In 2017, about 3% of the US workforce worked from home. To say that number has skyrocketed since the coronavirus pandemic began is an understatement. While some employees have started going back to work, many remain at home, and we’re all grappling with a new definition of “business as usual.”
For property tax professionals, working from home can be a challenge, especially during busy seasons when assessment notices or tax bills are mailed to your office (which you no longer have access to). At PTX, we’ve been facing similar challenges. Here our top five tips for keeping your team connected and property tax process moving forward during the COVID-19 pandemic:
#1: Re-create your normal work setup
It’s so much easier to stay focused and productive when you have the tools that you need at your desk. With the WFH situation feeling more permanent, it's probably time to stop working from the couch. I don’t have a separate room for a home office, so I’ve set up a folding table behind the couch in my living room and brought my second monitor, keyboard, and even my desk chair home from the office.
If you can’t get back into your office or aren’t allowed to bring supplies home, here are a few low-cost options on Amazon:
- 22-inch monitor - $90
- Keyboard/mouse combos - a lot of options around $30
- Desk chair - good options under $100
- Adjustable folding table - $50 (this was a lifesaver for me!)
- Footrest - free…use one of those empty boxes!
#2: Establish regular communication with your team
Working from home means we all have to try a little harder to stay connected with colleagues and teammates that we used to see regularly in the office. Here are a few things I've found work well:
- Encourage your team to use video more often - Studies show that 55% of communication is nonverbal. So, use video as much as you can when communicating and meeting with your colleagues. Instead of picking up the phone or sending a quick question via IM, give someone a video call. It will go a long way to help maintain office relationships and keep your team feeling connected.
- Schedule regular check-ins - Before we started working from home, we only had one weekly team meeting. To better keep in touch without being in the office, we've added a second meeting mid-week, and we've scheduled regular weekly meetings for major projects and initiatives. Each meeting is only 15-30 minutes, but they help us stay motivated and hold ourselves accountable.
- Join meetings early - Jumping on a few minutes before the meeting starts gives you time to chat and socialize with your co-workers...Plus, you'll maintain good meeting etiquette and give yourself a buffer in the event of technology issues!
#3: Stick to a schedule
When working from home, it's a lot easier to hit the snooze button or forego morning routines that help us tackle the day. By creating a schedule that builds in time for chores, meals, and breaks, I've been able to stay productive and maintain balance.
For example, I still take my lunch break even though the kitchen is only 5 steps away. I discovered a new walking trail in the neighborhood behind my house, so I’ve been trying to go on walks every day when I’d usually leave the office to pick up a salad (or, let’s be honest, go through the Chick-fil-A drive through).
And just as important as starting your day on time is logging off on time! It’s so easy to find ourselves working later or logging back on at weird hours when the office is in the living room.
#4: Try out some new digital tools
We’ve certainly entered the Golden Age of Zoom meetings, but there are other great tools out there to help with everything from keeping up with your to-do list to creating effective team communication. Here are a few of my favorites:
- For keeping a to-do list and managing team tasks: Asana
- I started using Asana seven years ago, and I still love it today! You can create projects, add tasks, and even assign them to other team members. The free version has everything you’ll need to get through temporary work from home, and you can toggle between views to see a your projects on a calendar or on “coming up,” “in progress,” and “completed” boards.
- For keeping in touch with the team: Slack
- We spend 1/3 of our weekdays with our co-workers, and Slack makes it easy to stay in touch when we’re not in meetings. It’s also easy for people to create their own threads based on common interests. When I worked for a company of 150+ people, we had group chats for fitness tips, foodies, Bachelor fans, and even cat ladies (which was by far my favorite thread).
- For scheduling meetings: Doodle
- Sure, we can pull up the scheduler in Outlook and scroll through days of our coworkers’ calendars to find that one 30-minute slot that works for everyone. But with people working from home for the first time, juggling homeschooling kids, sharing work space with roommates or spouses, and finding time to take the dog out, it’s easier to just send out a Doodle poll. Doodle does all the work for you and will rank the time slots that the most people can attend.
#5: Take your property tax process online
While some counties and states have delayed mailings or extended deadlines (click here for a state-by-state update), 2020 assessments and the remaining 2019 bills still need to be processed. Our TaxFeed™ subscription gives you digital access to your property tax records so that you can keep things moving forward.
Our TaxFeed clients don't have to worry about collecting paper mail from the office or finding ways to process it all with their team working from home. With TaxFeed, you’ll be able to log into your online portal and download a file with your records, which we receive directly from assessors and collectors and then standardize across jurisdictions.
Not only does TaxFeed help ease the burden of working remotely, it also helps our clients avoid data entry errors, refocus time on value-add tasks, and stay on top of property tax deadlines and changing parcel lists.
If you’re interested in subscribing to TaxFeed or want to learn more, let us know by clicking the link below!