Working from home

Get the best results from your team

A lasting legacy from Covid-19 will be a permanent shift in work culture. National lockdowns presented many once reluctant companies with no choice but to opt for remote working – and the benefits for employees, in terms of reduced commutes and improved work-life balance, have proved too clear to ignore.

Don’t overdo video meetings

While tools such as Zoom have been a godsend during lockdowns, not every interaction needs to involve a camera. Keep in mind that when it comes to their personal appearance and the state of their homes, some people are not feeling 100%. This is especially true when parents are tackling work, home-schooling, and house cleaning. Trying to maintain an ultra-professional setting and appearance can add incredible pressure as they rush to quiet kids and pets and possibly change clothes to make a meeting. Chat tools such as Google Hangouts or just an old-fashioned phone call are communication solutions that do the job of staying in touch just fine, without the extra effort of video conferencing.

Don’t micromanage

Over the series of lockdowns, it has become clear that people are just as, if not more, productive from home. It has also proven that not having to commute is good for mental health and allows people to start their workday straight away instead of lingering in vehicles, on ferries, and buses. Making it clear that you trust your people to get their work done via their own routine is critical to their happiness. The job market is hot right now. Those who are unhappy with how they are treated can easily move on if they wanted. You can lose some serious talent and intellectual property if you micromanage your team.

Celebrate wins and acknowledge special occasions

While daily team meetings can become a bit of a chore, pausing and getting together to celebrate successes can do great things for morale. Birthdays, work anniversaries, accolades, and wins big and small, are valid reasons to let your people know they are appreciated! Some managers are being creative, sending small gift cards for groceries, Uber Eats, and wine or beer via email as a special treat. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make staff know that they are special. Other options include virtual pizza parties (in which pizza is delivered to all team members at the time of a videoconference), or virtual office parties (in which party “care packages” can be sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed simultaneously).

Encourage breaks

Remote working can have different effects on different people as all have unique perspectives. A phenomenon that has become clear is that employees may try to overcompensate for fear of the perception that they are not as productive from home. They will work longer and harder which can result in the same burnout found in a traditional office setting. Also, since days are very much the same in how they feel, the passing of time can go unnoticed with people toiling away at their desks and kitchen tables longer than they should, never stopping even for lunch breaks. As a manager, make it clear that it is your expectation that people take breaks and that they will not be penalised in any way for stepping away from work from time to time. Taking a walk, playing with their kids, getting out in the sun, making a meal and more, are welcome reprieves where people can mentally recharge. Sending out a weekly reminder to the team will keep this front of mind for your people.

Make sure people have what they need

You may have to set aside a little extra budget, but it will be worth every penny in productivity to ensure that people have a proper home workstation. Working from home is here to stay and if you want to retain your talent, then give them the resources they need to be comfortable and focused. With virtual work, there is a much greater chance that employees will be contending with suboptimal workspaces. Give them a set amount to spend on a desk, chairs, an extra monitor, or anything else that they need to carve out a place where they can concentrate. Offering to cover at least part of internet and phone bills will go a long way in supporting your staff and their efforts.

Stay in touch

While you don’t want to inundate your team with unnecessary calls and emails, you do want to stay in touch. People process stress individually and working remotely can come with its own unique challenges. You don’t necessarily have to have earth-shattering news or project information as an excuse to reach out. Good conversation starters are as follows:

  • What are you working on today?
  • What are your top three priorities for the next couple of weeks?
  • What are you looking forward to?
  • How are you feeling this week?

Be especially conscious of those that are starting a new role as they may not feel as included as they might without in-person office interactions. Make sure they are given a proper onboarding, introduction to the team, and that they have what they need to get started including a proper desktop or laptop even if you have to have these items delivered.

Employees who are empowered are more motivated

To really make people feel engaged, you need to let them experiment. Let them take the initiative to craft their own workdays. This means giving up a bit of control but people thrive when they are given the responsibility to ensure that they get their work done and that you, as a manager, trust them. Also, lockdown is a great time for special projects that may have been on the back burner. Is there something that they would like to work on that is of special interest? Not every challenge needs to be a hefty initiative or spend that will require CEO approval. It can be people finding ways to optimise the things they do on a daily basis.