Remote work or work from home is the future, a fact that the COVID-19 has literally pushed companies into acknowledging. For many businesses, a work from home culture is unfathomable, until now. This is the turning point in history for businesses worldwide. Many have reportedly considered permanently adopting the work from home model post-COVID-19.
Although it sounds doable, work from home comes with its own set of challenges that require innovative processes to overcome them. For the most part, work from home will require managers and leaders to step up their game and create solutions that ensure productivity and profitability while countering unique challenges such as:
- Employees who have never worked from home are not trained to perform well while being in their comfort zone.
- People who do not have a supportive family environment may not be able to work from home at all.
- Isolation and loneliness.
- Family life, daily chores, kids, etc take a toll on even the best professionals, making it impossible for them to stay focused on their tasks.
- The lack of a proper space or office set up may make it difficult to focus.
- Expectations & responsibilities are usually not well-defined.
- The right tools are not in place.
- Everyone’s working on their own time zone according to the routine that suits them best.
- There is a lack of accountability and communication between team members.
- Leaders can become micro-managers making the experience more frustrating.
- Difficult to track employee performance.
All of the above are just regular challenges. Considering the fact that people are now working from home with these existing challenges + the pandemic and you have a serious crisis. That being said, if managers and team leaders stick to creating a process and implement a system making the right use of tools and resources, they can turn this crisis into an opportunity for everyone to thrive.
For a work from home routine to be effective, leaders will have to do their jobs exceptionally well.
As professionals who have ample experience leading remote teams, here are some of the best tips on managing work from home teams provided by our leaders at timetoreply.
Create a Positive Work Culture:
Toxic employees, leaders, or culture are detrimental to the work from home routine. If there’s no process for accountability and transparency, if there’s no trust or effective leadership or if there’s no sense of support in team members, the work from home model cannot thrive. It’s imperative for businesses to have a positive work culture especially since this model thrives on transparency, accountability, and integrity. Even though your team is not together, it doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to provide small touches with corporate gifts or some kind of physical reward to keep energy levels up.
It’s imperative to have a set of defined expectations for all. This should be covered in the form of weekly or daily tasks, goals, or achievements. Setting the right expectations helps everyone stay on the same page, preventing miscommunication and misunderstanding. You should set expectations for:
- Work hours of each team member & their availability
- Recording their daily tasks & maintaining a task calendar
- Following a communication system broken down into sub-teams
- Daily or weekly meeting times (keep meeting times limited)
- Project deadlines that team members must be aware of
- Quick and effective response to emails especially customer emails
Set Up a System:
This is where you can make use of project management tools. Set up a system or process to track task progress, time consumption, and productivity levels of all your team members. Communication schedules including weekly meetings or daily calls must be implemented within this system to ensure strong coordination between all.
Set Up a Routine:
Chances are people working from home might be following their own routines. While this is not harmful, it may cause problems with dependencies and expectations. Implement a 9 to 5 routine where everyone signs in and starts work at the same time as they would generally do. This ensures that any dependencies are resolved quickly and no team member has to wait for the availability of the other to get anything done.
It’s tempting to micro-manage. Don’t. Especially not during a pandemic when people are locked in the house with their families. It’s inevitable for disturbances to happen, for meetings or deadlines to be missed.
Communication is challenging when working remotely, so it’s important that you set up communication channels between teams and sub-teams. Each team lead should have a five-minute call with their team members at the start and end of every working day to set expectations or resolve problems.
Focus on Results:
Some companies use time-trackers to track their team’s activities, but that’s not an effective method. The time-tracker is not an indicator of results. It also adds to the stress. Team members will try their best to fulfill their work hours every day, but will not be able to deliver the outcome intended. In a work-from-home model, it’s better to focus on deliverables and results than on activity tracking.
That said, if you pay by the hour and feel that your employees are not delivering results despite the flexibility, then you may introduce a time-tracking mechanism. However, this should be done after clear expectations are laid out, especially for already hard-working and results-driven employees who would consider this as a signal of mistrust from the management.
Encourage Tea Breaks & Quick Chats:
Just because the team is working from home doesn’t mean there can’t be tea breaks or quick chats to keep the momentum going. It’s already an isolating experience, one that has everyone succumbing to a low mood, which in turn impacts productivity (and increases irritability). It’s perfectly ok to encourage a quick tea-time chat, where team members can crack jokes, attend a virtual get-together, share recipes, share anecdotes for the day, and so on.
Be Kind and Supportive:
If your team member is part of a troubled household or has kids, old parents, etc to take care of, then a little flexibility and support go a long way. It’s necessary to know the living conditions of each of your team members to create expectations for them. For instance, you can’t expect a single mother of two to be fully present at her desk, working 8 to 10 hours a day without interruptions. She will be bound to take care of her kids, make breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. She may take longer breaks and work later hours. All these are situations you need to take into account when working with a remote team.
Invest in Digital Transformation Tools:
The work from home model allows businesses to cut down on physical location expenses while giving employees the flexibility to maintain a work-life balance. This means that businesses must invest in innovation and digital transformation tools. From project management tools to coordination and communication tools, from customer success tools to team performance measurement tools, the business must have a stack of tools to rely on. It will be worth your while to extensively research and decide on the toolset that works best for your business, keeping in mind factors such as team size, desired outcomes, budget, etc. Investing in quality tools will allow you and your team to work together seamlessly.
A work from home model is the future, but it cannot be taken lightly. To make this model a success, you will need to redefine your leadership style, your goals, your processes, and also your work culture. Are you ready to make work from home work for you and your team?