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Teleworking Tips: Best Practices on Staying Connected Remotely

Published Mar 17, 2020 by Maggie Martin

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Thousands of Houstonians are working from home this week after dozens of businesses have closed their physical locations in response to growing COVID-19 concerns. Many employees - and their employers - are adjusting to teleworking as a reality for at least the next few weeks. 

Carey Kirkpatrick is CEO & Founder of CKP, a Houston-based agency serving clients in Houston and Austin through integrated strategic marketing and public relations solutions. She was also a guest on our Small Biz Insider podcast last year. 

Kirkpatrick answered a few questions about the challenges and the opportunities of teleworking. 

What can employers do to best support their employees remotely?

Employers can ensure their teams have three things in place:

  • The right tools to do the job: This could mean anything from laptops to connectivity to cloud versions of software. (Here's a rundown of some popular tech tools and software to help)
     
  • Access to information: If your company operates and shares files using the cloud, you can easily grant access and share information. If not, this is a great time to test-drive cloud-based sharing and collaboration.
     
  • Clear expectations: There’s enough uncertainty around the public health emergency. Avoid adding to the uncertainty by being crystal clear about expectations for working hours and communication protocols. 

What are the biggest challenges – for employers and employees – of working remotely?

The challenges are not going to be the same for each employer. If your company is utilizing remote working for the first time, the two biggest obstacles are likely to be managing and maintaining productivity with a dispersed workforce, and keeping communications open, meaningful and flowing regularly.

The biggest challenge for first-time remote workers begins with communication expectations—knowing which channels to use for what and how often. Some coworkers may prefer text over messaging apps, while some conversations are better over video or voice call. Another challenge is prioritizing projects, tasks, and responsibilities. These can also arise from feeling isolated and unsupported, a common symptom of being away from a physical space and the company of colleagues.

How can employees adjust to this new way of working, especially those who haven’t done teleworking before?

  • Prepare for each day like you would any other office day. Follow your same morning routine to help mentally prepare for switching to work mode even though you might still be at home.
     
  • Maintain the same dynamics you would if you were physically in the office. Just because you’re using the phone or video conference or chat doesn’t mean things have to be awkward, weird or stale.
     
  • Designate a workspace in your home. Make sure your family understands that when you go into the “work zone,” you’re working. If your spouse or partner is also working from home, it’s ok, and maybe even preferable, to have separate work spaces. And if kids are home from school, build a schedule with your spouse or partner for who’s in charge when, so each of you has the opportunity for focused work time.
     
  • Use tools like task trackers, shared calendars and to-do lists with reminder notifications to organize and prioritize. 
     
  • Be patient and over-communicate with your managers as they might be doing this for the first time, too.
     
  • Take adequate breaks to move around and clear your head. When the work day is over, shut down your equipment and move to a different space. Small cues letting your brain and body know you have moved from “work-mode” to “family time” or “personal time” can help prevent burnout and feeling overwhelmed.

By which measures should employers gauge the success of their organization’s remote working experience?

The number one success metric is customer satisfaction. Regardless of whether your client is internal or external, if your team is able to deliver excellent results that meet the objectives regardless of location, then you have a win. 
 

The Partnership has put together a list of items companies should consider when preparing for and dealing with the impact of the coronavirus. 

The Partnership's Houston Coronavirus Resources guide provides information around the virus to businesses and individuals in our region. We will continue to update this page as new information becomes available.

Read our latest issue of Economy at a Glance. It looks at what we know about the COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on Houston as well as the plunge in oil prices.

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Houston Expected to Create 75,000+ Jobs in '22 as Region Works to Regain Pandemic Losses

12/1/21
HOUSTON (December 1,2021) – The Greater Houston Partnership forecasts the Houston region will create 75,500 net new jobs in 2022. As the region’s economic recovery continues, employment gains are expected in every sector, with the greatest increases anticipated in administrative support and waste management; government; health care and social assistance; and professional, scientific and technical services.  Five factors will support job growth in the region next year: the ongoing U.S. expansion, robust global trade, energy consumption returning to pre-crisis levels, pent-up consumer demand, and local population growth. The dynamics affecting each are broken down in the report. The forecast warns that the recovery will continue to face headwinds, including elevated inflation, supply chain challenges and worker shortages, but these won’t be enough to halt growth.  As of September 2021, Metro Houston had recouped 245,600 jobs, or roughly 68 percent of the 361,400 lost in the early stages of the pandemic. The sectors most impacted by social distancing are near full recovery. Restaurants and bars have recouped 90.1 percent of their losses, retail 86.5 percent, other services (i.e., personal services), 94.0 percent. However, for the industries that were struggling prior to the pandemic—including energy, manufacturing, construction, and wholesale trade—COVID-19 made their situations worse. Those sectors began to shed jobs before COVID-19 arrived and continued to shed them after the economy reopened. Collectively, these struggling Houston industries account for over half the jobs needed to close the gap and recapture Houston’s pre-pandemic employment peak. Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski said the good news is that the outlook for the four sectors has improved in recent months and they’re taking small steps toward recouping their losses.  “Only eight times in the past 21 years has annual growth exceeded 75,500 jobs, which is our forecast for 2022,” Jankowski said. “Those eight years tend to coincide with rising oil prices or prices at an unsustainably high level. Factor out the booms (and the busts), and metro Houston typically creates 65,000 to 70,000 jobs in a ‘normal’ year. Measured against that, 2022 looks to be one of the better years for job growth in Houston.”  Metro Houston Jobs Forecast by Sector (December 2021 to December 2022)  Administrative Support/Waste Management: +9,000 jobs  Professional, Scientific and Technical Services: +8,700 jobs  Health Care and Social Assistance: +8,400 jobs  Restaurants and Bars: +7,200 jobs  Government: +7,100 jobs  Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities: +6,500 jobs  Manufacturing: +5,000 jobs  Energy: +4,000 jobs  Wholesale Trade: +3,000 jobs  Construction: +2,700 jobs  Other Services: +2,100 jobs  Finance and Insurance: +2,100 jobs  Educational Services: +2,000 jobs  Retail Trade: +2,000 jobs  Real Estate and Equipment Rentals: +2,000 jobs  Arts, Entertainment and Recreation: +1,600 jobs  Hotels: +1,200 jobs  Information: +700 jobs  Click here to see the full report, including a sector-by-sector examination of the factors that will prompt growth in the year ahead.  The mission of the Partnership is to make Houston one of the world’s best places to live, work and build a business. To that end, the Partnership provides this forecast to help the Houston business community and those involved in economic development in the region understand trends influencing the region’s economy and driving industry gains or losses. The forecast is designed to help businesses make better investment, staffing and purchase decisions in the coming year. ### Greater Houston Partnership The Greater Houston Partnership works to make Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. As the principal business organization in the Houston region, the Partnership advances growth across 12 counties by bringing together business and civic-minded leaders who are dedicated to the area’s long-term success. Representing more than 900 member organizations who employ approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, the Partnership is the place business leaders come together to make an impact. Learn more at Houston.org. A.J. Mistretta Vice President, Communications          (c) 504-450-3516 | amistretta@houston.org  
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