If your team is working from home, you may find that some take it in their stride but others, who may have little experience of home working, find it unnerving. This is a time for leadership and communication. It’s your role to ensure you continue to get the best from each member of your team by helping them adjust, and by supporting them and your business as you adapt to new circumstances.
Make sure everyone has the tools they need to get the job done effectively. Ideally, they’ll need tested technology that allows secure and reliable connection to your systems and, if required, other forms of communication like phone, PC or laptop voice and/ or video-based chat. Any ‘reasonable adjustments’ you’ve put in place for your employees in the workplace should also be taken into account at home.
Ideally, people will need a quiet, uninterrupted environment to work effectively. You may wish to offer guidance on this, but ultimately it’s up to your employee to organise their own space. Check in with them to find out how they’re getting on, and whether there’s anything they may need to adapt. If you can, check their workspace is suitable and not likely to exacerbate any illness or injury. If in doubt, you may need some support from occupational health.
Keep in touch
Your team will need support and regular contact from you. This is particularly important in the early days and weeks of working from home. Schedule team meetings to create cohesion, idea and problem sharing and to reduce isolation and loneliness. Use video conferencing to boost the sense of social connection. Set a start and end time and stick to it. Get one of the team to take brief minutes and actions during the meeting and distribute them promptly after the meeting. If you have the time, keep in touch daily. A ‘buzz call’ first thing in the morning can kick things off and create a positive vibe. Communication is important in all directions, so encourage team members to talk to you and each other as they would if you were in the office. If daily contact isn’t practical, try a kick-off call on Monday to set up the week and a review a few days later to look at where things are. Schedule individual time with members of the team who need more support.
Having a good relationship with your team is especially important when everyone is working remotely. Beyond the catch-up calls, try to make time for a one-to-one session with each person at least once a week. Find out how they’re coping with their new setup. Ask how their work is going. And ask how they’re feeling. It doesn’t need to be a long chat but schedule the time so you both can plan work around it and start and end on time. Use open questions (‘how does that make you feel?’) to get them to talk freely and share their concerns. Show you understand and find out if there’s anything you can do to help.
Do as well as say
If you say something or agree to something then you must do it in good time. It’s much more difficult to chase people up when you’re working remotely. It makes your role more important in seeing that things get done.
You’re not seeing your team directly, so be really clear in communicating your requirements and expectations. This will reduce ambiguity and any risk of mis-interpretation. It doesn’t mean micro-managing, but you can’t afford to be totally hands off. If something goes astray or gets out of control you need to be able to identify what’s happening and intervene. This can be where regular updates help keep things on track.
Read the mood
Mood contributes to engagement and motivation. Keep your emotional senses open to reading both team and individual moods and emotions. Ask questions that help to disclose how people are feeling. Probe if necessary and don’t be afraid to ask how something makes people feel and why.
It’s good for team members to socialise and chat with each other, as long as the work gets done. Set up a social chat platform for team members, or suggest a virtual coffee break via video call. The balance between business and informality is a difficult one to achieve, but getting it right helps keep healthy levels of productivity and morale.
Measure work output
Measuring time spent ‘at work’ isn’t always necessary or the most appropriate measure of productivity for your home workers. Instead, set realistic outputs and tasks and allow team members the flexibility and autonomy to achieve them in the allotted time. Where work is more responsive and not geared toward output measures, make sure employees stick to set start and end times and take proper breaks throughout the day.
Encourage busy time
Where work needs to be completed, encourage ‘don’t interrupt’ time so that team members can concentrate on tasks without distractions. Suggest they block out time in the diary, or perhaps turn off their phone or email.
Collaborate to problem solve
Problems can often be solved quicker or more creatively through collaboration. Encourage the team to consult with and support each other. They’ll feel more connected to each other and the business.
When success happens, call it out and celebrate it to motivate and connect people. You don’t have to recognise huge successes and with large rewards; it’s often most effective to celebrate small victories. Make sure you recognise everyone’s contribution.