Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Virtual Work

Higher Education Insight: Pain Points and Pivots for Students in 2020

College, Distance Learning, General Life/Work, Higher Education, Learning, Virtual Learning, Virtual Work

By Shyanne Long

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the higher education system to rethink their operations in order to accommodate for the health and safety of their students. 

As a community college student, I have seen the shift in higher education operations firsthand. Students were moved to an online environment very quickly and for many, it was their first time not sitting in classrooms and lecture halls packed with students.

My community college made a full switch to distance learning in March and plans to remain online through the end of the Fall semester in December.

There has been push back from students and families who do not agree with paying full tuition for online classes—colleges are trying to avoid a decrease in enrollment while trying to keep everyone safe.

While I know some people do not prefer online classes, I enjoy them! 

I have had a lot of experience with distance learning. I have taken most of my college classes online because I work full time and I like being able to have more control and flexibility in my learning. Community college distance learning classes have allowed me to create my own schedule, learn on my own time, and work full time to support myself.

All my classes were already online while everyone else was making the transition to a virtual environmentbut it was still a tough transition, even for me. I also began working from home during this time, so I had to get used to that while also continuing my studies. I’m a creature of habit and I do well when I have a routine that I can rely on. Everyone experienced a lot of change all at once and it has been difficult for everyone involved.

A struggle I experienced during the transition to my new normal was not having an event in between work and school to separate the two activities. Usually, I have a commute home after work, and I take that time to decompress and listen to a podcast or music. This breaks up my day and I can shift my mindset from work mode to school mode. With no transitional event, I would go straight from working on the computer all day to doing schoolwork on the computer. I quickly began to feel technology overload and needed a break.

To help myself get through it, I knew I would have to create some sort of event in between work and school time. I began going on walks, cooking dinner, or reading a book. These simple activities helped me adjust and pivot to my new schedule and kept me off the computer for a while.  

Here are some other ways I saw myself, my professors, and others pivot to the new way of learning:

Some of my professors voiced that they were struggling with not getting social interaction and facetoface time with students. A professor of mine implemented a couple of group projects to give us the social aspect of an in-person class. Some of my peers struggled with using Zoom at first. Luckily, I had a lot of experience using Zoom at work and I was able to help my classmates learn how to use the tool. 

Another professor had a few live lectures on Zoom during the semester, and she included students from the other college at which she works. It was nice to see some new faces and gain different perspectives.  

After several months of getting used to distance learning and working from home, I have found a good routine and I am ready to start the Fall semester on the right foot! I am thankful to all my professors and fellow students who worked together to make the transition easier. Colleges are making a conscious effort to support their staff and students while making it possible to continue our education.

What is your experience with education during this time? How did you pivot? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Shyanne is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for KAI Partners. She attends Sierra College and is studying Marketing. Ms. Long plans on transferring to a university after completing her units at Sierra College. Shyanne is passionate about expanding her knowledge, working collaboratively, and making powerful connections. For fun, Shyanne enjoys spending time with her family, reading, listening to podcasts, volunteering, and (attempting) to recreate recipes she finds on Pinterest.

Communication is Key to a Successful Remote Work Transition

Communications, KAI Partners, Remote Work, Virtual Work

By Mia Di Miceli, PMP, CSM, CSPO 

From In Office to Home Office: The secret ingredient to shift an entire workforce to a remote working environment.

I have worked in Executive Communications and Employee Engagement with private sector businesses for over 15 years; the immediate reaction to Shelter-In-Place requirements of COVID-19 put my knowledge and experience to the test. Supporting a public sector client where the practice of remote working was just a nice thought made responding to the COVID-19 pandemic seem daunting. 

The first question that came to mind was, how was I going to help my client shift their entire workforce from the office to working from home, with littletono productivity loss? The answer became immediately clear–by using the best secret ingredient around:

Strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication.

Organizations frequently underestimate the value of thoughtful communication, but communications can be a game-changer for any organization. As a Communications Consultant, you might say I am biased, but really, a communications professional is one of the most impactful resources an executive should have at the ready.

Creating a strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication approach does not have to be hard or complex. Here are 4 tips for creating a quick communications plan to help transition your workforce for any situation–pandemicpost-pandemic, or otherwise.

  1. Determine the overall theme of the message. Does the organization want to convey a specific message such as: business as usual, we are united, or do not panic? Work with executive leadership to determine and help guide a thoughtful theme to be conveyed to the workforce. 
  2. Identify the two or three best channels to deliver the message. In times of crisis such as COVID-19, the usual channels may not be the best for quick, concise, and efficient messaging. You may have to adopt something new like a vlog (video blog) or virtual office hours. Deciding the channels upfront will help streamline the volume of content and will set expectations for future communications with the audience. The channels chosen should also lend themselves to a natural feedback loop. Whether it’s as simple as advertising an Outlook inbox location or just capturing comments from the vlog hosting sitea feedback loop is imperative to a focused approach.  
  3. Ensure all content supports the overall theme message. As an example, if the theme is, “We are united,” then all content distributed should have a tone, language, and relevance to support the feeling of unification. For this theme in a teleworking environment, you could produce a vlog series with tips and tricks on staying connected while working remotely. 
  4. Document the frequency of publishing/distributing for each channel. With the theme determinedthe channels identified, and the content outlined, you will need to work on a cadence calendar. This calendar will help leadership understand how often the workforce will receive the push of content, and it will highlight opportunities for leadership to insert additional instructions or relevant information. 

Utilizing these 4 steps, I supported my client to successfully mobilize over 300 staff members and contractors from a 100% inoffice environment to a 100% teleworking environment in 2 weeks. This approach to thoughtful communication guided direct support of the executive team through daily crisis management meetings where we identified and approved appropriate messaging, determined the frequency with which we would engage the management team and staff, and helped ensure we had a plan for technology training and the comfort level of staff in being able to perform their regular job duties in a remote environment.

As mentioned at the start of this post, strategic, thoughtful, and focused communications can be the secret ingredient needed to support an organization to engage with what might now be a remote workforce. Communications will support the process of acceptance and can help you inspire what might be the new hybrid way of working. The days of everyone in the office every day might be over. Embracing teleworking as a long-term possibility now will help you ramp up for the next inevitable transition.

How will you get your organization through the next acceleration?

About the Author: Mia is an Executive Communications Consultant for KAI Partners. Mia joined KAI Partners in late 2019 with extensive experience in the private sector technology industry. She has successfully supported C-Suite executives in transforming their organizations through employee engagement, strategic communications, and organizational change management. She is an active member of International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and holds PMP, CSM, and CSPO certifications, and is trained in Six Sigma Green Belt.