just because you're working from home now. The quality of video conferencing tools has improved greatly over the years. Tools such as Google Meet and Microsoft Teams offer decent video/audio quality, and setting them up doesn't cause any considerable hassle. The first few times you switch on the camera might be a bit awkward, but the reward – a significantly better conversation – is worth it. So don't worry if your happy-go-lucky toddler totters into view. Everyone's in the same boat, and something so recognizable will only make your video meeting more personal.
2. Set up a virtual project room
Besides planned meetings like interviews or workshops, impromptu meetings are an important aspect of client interaction for consultants, too. Casual conversations – which may occur simply because a team member at the client's office walks in and asks how you're doing – often result in emerging insights or even breakthroughs. And yes, it's more difficult to encourage such conversations when working from home. But it isn't impossible.
What helps is to set up a 'virtual project room,' a video channel that allows available project team members to collaborate and is open to anyone who wants to ask a question or have a quick chat. What's great is that it's very easy to set up: all you need is a link to the channel, which you should share with every person involved. Need some help? Step into my virtual office! Creating an open channel in Slack or a team group in Whatsapp will mostly do the trick, too.
3. Be careful with data
When collaborating on data remotely, you should be able to rely on security. Obviously, the required level of precaution depends on the sensitivity of the data.
No matter the type of data, we prefer to work directly in a secure client environment, as it prevents moving the data. If such an environment isn't available, we use a cloud solution with zero-knowledge encryption. This means only dedicated M3 team members can access data – even the cloud provider isn't allowed to do so.
4. Unearth hidden opportunities
Remember that working remotely offers a lot of opportunities you've never used. Here's an example: in lieu of filling a meeting room with Post-it notes, we now organize interactive Q&A sessions. During the first 5-10 minutes, everyone can ask their questions online. Team members can use the next 5-10 minutes to vote on questions they feel are most relevant. Then, we'll use the rest of the session to discuss the most popular questions.
Bottom line: if you're a project team member working from home, you'll be faced with some challenges. But it's absolutely possible to overcome these and deliver your project successfully.