With the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic affecting much of the world’s workforce, now may be the first time you and your employees head home to work full-time. As a team leader, it can be difficult to connect with your employees during this time. You also may not have already established clear remote working policies, especially if it’s not something that you had considered in the past. To succeed as a leader and as a business, you must quickly adapt to the situation at hand – and to do that, you’ll need to take a holistic view and approach.
Coming to grips with remote work on the fly is challenging. But at the heart of this approach to work is one important mindset – a mindset of understanding. Your team is likely dealing with many different situations at home, and they’re all facing situations that they also likely haven’t prepared for (unless they were already working from home, of course). That’s why we’ve collected five of the most important aspects of working from home that you should take into consideration when managing your team.
- Robust Tools
Whether you run a business entirely on the cloud or you run a sales-based team that needs to make phone calls throughout the day, your employees need to have technology that they can trust. Without reliable Internet, some employees may find it difficult to complete critical work on time; without scheduling and video conferencing tools, employees won’t be able to communicate with the rest of the team or with clients. This can lead to lowered morale, frustrating hours of downtime at work, and lower efficiency across the board.
Take some time to find the right tools that can work for your team. From communication apps like Slack and Zoom to upgraded Internet access at employee homes, consider all of the options that long-time remote workers have traditionally relied on. Don’t forget to consult with your team before making a final decision on tools to distribute – their input is the most valuable since they’ll be the ones using those tools the most.
- Home-specific Distractions
Your team members all have different home situations. Some may have children, some may have pets, and some may have other family members living at home. At times, these situations can lead to at-home distractions. From an outside perspective, you may perceive that an employee has suddenly become less productive upon making the switch to remote working.
But don’t just assume that an employee is slacking – adjusting to a home office is difficult, and can take people time to ramp back up to full productivity. Work-at-home experts like Jacqueline Curtis suggest that reaching out and asking if you can help in any way is one way to check in with employees and help them adjust more smoothly.
- Meeting Structures
Endless online meetings can drain motivation quickly. Zoom meetings that require employees to be on video chat, poor audio connections that strain people’s ears, and a range of other technical issues can make these meetings feel like productivity sinks.
Some key considerations should be made before you boot up the next remote meeting. First, think about your agenda for the meeting. Once you’ve started the meeting, “it’s critical to have a facilitator who can set ground rules,” suggests Bruce Eckfeldt. Don’t meander from the topics at hand, unless it’s absolutely warranted. And finally, don’t involve more team members than you need. By restricting meetings to an agenda and streamlining them to just the most relevant employees, you’ll be able to make meetings much less painful.
Consider enacting new security measures that coincide with working from home. Because employee usage of the Internet is substantially different at work and home, it can be difficult to separate the two types during remote work. This can lead to digital breaches, unintentionally exposing secure data. By introducing clear security policies, you may be able to stop this activity before it starts.
Physical breaches could occur as well, whether that’s through stolen laptops, damaged equipment, or online security breaches. As Ryan Thompson, CEO of the home security company Smith Thompson suggests, “security measures to maintain protection of important company information is essential. Whether that’s digital or in-person security, it’ll provide you and your employees the same ease of mind that you’d get in an office space”. With some studies suggesting that job displacement increases property crime, there’s a chance that these physical security issues may impact your work.
- Focus on Overarching Goals
Abrupt changes in workflow can lead to serious but temporary declines in productivity. It might be tempting to counteract this by enforcing activity metrics for your team, but this will simply cause employees to burn out quickly – especially with the added stress of external situations.
Focusing on bigger goals, like six-month sales metrics or client relationships, is a better approach to take. This allows you and your employees to look more optimistically at the big picture of your company, rather than the short-term success and failures. It also gives you the freedom to dig deeper into some parts of the larger goals, exploring what’s working and not working instead of burying yourself in the noise of daily tasks.
Managing a team through virtual communication isn’t simple. It takes buy-in from all employees and requires on-the-fly learning as a manager. But with the ideas and considerations mentioned here, you’ll be positioned well for remote team management.