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Everyone’s experience of working from home has been different

After weeks of working from home, many employees have now found their flow and established routines that suit them well. Consequently, they have been able to both heighten their productivity and achieve a healthier work-life balance.  For some however the honeymoon period is over and they may well be taking advantage of the situation, with a commensurate drop in productivity.  There are also some workers who are struggling with the transition and missing going to a place of work. These employees are eager to get back to ‘normal’ for the social interaction and clearer dividing line between their home and work lives.

Everyone is different when it comes to their attitudes to working from home – and team leaders will need to take the time to understand each employees’ own preferences in the new era of work: accommodating where possible, compromising where practical and dictating when necessary.

Why you need to establish new remote management norms and habits

Remote leadership is nothing new.  In the 1970’s people would ‘tele-commute’, essentially working from home.  That said, in the last 18 months, working from home has become the norm for many more people, even those who had been previously unaware they could do so. Given that, what can you do, as the new remote leader, to make your team members’ work-life stimulating, motivating and more productive?

You should provide the support and consistency they’re looking for by forming new personal habits and rituals that you personally commit to when leading your remote team.

So, below is a simple checklist of actions to ensure your remote team is as happy, engaged and as productive as possible, coupled with maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Get the technology right

  • Ensure each staff member has access to the technology & software they need to do their jobs effectively from wherever they are
  • Provide training and support to help them make good use of the tools/technology
  • Set rules around which technology you use as a team and for which purposes
  • Be patient and understanding if they experience Wi-Fi or other technical issues, providing support where possible

Set relevant and realistic goals

  • Set weekly or even daily goals & priorities each morning. You can do this my email so long as the email is clear and precise. It’s also a good idea to provide your team with the autonomy to set their own goals if you are able to – maybe smaller milestones.
  • Be clear about expectations, including who is responsible for what, and when you expect work to be delivered by.
  • Share daily progress on key projects to ensure motivation and focus
  • Ask team members to block out time in their calendars to focus on specific tasks, and then share those calendars with the wider team
  • Pick a timeframe and within it, encourage your team to think about things they’ve accomplished. This creates a sense of achievement and positivity

Communicate, communicate, communicate

  • Double down on the time you would ordinarily spend communicating with your team
  • As well as regular team meetings, make sure you’re conducting frequent one-to-ones
  • Ensure meetings are punctual and try to keep them under 45 minutes
  • Share the bigger picture, including company news and announcements, as transparently as possible
  • Try not to cancel or reschedule team catch-ups that have already been set – as mentioned earlier, consistency is key
  • Communicate with each member of the team in the way they prefer, whether that is via phone, video, instant messenger or email
  • Demonstrate the leadership style they need for the specific task they’re working on. g. Don’t waste time explaining things they already know but do provide the information for tasks that are new to them

Practise inclusivity

  • Before all remote meetings (even 121’s if possible), set an agenda and ensure everyone has a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions and is clear on what will be discussed and what will not!
  • Think about the time for scheduling meetings for the team. This is especially important if your team is operating across different time zones but you should – if possible – also avoid early mornings and late afternoons for ad-hoc meetings.
  • Do you need to meet at all – are other communication channels better suited to what you want to say?
  • Check with each team member if there are any points in the day where they will be unavailable to communicate with – be flexible and accommodating.
  • Devote an equal amount of your time to each member of your team regardless of their work location
  • Always be thoughtful about your communications and the language you use

Encourage autonomy and regular development conversations

  • Empower your team to think about their skills gaps, and support their efforts to upskill in the areas where they may feel they are lacking
  • Provide regular, honest, factual feedback to each team member on their performance
  • Give autonomy to team members to encourage them to craft their roles, support other departments where possible and develop their skill sets where relevant

Be compassionate and trusting

  • Appreciate the unique challenges your team members are contending with which might impact on the way that they work – such as childcare responsibilities or the feeling that they’re ‘on-duty’ 24/7!
  • Let your team members know you are there for them if they want to talk about their worries or anxieties
  • Remember, just because you can’t physically see your team members, that doesn’t mean they’re not working, so resist the urge to micro-manage and trust your staff unless they give reason for you not to

Role model a strong work-life balance

  • If possible, give your team the autonomy to set their own schedules to help them manage any other responsibilities they have
  • Vocalise the importance of wellbeing, including the need to take regular breaks, avoid taking lunch at their desks and get outside to exercise at a time that suits them
  • Tell your team when you are popping out for a walk, nipping to shop or taking lunch – showcasing your own flexible and open approach will help your people feel they can do the same – after all, behaviour breeds behaviour!

Focus on maintaining your team culture

  • Create virtual ‘coffee machine’ moments, using collaboration platforms like MS Teams, ZOOM or Slack to initiate casual discussion and inject moments of fun during the day
  • If your IT infrastructure & security settings will allow it, set up a WhatsApp group or separate chat for non-work conversations – you will need to establish some ‘rules’ for use of the group though!
  • Use the opportunity to help your team to get to know each other more – try virtual tours of home offices, introducing pets to colleagues or even quizzes (work-related or general knowledge)

The principles of good leadership against the background of constant change, and potentially in an increasingly remote working world, are sure to become crucial in the long-term. So, by proactively establishing new leadership habits and norms now, when leading your teams remotely through this crisis, you’ll also be proactively investing in your skills, ensuring you’re the best leader you can be in the defining new era of work.  If your team is a hybrid (some come to work, some work from home, some do a combination of both etc.) you may want to take a look at our blog on leading a hybrid team.

If you would like more information on the support and help we can offer please do get in touch at info@phoenix-training.co.uk or 020 7234 0480.