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Telecommuting Best Practices for Tribal Governments
Businesses and local governments around the country are being forced to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by asking their employees, when possible, to work from home. This may be unprecedented for some tribal governments. We’re here to help. Below are some best practices for tribal governments attempting to transition their work from the office to the living room.
Utilize available technology. Work from home (whether it is in project management, finance, public services, etc.) depends on reliable access to a computer from home and possibly access to a local network through a VPN (virtual private network). Make sure each of the employees on your team has a laptop or desktop they can use while working from home and check with your tribe’s technology department to learn how to set up remote VPN access to your tribe’s government network.
Communication is key. Keep lines of communication open with some kind of messaging service. Here at the American Indian Policy Institute, we use Slack (www.slack.com) to remain available for communication at any time during the work day. It is easy to set up and free to use. Slack is great for quick conversations, project management, and sharing files quickly with your whole team. It’s better than going back-and-forth via email, which can clutter up people’s inboxes. Email should still be used for formal communications such as leave requests, formal assignments, company resources, etc. In addition to chat, use video conferencing for staff meetings and to retain the human element of teamwork. At ASU, we use Zoom (www.zoom.us) for team meetings. Zoom has become a popular choice for teleconferencing in many large corporate environments, including government agencies.
Set and maintain goals. Make sure that all staff members have short, middle and long-range goals tied to a schedule with benchmarks and deadlines. Of course, the goals you set depend on the kind of work your office does, but setting expectations will help you and your staff remain on task while working in their pajamas. The best way to track progress is with an easy-to-use project management tool, which leads to our next recommendation.
Utilize an online project management tool. Set up a project management system like Basecamp (www.basecamp.com), Trello (www.trello.com), or one of the many others available. We manage tasks, assignments, and project assignments with Basecamp. Our staff has a running list of tasks they are working on at any given time. One added benefit of using these systems is that it creates a historical record of the projects your staff is working on and has completed, which is very helpful at annual review time. Our cloud project management program is automatically programmed to send a daily check-in question that we all respond to: “As you wind down your day, take some time to reflect and let us know which of your priorities and/or tasks did you accomplish today?” Additionally, every day, the system produces a digest of the responses to this question and a list of the projects we are working on and emails it to leadership.
Share work files. Implement a shared file management system such as Dropbox or Google Drive. If your team is comfortable with the Google work suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.), it may be worth it to set up a Google Drive shared folder (making sure to follow your tribe’s company policies) so staff can work on a single document simultaneously. While staff may have their own drafts of a document in a separate folder, final or near-final working documents should be uploaded to the shared folder.
Help us keep this blog post up to date! If you like the advice you read here, let us know how it helped your office continue to function while separated by these unusual times. If you have a recommendation for telework you didn’t see here, please share that with us too so we can help other tribes as we all transition to remote work! Finally, if you are experiencing challenges to remote working that these recommendations don’t cover, let us know so we can learn together. Thanks for reading. Check out our #WFH (work from home) office setups below.
Traci's work from home (#wfh) office.
Mikhail's work from home (#wfh) office.