While working from home is not a new phenomenon – indeed, for many businesses it is commonplace – the Covid-19 pandemic has made remote working a necessity.
So how do you manage at-home workers effectively while maintaining productivity and company cohesion?
It’s business as usual
The world, and the world of business, in particular, is unpredictable and volatile. Not only will your business need to be agile in adapting your services or products offered to customers, but also in the ways in which you work with colleagues and employees.
The first step in achieving this is to adopt an “it’s business as usual” mindset. Panic, negativity, oh dearism, avoidance or putting things off are not conducive to a resilient business and will, in turn, be felt by your people. Act fast and adapt.
Trust in your people
Your people are skilled, knowledgeable and experienced professionals; this is why you employed them and how you have trained them to be. Trust in their abilities to do their job and to do it well from wherever they are.
Focus on the output you want delivered by the end of each week not how much time they are online, how many cups of coffee they’ve made or how many loads of washing they’ve done. Managers do not need to micro-manage. It is ok to not be or feel in control.
And News Flash! You’re not in control, not even when people are in the office. If your people feel disengaged, dissatisfied and unmotivated they are just as capable for whiling away their working day shopping online or chatting with friends in the office as they are at home.
This is the time to draw on the foundations of trust you have built when cultivating a company culture based on openness, honesty and seeing value in every individual’s contribution. It is not a time for tightening the reins.
Communication is key for keeping people engaged and feeling connected. Set clear expectations of what you want people to achieve and get their buy-in through weekly virtual team meetings. And although remote, ensure your people are actually present during these meetings – not writing emails or reading the news.
Create some basic rules for conference calls, check for understanding at the end of the meeting (as you would in person) but also use these meetings as an opportunity for interaction between colleagues. After all, communication is as important for connection as it is for instruction.
Now is the time to invest in your IT infrastructure to not only facilitate anywhere working but to future proof your business.
There are numerous cloud-based storage, office applications and communication software solutions on the market that support anywhere working and from any device, so you can rest assured that your people have everything at their fingertips to carry out their job from their home office (wherever that may be).
For real-time project working, file sharing and conferencing calling, Microsoft Teams is an intelligent collaboration tool – it really is an office from office solution. Meanwhile, Zoom, Skype for Business and Google Hangouts all offer excellent platforms for virtual morning briefings and for keeping colleagues connected. Plus, they’re fun. When social contact is limited, the sight of a colleague or team member via a video call is a welcome motivator.
Which brings me on to my final tip…
We are experiencing an unprecedented period of uncertainty and at-home working can be isolating. As well as keeping the lines of communication open, maintaining company morale is incredibly important.
Strategies to maintain and increase employee wellbeing and their sense of belonging through your company culture need to be translated into the digital world.
Arrange virtual meet-ups for lunch breaks or offer online Lunch ‘n’ Learn sessions, maintain weekly office traditions such as a virtual Friday drinks trolley, encourage contributions to the weekly eNewsletter and sharing stories of challenges and triumphs when working from home, and most importantly, regularly check in with people and make sure they have an outlet or a person to turn to if they are struggling. We’re all in this together.
If you need advice or support in managing your remote workforce, contact me directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, we’ll jump on a Zoom call!
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