With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve, many organisations are supporting staff to work remotely to assist with the prevention of the virus. For many employees, this will be the first time they are faced with working in a home environment; and for managers, this may present a new set of challenges regarding keeping their team motivated and engaged.
If you are a Manager in this position, please consider the following ways you can successfully engage your team whilst working from home.
Check in Frequently
Ensure you are consistently communicating with your staff by checking in frequently at specified times throughout the day. It is recommended that leaders use multiple channels to communicate (e.g. email and video) to cater to the different communication preferences. Regardless of the communication channel, regularly scheduled check-ins are a proven method for maintaining connection in the team and they offer a chance to catch up after business is handled. The constant interaction and engagement with staff working remotely will help them feel included and aid in productivity.
Trust Your Team
Some organisations may view remote workplaces as a risk to productivity, as it is not known if staff are doing the same volume or quality of work as what they would usually be doing in an office environment. However, this may indicate an absence of trust in team members and could have broader implications for team effectiveness. Patrick Lencioni identifies ‘absence of trust’ as the foundational dysfunction in a team, as trust is the critical component for a functional, collaborative workplace. This is especially important when team members are remote, and leaders can demonstrate trust in the workplace by giving staff the time to complete their work, continuing to delegate important responsibilities and limit reporting on individual tasks.
Communicate with Intent
A key challenge when working remotely is communicating effectively within teams despite not having in-person contact. To combat this challenge, leaders need to provide guaranteed and meaningful communication to ensure team members are staying connected. This may involve fewer emails and more face time video communication. It is important that leaders are providing clear and specific messages to avoid instances of miscommunication or assumptions being made. Leaders should also encourage staff to make a concentrated effort on two-way communication, so that they have the opportunity to provide insight and feel as though their opinions are being heard.
It is important to remind employees that working remotely does not come with the expectation that staff should always be working for all hours while they are home. Encourage team members to maintain their agreed working hours, and lead by example by taking regular breaks away from the desk to avoid burnout. It may be useful to suggest that staff create a daily schedule to include multiple breaks and opportunities to check in with other team members.
Set Clear Expectations
Some staff may struggle with limited in person contact when working remotely and feel uncertain about what they need to achieve due to a lack of direction. It is important for leaders to be clear in their expectations and clearly communicate this to everyone on the team. The more prepared staff are, the better they can achieve their goals. Leaders should stay focused on goals and identify the short, medium- and long-term priorities, as an understanding of what is urgent will further mitigate inefficiency, allowing ultimate productivity.
Continue to Grow
When an entire workforce or work team is required to work remotely, it is easy for important growth activities such as professional development to be forgotten. Combat this risk by continuing to conduct professional development activities through online tools, such as video-based coaching and online assessment tools. Check out the benefits and challenges associated with virtual coaching here.
As the world continues to trend towards the use of remote workplaces, it is important for leaders to capitalise on the benefits of working virtually, such as having the space to work on the important but not urgent tasks, having increased flexibility and higher focus on outputs. To enable this, leaders can continue to provide stability and a clear direction that can allow staff to conduct ‘business as usual’ most effectively. Although this may present a new set of challenges, the tips above will allow leaders to be more prepared during periods of uncertainty and continue to enable high performing teams.