COVID-19 is proving to be a great leveller. There are no special agile working provisions exclusive to senior staff members any more. There’s no grand office for the big cheese to hang out in. We are all at home, juggling family life and work life together. Working from home is unfamiliar territory for some and requires all of us to embrace new methods of working together. Done right, remote working can boost productivity and empowerment; done badly, it leads to inefficiency, broken working relationships and disengaged employees.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Establishing how you want to communicate is just as important as what you plan to communicate. We need to be consistent and reliable in our leadership. Consider:
- Checking in with your team daily i.e. by phone or video conference to discuss priorities, ‘blockers’ and share a status report from each person.
- Sticking to meetings and being available for team members when they need assistance.
- Letting your team members know when you are and aren’t available by, for example, keeping your online status up-to-date and set ‘out of office messages’ when you are away from your desk
Set clear expectations
The biggest challenge most of us will experience is how to simulate office ways of working when no one is in the same room. To overcome this, teams need to discuss and agree on how often they come together for video conferences, as well as how to work together virtually. Will you all work exactly the same hours? Or will each team member operate independently and report back daily with updates? What flexibility does each team member have around working hours if children are home from school? All these questions need to be addressed and agreed on as a team, so everyone is on the same page and understands the team protocol. Consider:
- Setting up small, cross-functional teams with clear objectives and a common purpose to keep everyone on the same strategic course.
- Discussing the communication channels you will use and what each channel is best used for
- Making it clear when and how you would like deliverables
- Trusting your team. Just because you can’t see your direct reports or colleagues working, doesn’t mean they aren’t. By establishing clear deliverables and reporting expectations, you can stop worrying about the productivity of others and focus on results instead.
Establish a new routine and stick to it.
Find a way to get yourself into the work mindset by creating a morning sequence that ultimately leads you to your workspace. It could be a coffee, it could be a morning run, or time preparing activities for the kids if they are being home-schooled during the pandemic. Equally as important is creating habits that signal the close of the workday. Whether it’s putting on some music when the computer gets shut down, committing to a 6pm walk with the dog, or heading to the kitchen to cook dinner, find a way to shut off from work at the end of each day.
Anyone working at home is responsible for keeping all documents and information associated with your business secure at all times. Ensure your team members:
- Keep filing and documentation in a secure cupboard or drawer, locked if possible, when they are not being used
- Ensure that family members and visitors cannot see documents or information
- Set up and use a unique password for the computer
- Ensure that the computer [and other equipment] provided by your company is only used only for work-related purposes and not used by any other member of the family or third party at any time or for any purpose.
Keep it personal
When forced to stay in our own ‘bubble’ it’s easy to lose the personal touch with those not in it, but we have the internet and digital technology – so let’s not make too many excuses. There are some easy ways to maintain and build personal connections to keep that positive working culture alive. You could:
- Consider inviting your team to share selfies of their new ‘office’ spaces
- Share tips and tricks of what works for you when working from home
- Share funny anecdotes about that Skype call where Peppa Pig made a surprise appearance (we’ve all been there)
- Set aside some time in your workday for ‘office cooler’ chats
- Keep it real. We are in this together.
Don’t stop growing
Just because you can’t be in a room together, you can still upskill your people. There has arguably never been a better time to try out virtual staff training. Our partner Udemy has tonnes of online courses that can be tailored to the development needs of each of your people. Use this time to identify a team member’s missing skill sets and connect them to the right Udemy course.