April 14, 2021
Best Practices for Managing Workers Working from Home
Since COVID-19 erupted across the world, the new normal has been work-from-home, which has not always gone well. Managing workers working from home can be quite challenging, especially for those employees who don’t have dedicated spaces in which to work uninterrupted, poor internet access, or don’t handle change well without significant support. Here are a few ways to successfully create a new normal where your employees feel smart, valued and important.
Provide Several Communication Options
There are plenty of software products available for video calls, from Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Zoom. If internet connections can’t handle video, any chat product will work. With some employees who don’t need a lot of oversight, they may be able to simply email you a daily or weekly report if that works for both of you. If your company doesn’t already have the software in place, there are free or cheap versions available that will do the job. Just check with IT if security is important before using these tools.
Regularly Scheduled Check-in Meetings
Because people working at home may have distractions (like children or pets), it may be advisable to conduct these meetings daily to follow up on what was accomplished yesterday and assist each worker on what they should focus on completing that day. Depending on the team size and cross functional interaction required, you may have several 1:1 meetings as well as two or three group meetings each day. Sounds like a lot, but these regularly scheduled calls provide a forum where employees can be heard and express their challenges.
Rules of Engagement
Managers should set expectations and agendas for most meetings so that employees can prepare. For example, for daily check-ins, the agenda would basically what did you complete yesterday, what are you doing today, plus what else do you need to discuss. For group meetings, limit the number of speakers to whomever leads each team with and additional line items for any other business, concerns, etc.
Also try to keep an hour open during your day when employees can contact you to discuss anything they need your advice on, and emphasize that you are always available for urgent issues by whatever tool works best for everyone, typically a chat/messaging program.
Maintain and Share Documents Online
Keep shared documents online where remote employees can access and contribute or update when they are available. You may want to allow all team members to announce when they’ve finished a task, or you may want to assign, approve, and update the formal task list yourself, while enabling all other team members to view where the stalls are, and when they’re up to begin work, keeping all shared documents organized in separate folders based on project or initiative. Adding upload capabilities for all or certain members of the team will also enable everyone to have the latest reported information at their fingertips.
Remote Social Interaction Opportunities
Providing opportunities for remote social interaction will facilitate better morale and communication, creating a more solid team that feels they can depend upon each other. Online games, such as team trivia, treasure hunts, and other online team-building activities can work wonders when people can feel isolated from their coworkers and experiencing a loss of informal interaction which often comes with working in an office together. Celebrate people’s birthdays and work anniversaries as well.
Celebrate holidays through a BYOB event, someone plays some mood music over the background and perhaps you play holiday-themed games. We once had an online “Secret Santa” amongst all the expats working globally for a telecom group. Everyone had to create a digital product, e.g., an applet, photograph, music, video, etc. to share with another employee.
Working remotely does not mean that you lose your “authentic self” in amongst the talking heads on a screen. It may mean opening up more and modeling positive and proactive behaviours. It may also be disclosing some fears which you may think others are dealing with. Ask for suggestions on how everyone is coping with “X”, be it partners, kids, parents, or being away from all those previously mentioned.
Once life goes back to the “New Normal”, there will still be offices and there will still be online teams. Experience in both settings will provide you with insight to create even more spectacular achievements and give you an upper edge when increasing your worth to your organization or exploring new opportunities.