The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing how businesses and households around the world operate for the unforeseeable future. Businesses, leaders and employees must work to establish a new normal in uncertain times.
The outbreak has forced businesses, leaders and employees around the world to decentralize on a moment’s notice. Employees by the thousands are now working remotely for their health and safety. Yet, the majority of the American workforce lacks remote experience and fully equipped home offices.
Leaders have a responsibility to help employees learn to work from home effectively, remain productive and stay well – and well-informed – during the sudden transition.
Working from home is not as simple as sending employees home with a laptop and their files. Here are some strategies to set you and your team up for success.
Take care of yourself
Employees will look to leaders for calm, clear leadership during this time of disruption and uncertainty. Being strong and present for them means you need to first take care of yourself and your own well-being. Establish regular routines, integrate new well-being practices, and set clear expectations.
Establish a routine
Maintain a regular routine as much as possible when working from home, including getting dressed and ready for the day as you usually would. Establish a ritual to signal your transition into the workday and shift to a professional mindset.
At the same time, appreciate the benefits of working from home and lean into the opportunity to create healthy new habits and let go of unproductive habits no longer serving you.
Set a goal for your day. What would you like to accomplish? What are your priorities? How can you best achieve them today? Write them down to reflect throughout the day. Check in with your team at the beginning of the day to ensure they have work to accomplish, clear priorities and the materials needed to succeed.
Set clear expectations
Managers, supervisors and project leads should set clear expectations for working from home, including a list of work, deadlines and quality standards. Keep client service standards/promises, values and your organization’s purpose front and center.
Provide employees the technology they need to meet expectations and succeed. Connect often. You may have less visibility into employees’ workloads when working remotely, so encourage them to communicate capacity, priorities and tasks regularly. Establish clear guidelines for how to track projects and assign tasks, clarify preferred communication channels, maintain business hours and set standing meeting times.
Dedicated remote workers typically have designated office locations in their homes and childcare out of the home. But in the face of a sudden transition to a work-from-home schedule and closed schools, employees may be distracted by home-life demands. Anticipate that employees may need to step away from work to care for family members. Facilitate open conversations about flexible hours and how to manage deadlines and deliverables.
Manage against isolation
Remote workers may feel isolated from the business when they aren’t physically in the office. Ensure employees have the technology, materials and information they need to stay connected, productive and in the loop. Recognize their accomplishments and support their professional development. Check in with employees daily via phone to collaborate, catch up and listen.
Isolation can reduce employees’ sense of belonging. Encourage a social cadence with your team. Create standing happy hours or morning coffee chats to talk without an agenda and gauge emotion and stress levels. Use video chat as often as possible to connect and see each other.
Practice healthy habits
Movement is critical for health, well-being and productivity, and employees are likely not taking as many steps at home as they would during a normal business day. Use the new schedule as an opportunity to encourage employees to practice healthy well-being habits: stretching or yoga before work, walking during lunch or taking laps during a screen break.
Social connections are as important to our well-being as physical fitness. Encourage employees to take mindfulness breaks and short screen breaks throughout the day to refresh and reset.
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