Co-authored by several managers with many years of working remote, and successfully managing teams across the country
Things to consider & general tips
Working from home is different from working in an office, and leaders must be considerate. While many leaders of remote teams are not overly concerned with associates’ appearance or dress, sometimes it helps ease the transition to maintain an office-like dress-code. You may remind associates to consider the audience for meetings when considering their attire. Sweatshirts and caps to cover messy hair may be fine for a quick call with a teammate, but a video conference with a senior leader may bring the expectation of a more office-ready appearance.
If at all possible, require associates to join meetings via video, and set that expectation in your meeting agenda. That being said, sometimes technical limitations necessitate audio-only (especially if multiple family members are using the same internet connection).
Be respectful if someone chooses to keep their video off for impromptu calls, meetings scheduled during typical meal times or late in the day. With these exceptional circumstances of working alongside childcare duties associates may sometimes be multitasking just to keep the family functioning.
If at all possible associates should try to have a dedicated work space at home. With everyone working and taking classes from home this may be challenging and leaders should be considerate.
Work Life Balance
Encourage your team to maintain a normal workday. Log in around the same time they would normally get into the office. Log off and close the laptop at the end of the day and maintain healthy boundaries. When working remote, it’s very easy to get burnt out from being close to work all the time.
Just as they’d get up to go get a coffee with a teammate while in the office, encourage them to take a few minutes for “work pace breaks” to walk the dog or check in with their spouse/kids now and then. It’s easy to pull inward and stare at the laptop for 8 or 9 hours without stopping. Set an example by telling the group that you’re going to take a walk, or stepping away for a mental break.
Compassion and Leading Your Team
While work-from-home is becoming more normalized in general, right now is not a normal work-from-home situation. Entire families are home and extra consideration should be shown to your team.
Adapt and Learn
Stay positive and engaged. Not only is this a change for your associates, it’s a change for you as a leader. Adjusting how your team works is a process, so don’t be afraid to try different things.
What your team is experiencing
Stress and Anxiety
Those of us who have been working remotely for years are not experiencing much change from our normal day to day, but associates who are new to working from home are experiencing quite a bit of anxiety. Switching to remote work is, by itself, a huge change, but to do it under the stress of a pandemic will affect productivity.
Associates will definitely feel more isolated, sometimes going for hours at a time without seeing or communicating with another person. In addition to a Teams Channel, Google Group, or Slack room for work related conversations, create a space for your team to have “water cooler” discussions. We creatively call ours the “Water Cooler” and share funny pictures, interesting links and tell stories about our families. Lead by example and participate in these threads!
A disruption in established work processes. There are more distractions at home, and equipment may be different. For example, the lack of a printer may change how someone reviews documents. Children demanding attention can turn a five minute task into 15 minutes.
Communicate frequently to associates and let them know how they should reach out to you (do you prefer IMs, emails, texts?) or if you will be unavailable during certain times. Reassure associates that you are available and open to converse just as if you were in an office.
What to watch out for
Make a point to check in with your associates regularly throughout the day, NOT as check-ins to see if they’re working, but rather check-ins to see how they’re doing mentally and emotionally. Be sensitive to anxiety or negative attitudes during the adjustment period.
This is a good time to build trust as your associates figure out their new work rhythm. Do not spend your day trying to track everyone. Associates who are appreciated and trusted are higher performers. If you need to correct actions, be diplomatic and make sure you are communicating your expectations.
Virtual meetings can make it difficult for people to share opinions. Pause frequently to allow time for unmuting and interjections. Encourage the use of meeting chat for associates to share their thoughts.