The Relevance team has been working from home for over two months now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and respect social distancing guidelines. Even as lockdowns begin to ease to varying degrees across Europe, many businesses will find themselves homeworking for weeks to come.
We know remote working presents widespread challenges for CEOs, managers and employees alike, and so we wanted to share what we learnt from managing our business through this difficult time.
Manage Remote Working Spaces
Your first responsibility as a CEO or manager is to make sure everyone has the basic tools to work efficiently: PCs or monitors, a stable Internet connection, appropriate software subscriptions, and access to collaborative tools such as Slack to allow you to continue working as a team. More importantly, ensure everyone in your team knows how to use these tools, perhaps creating chat threads for any software-related issues that arise and scheduling short training sessions. Yes, e-mail can cover a lot of bases, but you’ll be surprised at how much effective collaborative work tools can boost productivity and help your team feel connected.
Organisation is vital for efficient remote working. Stop anyone from mindlessly losing time searching for long-lost passwords or looking for old files. Instead, centralise passwords and important documents with useful password storage apps and easy-access filing spaces like Dropbox or OneDrive. You can also turn to useful corporate tools like Monday to streamline activities and organise workflows.
Offline, mitigate stress by encouraging employees to create a pleasant space dedicated to work that makes them feel comfortable, whether that be setting up a desk area, using a comfortable chair that supports their back appropriately or placing themself by a window to get the best natural light.
Real leaders won’t assume business runs as usual when staff are working from home under exceptional circumstances. Remember, everyone will have a different quarantine context: some are caretakers, have small children or high-speed Wi-Fi in the laundry room only. You need to demonstrate real leadership and flexibility to drive productivity and motivation. That entails redefining what success means for each employee and project, as well as modifying the ways you track productivity.
Time tracking and activity monitoring can be helpful when overseeing projects from a distance. There are many tools available for businesses to track tasks and working hours – at Relevance we use Harvest. First and foremost, check with your employees that they are comfortable with this form of oversight and that they understand how the data is used.
Next, it is important to understand that you won’t be able to manage everything your employees do nor will you have much visibility on the processes used to get work done. Instead, focus on results and outcomes. You will need to change the way you measure success by leading discussions around expectations and reviewing benchmarks so they are adapted to remote working. Make these new goals crystal-clear to everyone and celebrate successes, big and small.
Communicate More Often
To beat the isolation blues and ensure everyone is on the same page, management scholars strongly recommend proactive communication when working from home. Instead of waiting for colleagues to reach out to you whenever an issue arises, it is crucial to maintain fluid and empathic connections.
This means emailing a tad more (without flooding people’s inboxes), encouraging more frequent calls and setting up video conferences. Delivering timely feedback and showing an understanding of individual situations will stimulate motivation and give you a chance to explore possible areas of improvement with everyone.
Make Sure Your Teams Shut Off From Work
Working where you eat, sleep and binge-watch Netflix poses new problems regarding work-life balance and boundaries. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates that many employees complain about their leader’s unrealistic expectations regarding their availability when remote working. Delineate work scopes, be clear on working hours and encourage flexible schedules that don’t impede on personal lives as long as the work is done.
Some managers even encourage teams to show what they’ve done during the weekend in the form of photo diaries or share films and TV recommendations, encouraging workers to socialise the same way they would in an office environment. These seemingly small interactions can make a big difference to the happiness of your employees.
We hope that our learnings have been useful for any businesses who have struggled to take their team remote. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.