Most small business owners are used to working in offices and shared spaces. Members of your team may work from home as needed, with little to no impact on your team’s morale or productivity.
But things are a bit different right now. In an effort to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus, businesses around the world are shutting down their offices and asking employees to work from home. However, few business owners are used to having their entire team working from home for an indefinite period of time.
Here are some tips on how to ensure your team members remain engaged, motivated, and productive in this new business-as-usual model.
Ensure There’s Enough Communication – But Not Too Much!
Trust is a key element of remote work. Part of this is to accept that you won’t be able to know or see what your employees are doing at any given moment. If you continually pepper them with questions, or repeatedly check the progress of a task, you will end up with a more frustrated and less productive workforce on your hands.
BUT, avoiding micromanagement doesn’t mean you can’t keep your teams focused and moving forward. You, and oftentimes other team members, need to know what is being worked on, and when. The best way to do this is to ensure all the necessary communication platforms are in place, and it doesn’t have to be complicated!
If your team isn’t already familiar with video conferencing, Zoom is a handy tool to use. When having a team video meeting, build-in efficiency by incorporating a time-bound agenda to prevent participants from becoming weary. Ensure all departments have a chance to speak, so that everyone is up to date. Arrange for any follow up questions or suggestions to be discussed in a separate call/email.
It’s also important to expect and be understanding of “extras” playing a role in phone or video calls. Many employees may not have dedicated office space in their homes, and some calls may feature dogs barking, partners/housemates on call of their own, or kids asking for food or making other (often hilarious) observations.
Instant messaging tools have also become a critical component in workforce connectivity. Here at REMITR, we update our Slack status throughout the day to inform the team if we’re online, taking lunch, or briefly taking some time offline to deal with the stuff of life. Using tools like Slack also allows us to drop quick messages to arrange calls, share documents, and (most importantly) exchange memes and gifs.
Expect That Life Will Intrude on Work Schedules
When employees work from home (especially for extended periods of time) it’s inevitable that their personal lives become interwoven with their professional lives in some way. Kids and older parents (and pets!) all need to be looked after, especially if they’re also feeling under the weather or have certain needs.
As an employer, it’s important to understand that everyone is going to have to be a little more accommodating with schedules than usual. It’s also important to work with your employees to define their individual, pre-set office hours and ensure that any requests respect these times.
The most compassionate thing you can do at times like this is to focus on the quality of the work that gets done rather than the constant availability of your team.
Continue to Scale Your Company Culture
For a company to have good culture, that culture should be able to exist outside of the walls of your office. Just because employees aren’t together in a room, doesn’t mean they can’t have some fun.
There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your culture doesn’t take a hit when the team is working remotely. If you use Slack (or another instant messaging provider), it’s a good idea to have a humour channel. It’s basically an online watercooler, where the team can share jokes about their weekend, home office, or who had the worst bed head during that morning’s virtual meeting (everyone say ‘aye’).
If possible, set aside time every week for an all-hands chat that is not work related. Ask everyone to bring a beverage, and share their ‘fun fact of the week’, or play a game like Two Truths and a Lie.
The whole point of having good company culture is to foster high employee morale. Luckily, there is another really simple way to keep your team’s morale high while not in office – send them a message complimenting their great work this week! Better yet, shout out each person’s wins in that all-hands meeting.
Whether your team is in-office or indefinitely remote, employees who feel like they are valued will naturally feel happier and enjoy their work more…meaning that they’ll be more productive too!
Stay Motivated – For Yourself and Your Team
Remember that your team’s energy will reflect your own, so it’s super important that YOU stay motivated and productive too. Create a workspace and a schedule for yourself, and minimize distractions as much as possible.
When interacting with your teams, try to open all virtual meetings with personal check-ins and reassurances. In times like this, your employees are likely to be stressed with the goings-on of the outside world. The best managers typically ask their team members to describe the conditions under which they work best, their emotional response to the situation, and any other concerns they may have. Employees who feel like their superiors care for their wellbeing will, in turn, care about the quality of their work product.
But watch out for extremes. There’s also a real danger of becoming overly motivated. Entrepreneurs tend to be highly driven people, with a natural tendency to get straight to business and double down. It’s vital that you make time for human connections and fight through the productivity shame.
Aim to end your days on time (or at least a few hours before the sun starts to rise again). Rome wasn’t built in a day – save some energy for tomorrow!