Everyone always thought working from home would be so cool, right? Sure, plenty of people have been doing it for years — but not your company. There's a sense a of security knowing your employees are coming in daily and working hard to contribute to your company's success.
But now your hand has been forced. Suddenly, working from home is the new normal. How can you create that same sense of team when everyone is working remotely (and probably in their pajamas)?
I've managed remote teams for years. Teams that would normally fall apart without face-to-face interactions, but we were able to excel despite our geographical differences. I can tell you this, if you have your team singing from the same song sheet, virtual work is just as productive (if not MORE productive) as sitting in an office.
Set a Mission, Vision, and Values: We're human. We like a sense of belonging. A clear mission, vision and set of values gives your employees a sense of being part of something bigger than themselves. It gives them purpose. A strong mission inspires your employees so they are motivated to get up and do their best because they believe in your collective cause. Maybe you have a loosely defined mission, but have never made it formal. Or you have a mission that needs revisiting. Or maybe this is the first time you've put thought into defining an operating charter for your business. This is a good time to establish a strong foundation for your business so your employees understand exactly what they are working towards. This worksheet gives you examples and guidance on how to create a mission, vision, and values that will keep your employees aligned, regardless their location.
Establish standard work: Laundry. Kids home from school. Barking Dogs. Television. There are a lot of distractions competing for your employees attention when they work from home. It takes a lot of discipline to remained focus so the work can be completed in the same manner it would be if they were in the office. It can cause a lot of stress for a manager trying to control employees workday from afar. Standard work is a term used in LEAN management. Lean is a methodology organizations embrace a culture of continuous improvement. Lean in itself is a big undertaking, but if you an initiate this one element, it will help a lot. Standard work is essentially "Standard Operating Procedures". And for a manager of remote teams, it's huge peace of mind. Take a look at your workday and determine certain "must do's" to optimize communication and provide transparency into the work being completed. When I had a team dispersed across the U.S., we held daily stand up meetings. These were 15 min meetings that allowed the team to do a quick check in and let me know if they had any issues that may prevent them from doing their tasks at hand for the day. Depending on the type of work you do, you might want to do a daily wrap up to ensure work is getting done on time. The key is to not be militant about this. You need to trust your employees. These meetings are more for them, not for you. Celebrate their achievements and set them up to be successful the next day. Employees just need to know you have their backs and in turn they'll work hard to get the job done right. We mapped out exactly how a project needed to be completed – not because I am a micro manager, but because when any employee knows exactly how to get their job done effectively it increases their productivity. This is an especially important step now that sick days are very possible. A clearly defined process makes it possible for someone to pick up on work where it was left off should the need arise.
Rely on technology: There are so many incredible tools available to close the distance between us and make working from home just as effective as being in the office. Sure it can be awkward having to go on video conference calls, but when you get used to it, you'll see how endearing it can become. Seeing people in their home environments can create bonds with your teams. Personally, I hate going on camera if I haven't showered. So you better bet I get my butt in gear when I know I have to show my face. And guess what? I'm more efficient because I've set a professional tone at the very start of the day. I use Zoom, but there are other tools out there. Try it for free for a bit. Tools like Slack help you communicate with your team throughout the day. These instant messaging tools pop alerts up right on your desktop and allow you to have brief conversations. This way you you can get a quick answer to that question you normally just popped into your co-worker's office to resolve. Again, there is a free option. There are some great project management tools available as well to provide transparency into what your team is working on remotely. You may need to invest in one of these resources, but they are worth their weight in gold if you utilize them effectively. Here are some platforms worth exploring:
The most important thing is to breathe and to remember to trust your employees. When you give them the tools to be successful, they'll respond in kind by doing great work to help your company remain successful.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by this sudden shift in working environments, it's ok to ask for help. Vitals is offering a 1 1/2 hour customized workshop to help get your new remote company aligned. In return, we'll deliver you new or refreshed Mission, Vision, and Values and a game plan to keep your employees engaged during this national crisis. Sign up now and start regaining control in your new remote work environment.