You might assume that running an ESD Program from home would be all but impossible. But with the right systems in place, you can make the best out of an otherwise extremely limiting moment in time, managing to stay ahead and eventually coming out on top.
I recently had a chance to sit down (remotely) with Matt Jane, Staff Quality Engineer and ESD Program Manager at Tesla Inc., to discuss managing an ESD Program while working from home—and the challenges therein. While managing an ESD Program remotely is nothing out of the ordinary for many, including Matt, due to the current climate that has unfolded resulting in “shelter-in-place” restrictions, Matt and his team of ESD Technicians have had to put more emphasis on the methods and means which enable their program to continue running successfully. Together, we wanted to share the highlights of this discussion (and some secrets) with a broader audience on how you can overcome this new set of challenges by leveraging tools, time, and processes.
So let’s dive right in.
As an ESD Program Manager working remotely, it can be challenging to lead your team. Communication is key to the success of your remote strategy. Trust your process, get buy-in and encourage your team to stick to the plan. Start off on the right foot:
- Have your remote strategy mapped out ASAP
- Set actionable goals for you, the team and each member therein
- Monitor progress by keeping on-going, regularly occurring meetings
Utilize collaborative software
In today’s world, there are a myriad of software platforms at our disposal that keep us not only connected, but on track. Matt and his team take an Agile approach, managing their goals in sprints, not uncommon for engineers like him. He utilizes collaborative platforms that keep engagement high, relevant, and accountable.
If you haven’t done so, get your team digital, in the cloud and using a collaborative project management platform. And if you can’t work in the cloud, make sure you and your team all have remote access to your software platforms hosted on-site.
Software to help you manage projects:
Botron uses (free)
Matt uses (paid)
Other options include
- Microsoft Teams – For project planning and tracking (included with Office 365)
- Asana (free and paid)
- GitHub (free and paid)
- Airtable (free and paid)
Staying connected with your team
Don’t reach for email first, it’s exhaustingly slow. If you must, use email as the period at the end of your discussion that formalizes actionable plans. But if you’re relying on email to have discussions with internal team members you should know there are better options.
Get your team on an Instant messaging application. IM’s are just that, instant, they enable your team to communicate with each other or as a group rapidly. And in many ways can be the most productive form of communication. Many messaging apps allow you to share photos, videos, files and more. As an ESD Program Manager, this flexibility allows you to collect necessary data points and provide accurate instructions more quickly than email.
For chat and video chat:
Other options include
Keep your team engaged
Keeping your team engaged while working from home is going to be a struggle at times. You’re going to face lapses and periods of silence throughout the day. You’ll need to figure out how to fill that time. And a good solution is to engage with your team using video conferencing tools such as GoTo, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom. However, while this helps you and your team members convey emotion and voice ideas and concerns. The question is—are you maximizing the full value this tool offers?
Leverage video conferencing tools for more than just meetings. Use it for ESD training, education and to plan and review your ESD Program. It’s the perfect platform to highlight the latest ESDA Standards, technical whitepapers, articles and stream instructional videos. You can record your presentations too, which is useful in many ways.
Ideas Matt suggests:
- Walter Lewin’s Physics II course on YouTube
- Video library on ESDA.org
- Review the technical app notes of your ESD test and measurement equipment
- Group evaluation of your ESD Program
Build an ESD Program that’s accessible remotely
Managing an ESD Program is highly technical and many of the actions underpinning this role require getting your hands dirty. But when you’re remote, not having the right equipment in place can lead to frustration and lengthy back and forth with your team. “Is it a red light, or green?” Is it beeping or not beeping?” If you’re having to ask these questions it’s almost certain you don’t have the right equipment in place. Working from home would be easier if your bench could be remote too.
Equip your ESD Protected Area (EPA) with technology that enables remote virtual access. Matt and his team take advantage of Botron’s ELITE ESD Test System and Intelligent Ionizer, providing him with real time data on operational conditions. Additionally, delivering critical data into his hands expediently—wherever he is—at any time.
- Your program should be data driven
- Equip your EPA with devices that provide meaningful feedback and displaying actual measured values
- Monitors that record data
- Remotely accessible to view the status, events and location.
- ELITE DataSystems Software
- ELITE Test Systems
- ELITE Sentinel Continuous Monitoring System
- ELITE OMNIGND Automated Continuous Monitor
Finding your balance
The workplace is filled with distractions, but working from home doesn’t necessarily mean distraction free. In fact, it can present an entirely new set of distractions. In most cases you’re not the only one home. It’s important your team is aware of this, and you as the leader are aware of your team members’ work from home environment. Working from home for an extended period is much different than a day or two here and there, or even just being accessible while away from the office. Simple things you take for granted, such as focusing your mind on the day ahead during your morning commute, keeping a full schedule of activities and communicating with your teams and individual contributors can be a shock to the system.
Avoiding potential pitfalls starts with developing a personal routine. Allow for some key moments in the work day where either you or your team members need time to tend to other obligations, such as caring for family members and child schooling.
- Stick to your schedule, plan as if you are going into the office.
- In the mornings, find a place that motivates you to take in the day ahead and set your goals and priorities.
- Get out of the house, not only is this a time for planning and reflecting, the act of leaving the house and entering the workplace will mentally put you in gear, so approach your home office the same way.
- Create a space that’s quiet and motivates you to get work done, away from the household distractions
The challenges of working remotely have become easier to navigate and stay productive. With these tips you can continue to run your ESD Program as smooth as butter. Our goal is to share our success with the hope it benefits your remote strategy. We would love to hear what you and your team are using and if you have other suggestions drop us a note!