By Guest Author: Hussain Afeef
Working from home is not a new concept. It has been there for a while. While many enjoy working from home, some face challenges to live and accept the culture of working from home. This pandemic brought everyone to a standstill and left us with no choice, but to run our business wherever possible from home. Companies who thought it was not a productive idea are now considering to move most of their office activities where their teams can work from home.
As leaders, it is always a challenge to keep our teams engaged; when it comes to working from home, this could be a real issue if we don’t pay attention. This article shares five tips leaders can follow to manage their team and keep the engagements at its best.
Set Clear Expectations
Not just working from home; in any circumstances, it is essential as a Team Leader, Unit In-Charge to share your expectations. This will help you to ensure your Team performs and they know what is expected from them at all times. I recently took the lead of a Team which I did not manage directly. During the first week, I met them and set my expectations; shared them what I would expect and how I would want them to perform.
Setting clear expectations when working from home is crucial. This includes guiding your Team in sharing the work schedules, how would you expect to deliver results, the discipline they should maintain and follow up plans. In setting the expectations show them that you care; by highlighting the importance, they need to give to themselves. If you give your Team a task and if they cannot deliver on time, encourage them to speak to you and manage each other’s expectations. Set the guidelines for responding to emails. Text messages and even the mode of communication in case of an emergency. i.e. you could tell your Team the method of communication in case of an emergency is through phone calls.
Provide Reliable & Essential Tools
Once the expectations are set, you must lead in providing them with the essential tools which will help them to set up a reliable working from home station. This could be from the internet speed, computer stations and even some basic stationeries needed to get their work done from home. You must provide the training and make sure they understand how to use the various virtual working platforms; whether it is to manage tasks, schedule events, attend events or even how to engage with multiple virtual platforms. Many of your colleagues may know the basics of operating in a virtual world, but they may not be pros in ensuring they perform up to your expectations. It is as simple as training your whole Team of the discipline of using Zoom, Googlemeet, Microsoft Team and other virtual platforms. You must have someone within your Team who should check on the quality experience of these platforms, and everyone should be able to feedback to this member who will ensure they can do their task. Without having reliable and essential tools, we must not expect our Team to perform to the best of their ability.
A friend of mine who is a CEO based in San Francisco recently told me that he engages with his Team more since they started working from home, than when they used to be at their office building. He has learned more about his Team now, how they value their time and what works well for them. Engage often refers to connecting with your Team at a human level and check on them frequently. You can do this through virtual meetings, spontaneously joining Team Leaders meeting, before the start of the session go around ask them how they are doing? There are several things one can do to create and improve engagement. Regardless of the virtual working platforms, you use as a team or a company, what stops you or your Team sending a daily message of inspiration or note of wisdom to your Team encouraging them to be hopeful about the future or ways to get ahead of the business challenges. Virtual Team Quizzes, Bingo events, a platform where your Team can share exciting ideas such as a virtual idea bank, once in a while visit the idea bank, recognize them and send a personalized message to one who shared one fantastic idea.
Trust Your team
Having your Teams to work from home could always be a challenge, primarily if you are used to micromanaging your team. Once you have set up your team at home, provided you have shared the expectations, the reliable tools; your job as a team leader or supervisor is to count and believe in your team they will get the job done. You must encourage and always appreciate, celebrate when they deliver the tasks even with a simple acknowledgement such as “great work, good job, excellent result, keep going” etc.. Every time you celebrate and send them a note of appreciation they gain your trust and the critical element of the essence of working from home grows. We must value our people even more than before; If your team is not delivering on the tasks, rather than sending emails, set up a call, find out what is going on, how you can help and add value to them to cope with the new challenges. Create the mindset of leading the team and evaluate their performance based on the results they deliver; not based on the hours that you expect them to work or be with the computer stations at home. At times we have several expectations like they should put, i.e. a number of hours or should be doing a specific task at a particular time: to gain trust, we must learn how to manage the expectation and also show more care, compassion and empathy to our team. While working from home, we must understand every employee carries unique challenges. Therefore we must connect with them directly rather than having a one size fits all policy. Stay focused on the outcome, not the activity.
As Team Leaders, we must find ways to keep connected with our Team even from a distance. You can schedule weekly follow up calls, or also have virtual tea breaks. You may not have done it before; why not arrange a virtual afternoon high-tea meeting. All your teams can get ready with a cup of tea/light snacks, join the meeting, catch up on topics as all celebrate the afternoon tea. These types of pre-arranged events keep the Team always connected. If you have never tried this, this is something I would encourage you to try. Arrange at least a monthly virtual town hall with all of your colleagues, share important updates, where your business is heading and future challenges. Keep them informed. Keeping your Team up to date is an integral part of staying connected with your Team. If you are the senior leader of the organization, lead by showing other Team Members, how frequent meetings should be done and what topics to be followed, you could have an overall engagement and connectivity strategy or in general working from home communication plan.
While the above tips sound easy; it all depends on the execution and doing it. Perhaps some of us are already aware of these. The question is, how many of us proactively do these things to keep our Team engaged.
Let’s evolve rather than repeating; learn from the opportunities this pandemic gave us and choose paths to do things differently. It’s time for us to pivot to a new mindset.
About the Author: Hussain Afeef has over 15 years of experience in the areas of HR strategy, customer experience, quality management, talent, performance management, and learning & development. He also has an extensive background in coaching startups and entrepreneurs and has given inspirational talks to both local and international forums. Further to being a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching – Team and Executive Coach.