Keeping your team (or remote team) motivated and on the same page is challenging under the best of circumstances. When you add in the fact that we are all under an enormous amount of pressure at an unprecedented period in history, it may seem downright impossible.
These are not normal times. COVID-19 has changed that game, and we may not get back to normal any time soon.
We’re coping with wide-spread life and business disruption, fear, and uncertainty about the future. Even workplaces that already offer the flexibility of remote work are trying to expand their work-from-home capabilities and keep staff members in the loop.
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Business leaders and staffers who are experiencing this for the first time are still finding their footing.
When facing a crisis, it’s essential to remain calm and focused to maintain some semblance of “business as usual”.
We’ve seen the innovative ways that people who are in the public eye are rising to the challenge. But, what about those of us who aren’t celebrities or newscasters?
If your company is one of those that are fortunate enough to carry on in the current climate, we offer some solutions designed to support engagement and make sure your team remains productive.
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Keep the Lines of Communication Open
This is the number one thing you need to get a handle on if you’re going to keep your business going in a virtual office space.
Freelancers are used to having flexible schedules and conducting meetings with clients from a distance. Those who are transitioning from a traditional workplace to remote work may have problems maintaining focus without the usual structure and social benefits of being in close physical proximity to workmates.
Be sure to schedule regular meetings and check-ins to keep everyone up to date, connected, and on the same page. This is where your virtual office architecture will come in handy.
Start each workday with a staff meeting via collaborative platforms like Slack or Google Meetups. You can also interact with individual team members via SMS or email throughout the day, through Skype sessions, and by phone.
Remember that communication is a two-way street. Be willing to listen when team members are having difficulties adjusting or come up with suggestions to improve the process.
Just make sure that communications are necessary and stick to business to prevent disrupting workflows, breaking concentration, or wasting time.
Add Some Structure to the Mix
When you don’t have to get up and go to the office every day, things like structure may take a back seat. Keep in mind that you’re trying to create and support a virtual environment that’s conducive to productivity and efficiency. That requires planning and effective time management.
Try to keep working hours consistent with your regular office schedule as much as possible. You can accomplish this by setting deadlines, managing workloads, and delegating tasks in such a way that there is a clear structure to the workday.
As someone who has worked from home for more than ten years, I find it helpful to set aside a dedicated workspace in my home. I also get up and get dressed as if I’m going into an office every day. It helps me feel like I’m doing more than just sitting in front of a laptop all day and existing in isolation. In short, it keeps me from becoming lazy and unfocused.
For most staff members, working from home for the first time presents other challenges. Under normal conditions, our kids are at school or daycare while we’re at work. Now, our homes are combination daycares, schools, and places of business.
As important as it is to maintain some form of typical work structure and working hours, it’s also essential to remain flexible. Keep in mind that you and your staff may not be able to do your best work under the current circumstances.
Consider that personal lives and work identities will clash on occasion and make necessary adjustments to schedules and deadlines whenever possible. Make reasonable allowances for unplanned disruptions, stay agile, and have a backup plan in place if an employee’s situation at home affects the work or impacts the rest of the team.
Provide Effective Leadership
Under the current circumstances, financial management may seem like a breeze next to staff management from afar. However, you may face some financial hardship yourself as deadlines move back, and resources or materials become scarce.
Your staff will fret about their own finances and futures. Individuals may also deal with health concerns, and you’re certainly worried about your own family’s well-being.
One of the best ways to lead is by example.
Try to keep a positive mindset. You can help your team stay on the same page by structuring and coordinating personal and work time as much as possible, trying to stay active, even if that means working out at home or just taking walks.
Keep supporting a positive outlook in your team. Most importantly, let them know that you appreciate them and all of their hard work during such a stressful time.
Technology to the Rescue
One thing that’s making remote work possible is technology. Many companies already have some type of ’bring your own device’ (BYOD) protocol in place. However, your team may need additional tools and resources to make the most of their home office setup.
One essential is maintaining some consistency by acquiring additional resources, establishing reliable communication channels, and introducing productivity hacks to help streamline the whole process.
There are many tips and tricks for boosting productivity and keeping the lines of communication open. Many of these are aided by technology.
Your employees are possibly dealing with personal computers not optimized for work, or they have to share their resources with kids who are also keeping up with their schoolwork.
Temporarily distributing company-owned PCs and laptops for remote use is a cost-effective way to get your team through this tough transitional period.
Furnishing your employees with the right technology and tools offers the benefit of having everyone working on the same system, and built-in features will streamline workflows. It guarantees that all staff members are on the same platforms and that your messaging systems are compatible, and it helps with things like file sharing and remote collaboration.
Remote work can be fulfilling. However, under the current circumstances, it’s also very stressful. For those who can rise to the challenge now, it will be easier to bounce back when this crisis is finally over.
Even though news reporters and celebrities are reminding us constantly that “we’re in this together”, concerns about the future of our jobs and isolation can take a toll on our productivity and mindset.
We hope the above suggestions will help you and your team power through this challenging time and come out of it on the other side with your sanity and business intact.
Tell us about some of the difficulties you’re facing and what you’re doing to remain calm and focused in the face of the current global crisis.
Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager, solopreneur and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.