For many businesses, having their staff work from home is a new experience, and – due to the current crisis – one that they have not had much time to prepare for.
While the technical and logistical aspects of making this new working environment efficient for all are obviously top of the list, it is also very important to encourage ways that teams can help alleviate feelings of anxiety amongst each other, and prop up spirits mentally.
We have compiled a list of 16 tips to help you manage your workers during this time, including being more flexible as people get used to working in busy households, potentially with young children, and adjusting to a more isolated working environment.
Use online chat/text, but don’t forget to call
While chat is a great way to send quick, small requests or messages to your workers, it is no substitute to catching up properly with your staff. Arrange calls where you would have otherwise held a meeting, and try to get in a group call with the entire team once a week so that everyone can catch up and pass on important information easily.
Use video so it feels more like human interaction
Functions like Microsoft Teams and Skype allow for video calls, and while being forced to sit on webcam is not something most people enjoy, they just might be grateful to see some other friendly faces after a few weeks at home.
Screen sharing is a useful tool for showing your team documents quickly during a call. If a worker is struggling to install some software or needs access to something that is behind password protection, you can also – with their permission – take control of their computer for a short time to help.
Don’t forget to create small talk, as you would in the office
When you’re chatting with your team via IM or call, make sure spend at least five minutes talking about something other than work. Ask how people’s weekends were, or see what they’ve been watching on Netflix – social interaction is just as important as getting work done.
Schedule in regular one-to-ones with members of your team
While group catch-ups are great, understand that some members of your team might be struggling or dealing with issues that they are not comfortable sharing with the rest of the team. Schedule one-to-ones regularly so that everyone has a chance to talk in a private setting about any problems they might be experiencing.
Don’t check up on your people – instead, check in with them to see how they’re getting on
It won’t feel good to your staff if the only reason you contact them is to make sure they’re actually doing work. While you do need to ensure that no one is taking unfair advantage of the situation, try not to come across as mistrusting or aggressive. Instead, ask if there’s anything you can help them with, and make sure they’re coping with their current workload.
Add people onto calls, so that everyone is as informed as possible
Some of your staff might focus more on face-to-face meetings with clients on a regular working day, which means they’ll most likely have some more free time during their working hours without the need to commute. See which of your team is willing to help out others who might be seeing an increase in their workload due to the current situation.
Create a culture that is understanding of people’s situations and difficulties they might be facing, including with their mental health
Some people will cope with the current situation better than others. Try to be mindful that some people may be struggling more than others, particularly if they are in a stressful home environment or are prone to anxiety. While it is important to keep the business running, it is equally as important to ensure the mental wellbeing of your staff.
Use gifs and emoticons to convey emotions
It helps to keep the mood light hearted at times, particularly if the bulk of your work is now focused on the current crisis. It wouldn’t hurt to keep conversations with your team more casual than normal – injecting some humour into stressful work days can work wonders and foster the mindset that we’re all in this together.
Don’t forget to explain the ‘why’ behind things
With the current crisis dominating the news, social media and our conversations, it is inevitable that some people may need a bit of extra motivation. When delegating tasks or setting new goals, be sure to explain the reasoning behind the work for your staff to get behind it.
Don’t be afraid to interrupt. You would in the office!
If you’re holding conference calls with your team, make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. If one person is taking over the call, don’t feel bad about gently interrupting to ensure the conversation stays on track, and that other people are able to interject with their thoughts and opinions. Likewise, if some members of your team get into a discussion on a group call that isn’t relevant to the rest of the team, don’t be afraid to encourage them to keep that conversation to a separate phone call.
Overcommunicate to begin with and scale back
To avoid as little confusion as possible during this time, try to share absolutely everything you can with your team in the beginning. Make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of how the business is operating during this time, so that if anyone external asks, everyone on the team is prepped to give a company-wide response. As everyone falls into their new routines, you’ll be able to leave people to their own devices more and more.
Focus on results, not just activity
People’s schedules are going to be going through a fair amount of upheaval, particularly if they have young children at home. This means that for some of your staff, it may simply be impossible to put in the hours they usually would. Don’t be unrealistic with the work you set them, and focus more on how they deliver rather than how often you notice them being online or responding to emails.
Be flexible and cut your people some slack
Some of your staff may need to work different hours during the current crisis. Many people now have young children at home to look after, entertain and – if possible – do some teaching with. As long as you’re aware of people’s schedules, try and let people adjust their working hours for the foreseeable future. You might have some staff who can work from 7am to 11am or 3pm to 8pm instead of their normal 9-5, for example. If this works for your business, be as flexible as you can around people’s new schedules.
Be okay with noise from children or a dog barking!
We’re all in the same boat. Even if you’re in a professional meeting with a client over the phone, they will no doubt understand if you or someone on your team is interrupted by a child or pet. Laugh it off and move on – and don’t forget the mute button if the dog or kids are being really persistent.
Loosen up a little
Everyone will be trying to make the best of the situation, and there will be a period of adjustment as your workers get used to their new routines. If you notice people chatting over the group IM about things other than work, try not to worry too much. Let your team have a laugh together if it lifts spirits, and trust that they will get on with their work.
Above all else: TRUST
It has never been more important to have the utmost trust in your team. You have to trust that they are capable of doing their jobs in their new setting and that they do not need you checking in with them constantly to ensure they are actually working. Everyone is probably craving a little normalcy in their lives, so trust that your staff are getting on with their jobs to the best of their abilities given the situation.