How to Keep Your Team Connected & Productive While Working From Home
Although many individual employees and freelancers have worked remotely for years, managing an entire team virtually is a challenge even for seasoned leaders. Coordinating activities, troubleshooting problems, and making decisions collectively becomes more complicated when team members are stuck behind a screen.
Plus, some employees naturally have more distractions at home or may be underperforming due to outside stressors. Keeping these employees motivated and productive requires a holistic approach to helping them succeed.
Have Scheduled Check-ins
Employees working from home may struggle to stay focused and may need periodic check-ins to ensure they are completing tasks and have everything they need to stay productive. Randomly messaging an employee to check on their progress may be seen as micromanaging, and should be avoided unless necessary for project management.
Instead, use scheduled check-ins to talk to employees about their progress on both short- and long-term assignments. Use this time to get updates, ask clarifying questions about the status of projects, and offer additional supports as needed.
Although bringing entire teams together may work best for some offices, individual check-ins may be more efficient. The right option for you will depend on which positions work more independently and which inherently require more collaboration. Daily check-ins are good for fast-moving projects, but some departments may only need check-in meetings 2 or 3 times per week.
Have Social Hours
Most workplaces allow some amount of socializing, as long as employees are getting their work done. With working from home, employees are somewhat deprived of human interaction, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
Motivate employees by allowing short social hours near the end of the day on Fridays. Depending on the number of employees, you may want to encourage individual teams to have their own social video calls instead of trying to get the whole office together.
Video calls can be tricky to facilitate, especially since only one person can talk and be clearly heard at one time. Enact guidelines similar to those for regular meetings and encourage employees to minimize background noise and distractions. For employees to feel the benefits of socializing, they need to be mentally present and not multitasking.
Working together is normal in many offices, but some tasks are typically done alone. Instead of making everyone continue their work in their usual way, encourage employees to find ways to collaborate or work parallel to each other.
Teamwork can boost accountability and accuracy by putting two sets of eyes on the same work. Although it increases the need for communication, this communication time can also strengthen long-term teamwork skills and allow employees to share knowledge.
Provide Adequate Office Supplies to Remote Workers
It’s easy to assume that employees will have sufficient paper and other printer supplies for basic tasks at home, but not everyone will. Employees working from home and sending files electronically will still sometimes need to mail signed forms and test-print reports to make sure they’re formatted correctly. Plus, allowing employees to print documents lets them reduce eye strain by taking a break from the screen.
Work with employees to provide the right printer toner for whatever printer model they have at home. Employees without printers can be provided with a one-time stipend to purchase the printer, then have ink shipped to their homes.
Allow Flexible Working Hours for Remote Workers
Working from home makes it easier for employees to start work on time because it cuts out commute delays like traffic jams. However, employees may be dealing with family obligations, appointments, and distractions around the home.
Allowing employees to have flexible working hours can help them be more productive. For example, an employee with children at home may need to take a longer lunch break to feed the kids, and then make up those hours after the kids have gone to bed. Forcing that employee to work the exact same hours as everyone else may result in them being less productive during that time.
Employers can and should expect team members to keep most of their hours of availability during normal business hours, in order to be able to participate in meetings. However, many tasks can be completed at any time of day, as long as the employee has them finished ahead of their deadline.
Set Earlier Deadlines
When working from home, it’s wise to set deadlines a little earlier than before in case of technical problems. In a brick-and-mortar office, IT staff or a manager can quickly walk down a hallway and troubleshoot problems. When employees are working from home, troubleshooting can become more time-consuming.
Early deadlines can also help in case of miscommunication around the goals or target audience for a project. Although video calls are good for getting the team on the same page, misunderstandings can still happen, especially if the team is new to telework. By requiring team members to turn in projects earlier than necessary, deliverables can be salvaged before the final deadline.
Maintain Open-Door Policies
Employees’ needs will shift as their work progresses or their life situation changes. Make sure to maintain the same open-door policies and remind employees that they can reach out to you or other leadership as needed.
Employees who aren’t used to working from home may struggle with distractions and lack of direction, or may not have the equipment to participate in video calls effectively. If an open-door policy is made clear, they may reach out for guidance about big and small problems, optimizing their work experience, and becoming more productive.
Work from Home: The New Normal
Working from home is new territory for many employees, but as teams get used to the change, telework may be here to stay. Flexible telework policies are a huge perk for busy families, and allowing them to continue teleworking long-term may boost morale and reduce turnover.
Team leaders must take the initiative and inform employees of their options to work flexible hours, collaborate on tasks, and order supplies as needed. Scheduled check-ins also go a long way to encourage employee responsibility and keep projects moving, even as employees work far from managers’ eyes. By taking measures to reduce employee stress and boost morale, employers can make working from home a change for the better.