Lessons Learned from Coronavirus

by Ellen Davis
Temple College
Temple, TX

One positive benefit of the coronavirus is that it’s making us all learn new ways of doing our jobs – ways that we probably should have learned a long time ago. Many of us, for example, are hastily installing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) on our laptops and trying to learn Microsoft Teams so we can work from home as we shelter in place.

But long before COVID-19 forced many of us to begin working from home, I had an employee who was working remotely – from another state. This is not a contract employee (which many of us use), this is a full-time employee on our college payroll.

Many colleagues have expressed surprise (and in some cases envy) that I was able to do this. I have shared this success story with several colleagues who were trying to get their administration to support a similar proposal.

Here’s how it happened: Our very talented and hard-working web person married a man who was stationed at a nearby military base. When he was transferred to another base in Tennessee, we didn’t want to lose her. Fortunately, we had a young president who was totally supportive of the idea of letting a valuable employee work remotely. We already knew we could trust her to do this because she had spent the last few months of a recent pregnancy working from home.

Before the coronavirus hit, I had thought about writing a blog post with tips on how to successfully manage a remote employee. Here are some of those tips, which may help those who are temporarily managing employees working from home:

  1. Establish regular meeting times. We have a weekly phone call to discuss projects and priorities.
  2. Put a project list online where you can both see it.
  3. Make sure the employees working remotely continue to feel like they are part of your team. We use Zoom to bring our out-of-state employee into our monthly staff meetings, and I send her birthday cards and other items throughout the year so she gets the same things our other team members get.

Hopefully the workplace disruptions caused by the coronavirus will just be temporary. But they should demonstrate that if you have the right person, working remotely full-time can be a viable option.

Ellen Davis is director of marketing and media relations at Temple College in Temple, Texas. She has more than 30 years of experience in various aspects of college marketing, including publications, media relations, social media and website development.

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