There’s little question that the world of work has changed significantly in the past year. In the face of global lockdowns resulting from COVID-19, businesses around the globe have been forced to take some drastic measures.
Most commonly, many companies switched to remote operations with little to no preparation. As a result, for many of us, the last year has meant leading our teams on a wartime footing.
Now, however, there is hope on the horizon. Hospitalizations and deaths are declining, particularly among those aged 65 and over, and every day millions of people across the globe are getting vaccinated.
Nevertheless, the crisis is not yet over, and that may mean that your company is seeking out strategies to best endure and thrive through the end of the pandemic. On the other hand, you may have noticed that this brave new world of virtual work has legs. Virtual teams can work, and indeed, remote workers may be happier and more productive than traditional, on-site employees.
Whatever your reasons may be, if you are preparing to take your team virtual, or if you have recently done so, there are some things you need to know to help your newly remote employees succeed.
The More Things Change…
It’s probably going to come as no surprise that there are many differences between telecommuting and on-campus working. Your employees are going to need you to understand that there will be an adjustment period. Your team may not like remote life and may require extra support, at least at the start.
Remember that your team will need time to learn the new technology and settle into the new routine. Your role in this transitional phase is to equip your team with everything they need to succeed. You may have little time on your hands at first, but with effective time management, you can start working on a thorough plan that establishes clear guidelines for the new remote environment. This plan can also set expectations regarding work schedules and project turnaround times, easing everyone’s stress.
However, be ready to be available for questions. Your team will need to understand, for example, what the expectations are for the work schedule. Ideally, you will be able to build flexibility into your remote employees’ work shifts to accommodate the unique challenges they may face in working at home, from technical glitches to household distractions.
Whether you’re allowing your team to set their schedules or you need them to stick to a set shift, you must monitor your team’s workflow and establish project goals and timelines, which will help with their productivity.
Monitoring and enforcement alone, though, will not be enough. As a leader, you have always played the role of counselor and coach for your employees, but those needs will be amplified, especially in the transitional phase.
A significant part of your job at this time will be in defining both the employees’ technical and environmental needs. Encourage your employees to create a private, designated workspace in their homes. Enable them to furnish their remote offices with a gift card or helpful office supplies like an ergonomic office chair.
At the same time, you will also need to identify and train your employees to use the software and apps they’ll need to be productive when working from home. At the very least, your team will need tools for instant communication with teams and individual colleagues. Communication can range from instant messaging tools like Slack, video conferencing apps like Zoom, or even project management tools such as a virtual whiteboard.
With these technologies in place, you can truly emulate the in-office workflow, as employees will have everything they need to remain in close contact with one another, track individual and team assignments, and monitor project timelines, goals, and status.
...The More They Stay the Same
While there are many differences between virtual and in-office work, as previously mentioned, there are some fundamental things that don’t change. Your employees still need a strong sense of solidarity, cohesion, and mutual support. Impromptu and scheduled video calls are a terrific strategy for helping teams recapture that cohesiveness, even in remote environments.
Best of all, those video “get-togethers” don’t have to be all about work. They can also be fun and build team morale. For example, you might have a great lunch or a fun care package delivered to your team members’ homes and then enjoy those treats “together” on a video call. Virtual game nights are also another fun option.
As you’re discovering new ways to keep your teams unified and motivated, it’s also important that you avoid complacency in your leadership style. After all, the working world has changed, and your management processes must evolve with it. So, in addition to trying new leadership approaches on your own, it might be time to consider going for that new certification or advanced management degree you’ve long thought about!
Life and work certainly are not what they were before the pandemic struck. As you and your employees adjust to the new normal, you may find yourselves working fully or partially in virtual environments. Making the transition to remote work isn’t always easy, but with patience and planning, you and your team can be more successful than ever before.
About the Author: Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.