The last few weeks have seen unprecedented circumstances here in New Zealand, with the latest shift to Level 4 requiring all businesses except essential ones to shut down. For those businesses fortunate enough to be in a position to continue operating remotely, this represents a major shift, with many employees having to acclimatise to a completely new way of working, and quickly.
While working remotely is just one of several adjustments many of us are having to make at the moment, it can also have a number of advantages - over and above the crucial role it is playing in the current efforts against Covid-19. Sara Sutton, CEO and Founder of FlexJobs, notes that such ways of working can actually result in better teamwork, increased productivity and lower environmental impacts, among other things1.
So with all these benefits in mind, here are a few tips to help your company adjust to teams working from home, and ensure you continue to provide the same level of support during this time:
1. Set regular catch-ups
Even though your workforce may all be in different locations, we’re lucky that today’s technology makes it easy for people all around the world to connect regularly. Scheduling in (and sticking to!) a specific time every day to check-in with your employees - either as a group or one-on-one - gives your team confidence that they’ll always have regular “face-to-face” time with you. Apart from discussing work priorities, having a daily catch-up is also a great opportunity to check in on how everyone is doing - and to provide some extra social interaction at a time when some may be feeling a little isolated.
2. Find the best way to connect
We have a raft of technology at our disposal nowadays. But which technology should you use and when? It’s important that you use tools which will work for everyone - and which make sense for the specific situation. For example, video conferencing tools can be really helpful for team catch-ups, or where visual cues are really important; whereas mobile-enabled instant messaging platforms can be more useful for situations where quick collaboration is required.
It may be that your business already has relevant tools in place, meaning your team can simply pick up from where you left off at home. But if this isn’t the case, there are a number of cost-effective solutions available on the market. Just make sure to work through the options with your IT team, as there will most likely be some data security considerations that need to be covered off.
Regardless of what you decide to use, it’s important that your team is fully across this new ‘communications plan’. You should ensure that everyone is not only comfortable with all of the tools, but that they also know which tools should be used for which circumstances.
3. Show empathy
Remember that everyone on your team will each have their own set of circumstances to work through as they adjust to working from home. Some may have to juggle working alongside their partners in a small, shared space; others might have to balance looking after children or other dependents; and some may not have any distractions at all, but prefer the buzz of an office to feel motivated. Whatever the circumstance, displaying emotional intelligence and understanding for each of your team member’s specific situation will be key during this uncertain time. If there are specific issues that an individual is facing which makes working from home particularly difficult, make sure you work things through with them, bringing in your People and Culture team where required.
4. Show leadership
Unless your team were already working remotely, this shift will no doubt be something of an abrupt change for them. Coupled with a constantly-evolving global situation, this will mean anxiety is at an all-time high. It’s important then that leaders not only acknowledge any team anxieties, but also follow this up with sentiments of confidence in what the team is doing. If a leader panics, there’s a fair chance this will “trickle down” to the rest of the team2 - so instead, work on supporting your team through the challenge, being sure to let them know you’re all in it together.
There’s no denying that we’re working in some very different circumstances at the moment, and it’s bound to cause some teething issues along the way as we all adjust to a new normal. That said, there are effective ways to manage working remotely, and it’s important that businesses and team leaders work hard to make the transition to working from home as seamless as possible.
- Sutton Feel, S. (2013) Top 10 Benefits of Flexible Work Policies for Companies. www.huffingtonpost.com
- Goleman, D (2004) What Makes a Leader? https://hbr.org/2004/01/what-makes-a-leader
- Larson, B. et al (2020) A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers. https://hbr.org/2020/03/a-guide-to-managing-your-newly-remote-workers