As a measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, many companies have asked their employees to work from home. While many companies already have remote work policies, this may be a new situation for many managers. How will you manage your team as they work from home? What are the best practices for managing the team and still focus on inclusivity and productivity? Below are a few top tips to help you navigate your new role as a remote leader.
- Communication and Collaboration: As more teams go digital and turn to remote work, it’s important to remember that the kinds of nuanced conversation that you get in an office setting do not necessarily translate online. Setting up some ground rules for communicating will ease some of the disconnects between team members. If you don’t get an immediate response from another team member, you may think that a person isn’t working. Avoid making those assumptions! Your co-worker may be focused on a task and isn’t checking instant messaging, email, texts for a while. As a manager, you can set guidelines for your team to respond to communication channels. Also, you can set standard daily check-ins for your group: phone calls, team chats, emails, or whatever form you choose will enable your employees to feel connected.
- Clear Expectations: Stating clear expectations will enable your team to work effectively at home. Every team member will have different home situations, and they may have different needs. One employee may have children at home, and another may be in a small apartment without extra space. Because of these circumstances, their work hours may be different. Will you allow your workers to take home their desktop computers with monitors? Can your workers use just a laptop? Take into consideration that and make your expectations crystal clear: X is the work you should do, Y is the quality standard, Z is the deadline.
- Social Interactions: Whether your team is temporarily remote or you usually have some remote team members, you can create some social situations for your employees. Schedule video chats to chat! Set 15 minutes aside each week to have time to catch up on non-work related topics. Those typical water cooler chats are a valid form of team bonding and friendship building. Without that, some may feel more isolated and cut off. You could even have pre-assigned ice-breaker, kind of like a “would you rather…” before you begin your chat.
- Set a Routine: Without knowing how long the shelter-at-home recommendations will be in place, encourage your employees to set up a routine. If they can carve out space at their home that will be their work zone, this will create a sense of routine. We are creatures of habit, and when our routine changes, we may experience feelings of frustration, despair, chaos, and more. Help your employees understand that to get back into control, they will need to mimic their previous routine as close as possible.
- Create Boundaries: Your employees may feel like they have to be available 24/7, so they are proving that they are working. Psychology Today reports that “One of the biggest mistakes people do when they work from home is to work more. Many do it because they … don’t want their boss or co-workers to think they are slacking off, or they don’t know what to do with the extra time.” Refer back to the clear expectations you have set for your team and know that their productivity will vary day to day, just like it did during the regular office hours. Ask your employees, “How this remote working from home situation is working so far?” Listen to their answers and consider the feedback as you review the expectations you have previously set. Make any adjustments as necessary.
- Tools and Technology: Make sure your employees have all the tools and technologies for working remotely. If you have a Virtual Private Network, set them up so they can use that for logging into work programs. For security, provide a system for multi-factor authentication. Let your team know that they will need to add their work email to their cell phone if required. Have them install the instant messaging system onto their phone or tablet or computer, if not previously installed. Determine what video conferencing apps or programs you will use. Send out communication with what is required and the steps to install the technology.
While COVID-19 won’t be an issue forever, remote work will be. You can learn as a manager how to implement the best practice for your company now and in the future. Learn to use these tips and ensure that your employees are secure and comfortable in their new role as a remote worker.