Working from home – at least part of the time -is something that many employees have been advocating for for some time. However, all of a sudden it's become a must for many companies in the face of the COVID19 virus and the attempt to curb its spread. And no, most of us were not ready for it.
For those managers who have never even managed a few remote workers before – which is a large number – the challenge of now being faced with whole teams who will be working for an indefinite period of time from home can seem very daunting. For those people here are a few actionable tips to help you out.
Create a Communication Method That Works For You
There’s no shortage of digital products to help your team communicate and collaborate from anywhere. The best options include task management and scheduling, as well as the ability to share documents and celebrate milestones.
Each company has their own mix of products that work best for them, but it’s usually a combination of a few. Slack, Trello, Google Docs, GoToMeeting, to name just a few.
However, it’s important to use various modes of communication wisely. Since it’s so easy to miscommunicate when you’re not physically in the room with someone, make sure every interaction you have with your team is delivered on the right platform.
For example, don’t use email or instant messaging for delivering critical feedback – lengthy or difficult conversations are best saved for video chat or, if that’s not possible, a phone call. Once you have your digital workplace set up, clearly outline to managers and employees alike what each type of communication tool should be used for.
Be Clear with Your Expectations
Being clear and upfront with employees is always good form, but it becomes all the more crucial when your staff is scattered.
Be especially clear about hours and availability. Do you want your workers available between set office hours? Are you OK with them tracking their hours, as long as they’re available for meetings? In short, don’t make any assumptions about what working remotely is – define it with your staff.
Encourage Random Chats
Call it watercooler chats, call it impromptu chats, call it whatever you want – if you have remote workers, you need a way for spontaneous moments to happen between them. When you’re separated physically you still need a place to hang out and talk about random stuff or ideas.
Allowing for casual chats helps to connect the team and prevent burnout (more on that later) while also encouraging unplanned bouts of creativity and collaboration.
It’s important for your team to know that working from home doesn’t mean going under the radar. One-on-ones between managers and their direct reports should take place regularly to ensure that goals are set and met, and any issues that arise are addressed ASAP.
This not only ensures that everyone is on track, it keeps employees engaged and excited about their work, even if they’re not surrounded by their team.
You might think the biggest worry about workers doing their jobs from home is slacking off. In reality, however, it’s the opposite. A manager’s natural instinct is to worry that her workers aren’t getting enough work done. But the real threat is that they will wind up working too hard. And because the manager isn’t sitting across from her worker anymore, she can’t look in the person’s eyes and see burnout.
To combat this, set daily and weekly maxes for working hours, and encourage workers to focus on doing a good day’s work rather than piling on the hours. Encourage breaks, lunch hours, and, in general, self control, to ensure your team stays productive and healthy. And cut everyone, yourself included, a little extra slack. These are strange and confusing times and only by doing that – and working together even though we are apart – will we get through them successfully.