To the untrained eye, working remotely looks a lot like doing nothing.
We stare at our computers, sometimes typing, sometimes video conferencing with people, sometimes taking a minute to watch YouTube. But, I get much more done at home than I ever accomplished in an office with dozens of coworkers.
Having worked remotely for years, I’ve developed processes for getting things done.
Newly minted remote workers don’t have processes in place to keep them focused. Most don’t have a dedicated workspace at home, either, because they’re used to leaving home for the office.
This alone represents a sudden upheaval of people’s routines. Add the emotional turmoil of a global pandemic and that many people have their kids home from school and you have a less than ideal pilot program for remote work.
Here are tips for helping your team succeed while working from home.
Talk with your employees
To help your people thrive in a new, remote environment, schedule calls with each to see how they’re doing overall (everyone is stressed and anxious right now), then talk about some of the successes and challenges they’ve experienced so far in their career.
Combine what you learn from these conversations with your experience working with people in the office and look for patterns:
- Does this person need a lot of hand-holding, or can he work with minimal supervision?
- Does she define work in hours or by project?
- Does he crave the daily social interaction of a physical office, or does he secretly prefer working during off-hours to minimize distractions?
Learn what each person needs to be productive, then provide it. Take a more active role managing people who need reassurance. Exchange regular virtual messages with more social employees to make sure they feel connected to the team. Allow a few minutes at the start of any virtual meetings to ask how everyone’s doing.
Once you know what people need from a management standpoint, make sure they have the tools to collaborate effectively.
Give Your Team the Right Tools
Many remote workers experience loneliness and isolation, and research shows many view remote work as an obstacle to forming friendships with teammates. Give your employees the means and opportunity to connect.
Here are some tools that can help:
- If you’re not already using project management software, start. The options are limitless. Here are just a few: Trello, Basecamp, LiquidPlanner, Monday.com.
If you’re already using these kinds of tools, make sure your licenses cover the right number of employees and that your technology can handle the increased use.
Your newly remote team is going to need a little flexibility in the well-worn “9 to 5” work structure.
Many people have children at home with them who’d otherwise be in school or at daycare. For them, the transition to remote work is happening under the most challenging of circumstances (and with no prep time).
Offer employees the flexibility to work when they’re most productive. A little leeway will help reduce stress and increase productivity.
Now, let’s talk about you.
Ask yourself whether working from home feels liberating to you, or if you feel a bit unmoored without the structure an office environment provides.
If you need more structure, schedule blocks of time on your calendar to check in on projects or do deep strategy work. If you’re a “work until the project’s finished” type, you’ll need to set boundaries. Establish your work hours, then abide by them.
If you can, set up a physical space just for work, then leave it when your day is over. You might also want to try an approach like the Pomodoro technique to keep you from burning out.
One thing to remember: almost everyone around the world right now is in the same stressful situation. Take into account the emotional strain employees are experiencing, and be sure to cut yourself some slack, too.
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