As we go back into lockdown I thought this may be of interest and importance to you. The outbreak of coronavirus and subsequent lockdown meant the business world needed to swiftly adapt to working from home. It’s something that many have always allowed my team to do because there are some real benefits that come along with the model.
Working from home demonstrates a mutual trust, which pays back in spades; teams often work harder and go the extra mile when given the opportunity to do so. It also allows a better work-life balance, because individuals can organise their work schedule around other commitments, such as parenting. Working from home can also be a very useful tool for focusing, because it removes other distractions and allows you to zone-in on the task at hand. Then there are also the environmental and financial benefits of not commuting to an office every day.
That being said, there are certainly difficulties that can emerge if remote working isn’t handled correctly. Isolation can set in, and there’s a risk of teams becoming a group of individuals rather than a cohesive team. It can also exacerbate problems that emerged within the office and are then left unchecked. If a manager doesn’t trust their team to work effectively from home, for example, then they’ll imagine scenarios where teams avoid checking-in and completing the tasks at hand. Because of these challenges, it’s important to know what you can do as a manager to motivate your team and make the most of the situation. These are the eight suggestions I make to clients.
1 Watercooler talk – In an office environment, it’s easy to check-in with your team and see how they’re doing each day. In fact, you can often tell this just from how they walk into the office, or the first few words they say in the morning. Working remotely doesn’t have a ready-made check-in, so you need to deliberately do it daily and make sure the tools are in place for your team to let you know how they’re feeling. This then highlights how crucial active listening is as a manager, because it’s your responsibility to ascertain if your team needs further support.
2 The three O’s – Make sure to use the three O’s, which stand for outcomes, others, and ourselves. Focus on outcomes, so for every meeting you put in place, you and your team know what’s expected as a result. When it comes to others, look at everybody else and ask yourself how you can engage them. Make sure that everybody has a chance to input, and that everyone feels included in the current project. For the ‘ourselves’ section of the three O’s, it’s all about evaluating your previous beliefs and assumptions around working from home, and seeing how they will impact the current situation. If you feel you can’t trust your team to remain productive, look at why that might be, and make sure to address the problem as soon as possible.
3 Constant communication – As humans, we feel the need to fill vacuums. If a manager isn’t communicating with their team, then the team might jump to conclusions about furloughs, redundancies, or any other worst-case-scenarios. A good start would be to have team meetings at the beginning and end of every week, and put daily check-ins in place so that each member of the team can update on what they’ve completed so far, and what they have planned for the rest of their schedule. A good business communication rhythm is more important than ever with remote working.
4 Plan SMART- Don’t just look for random outcomes; link outcomes to specific goals, so that progression is clear. Make sure to set SMART goals like you might in the office, and do this every time a new task is given to members of the team. Also think about how this task can be measured, so that review discussion can be had regularly, to see if improvements are needed, or celebration is in order for surpassed goals.
5 Keep it tailored – Have a conversation with each member of your team to learn about which method of communication works best for them. If they would prefer a video chat then make sure regular one-to-ones are put in place, or if they’re having a bad hair day and would rather not be seen, then make sure you can accommodate an alternative.
6 Build trust – This is a constant purpose for you as a manager, but is also great for the team. Everybody needs to have a shared understanding of the end goal, and each individual’s role to achieve that. Once you have the right systems in place to track goals, make sure to praise team members publicly if they’ve done a particularly good job, and provide feedback to an individual in private if there is room for improvement. This is something you should already do in an office environment, so don’t change it just because you’re now working remotely.
7 Measure progress – KPIs ( Key performance indicators) and measures are as important, if not more important, when working remotely as when working in an office. People love to know they’re doing a good job, and mutually understanding how that will be tracked, and involving your team members in reporting, is a great way to keep productivity high. If you normally had a weekly one-to-one with each of your team, why would you stop doing that just because you’re working remotely? Routines are important, and it’s your job to make sure there’s a sense of routine amongst your team members.
8 Choose your tech wisely – There are so many options when it comes to staying in touch with your team, whether that’s Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, emails, shared files – the list goes on. Make sure your team is all coordinated on the method of communication you’ll be using, and that everyone is trained and up to speed.
THE AUTHOR Roger Pemberton is a business growth expert for ActionCOACH in the Liverpool City Region, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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