With the COVID-19 outbreak affecting businesses worldwide, managers find themselves unexpectedly having to lead their teams remotely, many for the first time. To make this transition as smooth as possible, try the tips below to keep everyone connected and productive.
Focus on Goals and Be Flexible
First, recognize the fact that your employees might not be able to give 100% during this period. For instance, some might have children staying home from school, elder family members to care for or grocery shortages to worry about. Understandably, they might feel overwhelmed by the situation that’s currently unfolding and, as a result, distractions may be amplified during these trying times.
To keep frustrations to a minimum on both sides, focus on goals and end results instead of on how and when certain tasks are completed. Additionally, offer your workers more flexibility to fulfill their tasks on their own terms.
Set Clear Expectations
Working from home should not add to the worries and uncertainty your employees might be dealing with right now. If you let everyone know what is expected of them from the start, you’ll avoid uncomfortable misunderstandings in the long run.
Agree on what the working hours will be, including when the work day begins and when it ends. Also, make sure everybody knows how fast they should answer calls and respond to emails to maintain and maximize collaboration.
Likewise, confirm that each employee knows what’s expected of them in terms of work tasks. Reassess priorities and consider everyone’s new, home-adapted workflow when scheduling deadlines. Some projects may be adjusted, while others absolutely cannot be delayed. Make sure everyone knows the difference.
Keep in Contact Regularly
Lack of communication is one of the main issues employees face when working from home. To avoid this and keep everyone updated, a Forbes article recommends using:
- Weekly one-on-ones with each employee, which are essential in the beginning. They can become less frequent once everyone is settled in, depending on their preferences.
- Weekly action reviews, which provide an opportunity for everyone to receive updates on current projects and find out who to contact in case they need extra information.
- An end-of-day short list of the tasks accomplished from each employee, which holds them accountable and keeps you up to date on everyone’s progress.
Moreover, remember that transparency is key during this time of uncertainty. Give updates in every weekly meeting, even when there’s not much to share. This will keep everyone focused and reassured that everything is on the right track.
Encourage Video Calls
While not everyone might be comfortable with video calls at first, there are plenty of benefits to using this channel of communication as opposed to relying only on phone calls or email.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to see everyone’s non-verbal cues, giving you a better picture of what they’re feeling or how well they’re handling the situation. Furthermore, you will encourage everyone to call from a quiet, professional space and change from their pajamas—which helps them get into the right mindset to focus on their work.
Ensure Access to Collaboration Apps
To make sure your employees stay connected to you, their peers and your clients, invest in quality WFH collaboration apps. For example, use Zoom or GoToMeeting for video conferencing, Google Docs to make sure everyone has access to the information they need, Microsoft Teams or Slack for instant messaging, and Jira for project management. If you need some ideas, here are 27 game-changing apps to consider.
Also, remember that isolation contributes to decreased morale. So, to keep the watercooler chit-chat going, create a chat room on your instant messaging platform of choice where everybody can share personal stories, photos and gifs. Colleagues who are used to working in the same office before the quarantine will appreciate the opportunity to reach their colleagues just as easily online.
Support Continuing Education
Just because your team is working from home doesn’t mean that learning has to stop. On the contrary, a slower work pace means more opportunity for your employees to develop new skills that can prove useful in the future. Support this continuing education and provide access to various online courses relevant to your team.
Along the same lines, use this time to organize brainstorming sessions and come up with new ideas that will improve products and increase revenue down the road.
Constantly Gauge Stress Levels
While many people can easily handle working from home for a week or two, a situation like this that is prolonged indefinitely can have serious effects on employee morale and engagement. Therefore, make sure your team knows that their well-being is a priority for you and the company.
For example, during the weekly one-on-ones, ask your team members how they’re doing and pay attention to non-verbal language as well. Harvard Business Review suggests asking each employee to rate their stress level on a scale from zero to 10. Then, using the same scale, rate their engagement level, as well. This gives you a more accurate, quantitative picture and helps you adjust your impressions.
Also, remember that you’ll have to be the voice of reason during these difficult times. Even though you might find the situation difficult, too, it’s your responsibility to keep up morale. To do this, keep criticism to a minimum and make a point to celebrate all victories—no matter how small. And, don’t forget that optimism is contagious.
Granted, this period will require you to adjust your management style to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. So, create an environment where everyone feels included, encouraged to contribute and safe to express their concerns. By doing so, you’ll offer your team the support they need to overcome these difficult times.