Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.
Companies with work-from-anywhere policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organizational costs. Dive into the tips below to support your new work-from-home team.
2020 has prompted a paradigm shift in how people do their jobs. Many businesses were forced to move to a remote work environment overnight. While some companies are making plans to safely go back to the office, others are permanently shifting to a work-from-home model.
Remote work introduces new challenges for managers and leaders. Here are ten tips to help you support your new work-from-home team, now and in the future.
1. Prioritize Actions Over Hours
One of the fundamental problems with the 9 to 5 business model is that employees waste a tremendous amount of time. Some days may be filled with important tasks that necessitate their complete attention. Other days are slow, and time is spent scrolling online. One survey indicated that the average employee wastes up to an hour each day at work.
So what does this mean for these newly remote employees?
Rather than focusing on hours, managers should shift the focus to actions. By working with the team to identify tasks and actionable responsibilities, managers can empower their remote team to flex their schedules.
Doing so will encourage employees to find balance and be productive so they can free up time after work. This approach will also increase loyalty among those with schedule concerns around remote learning and shared workspaces.
2. Use Video Conferencing Whenever Possible
Communication is as much a visual interaction as it is verbal. Being face-to-face with someone makes it easier to read their body language, connect, and listen to them.
Many employees working from home can feel isolated during the workday. They miss the office camaraderie and banter that made work more enjoyable. While video conferencing may not be the same as hanging out at the water cooler, it gives everyone a chance to see familiar faces and connect with the team. A simple daily check-in lets people update one another on outstanding tasks and celebrate shared accomplishments.
3. Schedule One-on-One Sessions
In addition to brief team check-ins, it's also important to schedule regular one-on-one sessions. Set a weekly or bi-weekly standing meeting with each employee to discuss their wins, challenges, and how you can better support them in their work.
Empower your employees to be honest during these sessions. They should feel comfortable telling you if they're having a hard time. Remember to talk about non-work related topics to connect and build a rapport.
4. Provide the Right Tools and Training
If your business was forced to make a sudden shift to remote work, then you might require new tools and tech. Learning how to use new tools with the addition of adjusting to this new normal may leave some of your employees feeling overwhelmed by the changes.
Take time to ensure old processes have been replaced with remote-friendly alternatives that are easy to use. For example, shift from traditional fax machines to online eFax software, or setting up a cloud-sharing system so employees can easily store and access documents remotely.
Reach out to employees to offer training and support as needed. Be sure to ask them if they have any improvement suggestions or tool recommendations for the new work environment.
5. Be Accommodating to Unique Situations
We live in strange times with disrupted social norms. People no longer have the luxury of separating their work and home lives. It's vital to be accommodating and accept the fact that your team may not be at their best or present themselves in the most professional manner at all times.
Shifting to a work-from-home business model might mean having an employee who needs to set aside time for homeschooling or has a child sitting on their lap during a meeting. It could mean that button-down shirts and blazers have been replaced with t-shirts. Use this opportunity to connect on a human level rather than showing judgment.
6. Help Them Enforce Boundaries
One of the primary concerns with moving to a work-from-home business model is that your employees will be inaccessible. While that may be the case for some individuals, the opposite is often true. Many newly remote workers have challenges disconnecting and setting clear boundaries with work. This challenge leads to checking emails at 10 pm and getting sucked into projects on the weekends.
Help your team enforce boundaries by limiting your after-hours communications with them. Instruct people to use the delayed send feature if they're sending an email in the evening. Encourage lunch breaks away from the computer and radio silence on weekends. These rules will help prevent burnout.
7. Adjust Your Tone
Since communication often relies on visual cues for understanding, be careful of the tone you use in written communications. The wrong word choice or even punctuation can often be misinterpreted and lead to conflict and resentment within your team.
Take time to read your correspondence out loud before sending it. You can use a tool like Grammarly to assess your tone before sending it. Use emojis to convey your meaning and try to sound conversational while being polite and professional.
8. Give Helpful Feedback
Keep your work-from-home team engaged with helpful feedback and positivity. Between your one-on-one sessions, take time to highlight something positive about each individual with a quick instant message or email on a regular basis.
Don't hesitate to give credit where credit is due during team meetings. A good leader supports their employees and doesn't need to always take the recognition for a job well done.
9. Create Wellness Challenges
Another challenge for remote teams, especially those who didn't intend to be remote, is overall health and wellness for you and your employees. To ensure your team is functioning at its best, make wellness and self-care a core part of your company culture.
Add wellness-related tasks to the daily work expectations and encourage your team to share what they've been up to for self-care. Implement weekly or monthly challenges that get people moving, drinking water, sleeping better, and focusing on themselves.
10. Manage Communication Expectations
Finally, encourage everyone to manage expectations when it comes to communications and response times. Some people prefer one method of communication over another. Create team guidelines about overall expectations and encourage each team member to share their accessibility.
For example, many remote workers will keep their email closed and focus on tasks for the majority of the day. These workers should communicate when they check their email and the best way to contact them if something is urgent.
Shifting to a work-from-home business model is challenging for everyone involved. However, it brings with it new opportunities and ways to connect. Be an advocate for your people and support them to the best of your ability.
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