Establishing a work-from-home policy can be incredibly beneficial to employees who manage childcare, long commutes, or simply for the mental break of being able to work occasionally from a home office. But what’s a leader to do during an unprecedented pandemic scare that’s given us no choice but to manage remote workers?
It’s definitely not easy, especially for those who didn’t previously have regular work-from-home options. Here are some recommendations to make this uncertain time a little easier.
Establish a (virtual) open-door policy.
It’s important to make yourself as available as possible to your employees when everyone is working solo because directions can be less clear without the option of a face-to-face conversation.
Make it clear to employees that they can call/text/message you via a workplace app like Slack whenever they have questions or concerns, and they’ll be more likely to reach out with questions before heading down the wrong path or turning in something that wasn’t in line with your expectations.
Few companies have employees that work from home as much as they will be over the next several weeks, and that change of scenery can create a whole host of problems stemming from miscommunication. It’s critical to give your employees the benefit of the doubt, and understand that not all people navigate the isolation well. Be generous with offers of help to those employees who need a little more explanation, or discussion of expectations.
Can this be an email?
Ease up on the meetings, if possible. Setting aside hours each day for employees to be on conference calls, especially if they have small children at home, can be stressful and interrupt precious streaks of productivity. Put extra thought into whether a daily or weekly meeting can be better handled through a quick conversation over group text, chat service or email. It’ll save time and grief for everyone.
If a meeting is a must, embrace video.
If a meeting is a critical part of your team’s day and can’t be missed, try video meetings instead of conference calls.
It can be frustrating to be on a conference call and be interrupted because people can’t see one another, and you may even miss seeing your colleagues right now, so a video call may raise everyone’s spirits.
Communicate. A lot.
It’s important to reiterate messages about deadlines and expectations early and often in this time when employees are apart. Managers should state priorities and open the lines of communication so that employees can feel free to double-check on assignments or reach out if they’re feeling lost or overwhelmed.
Change the work, if possible.
If it’s doable for your team to accomplish a number of smaller tasks instead of tackling a massive group project over the next several weeks, jump at the chance. Your employees will feel more productive, and you’ll avoid the frustration of making the group push through a big assignment that would be better served by having everyone in the same place.
Breathe, and trust.
There are sure to be bumps in the road during a time where no one is in the same place, and it’s important to have patience with everyone and understand that anyone can get distracted or out of sorts when at home. It’ll take a patient and level-headed leader to navigate their employees through this time, and show them that it’s OK to get frustrated or have misunderstandings sometimes.