By: Bryan DeAngelis, and Melissa Manson,

HPS, like many of our clients and partners, moved to a remote work schedule earlier this month as confirmed cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) reached the Washington, D.C. metro area.

While we had a strong plan in place and established procedures for meetings and coordination with HPS staff who work in remote offices, we’ve learned a lot over the past several days. We wanted to share some of these best practices and lessons with each of you as your companies and organizations prepare for what may be an extended remote work situation.

Overcommunicate With Employees And Clients

  • Employees and clients are dealing with an onslaught of news across platforms from family and friends, including social media. Helping them wade through the influx of information and providing credible sources is critical in this window.
  • Staff will be looking for a consistent cadence of information on the health and well-being of their colleagues and the state of the organization’s business overall. There is a clear advantage to providing regular updates directly to staff as opposed to letting them react to news reports about your business, partners, or the broader industry and jumping to conclusions on the implications of events as they unfold.

Encourage Face-To-Face Interactions (Via Video)

  • While group video conference calls can often feel more cumbersome to organize than phone calls, the platform can better simulate an in-office meeting environment and maximize team/client engagement and collaboration.
  • Additionally, just as managers meet with staff over coffee or lunch to coordinate on a project, discuss an internal issue or provide counsel, a short video conference can provide similar one-on-one engagement.
  • Given this period of social distancing may be overwhelming for many staff, this type of communication also provides managers with an opportunity to observe body language and ensure employees are getting the resources they need to navigate this challenge.

Maintain Firm Culture Through Social Engagement And Distance Learning

  • Remote work and social distancing are necessary to keeping employees healthy but can be a direct threat to a firm’s culture, particularly ones that have an open office and a highly collaborative environment. Figuring out regular touchpoints for more light-hearted activities that encourage firm-wide interaction can provide much needed levity in the moment.  For example, HPS has been holding different contests via e-mail such as a WFH Cooking Contest, among others.
  • We’ve also been using this time to refresh hard skills with Google Hangouts-based training sessions, engaging in informal social conversations (e.g., virtual coffees on the 2020 campaign) and transitioning our weekly in-person staff meeting to a virtual gaggle.

Respect The Added Stress On Everyone’s Schedule

  • Encourage folks to keep their schedules up-to-date and check colleagues’ schedules early and often, especially if you’re looking for an opportunity to catch them for an impromptu conversation or a huddle. Overuse calendar invites and other formal mechanisms to ensure these opportunities for dialogue remain possible.
  • Where time allows, build in buffer time for employees to break between calls and video meetings. A 15-minute gap helps everyone stay on top of email and chats, and tend to other caretaking and household duties that are now constant throughout the day and harder to separate from the workday.

Increase Frequency Of Management Meetings

  • Supervisors and managers should coordinate among themselves with weekly touchpoints, and potentially more often as developments evolve rapidly. A regular exchange of information, including sharing best practices on team and client management will ensure a unified set of messages is being disseminated across the firm. This can provide an added sense of stability for junior staff in this time of turbulence.

Check In With Internal Teams Regularly (Even With No Agenda)

  • Even if there’s not particularly urgent work to discuss, maintain standing internal meetings to check-in on longer term projects and ensure progress continues to be made on those deliverables despite the current uncertainty.
  • This is also a good time to foster dialogue on how workstreams might be affected long-term and brainstorm on any additional scenario planning that may need to be done as this situation plays out.

The HPS team is working closely with our clients to adjust to this new work environment. If your team is interested in learning more, sharing your own best practices, or receiving more updates from our team, please do not hesitate to contact us.