For most companies, working from home is a relatively new concept. From time to time, we had a few individuals working from home and this was manageable. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing whole organisations being forced to change their working models to allow remote work. This in itself presents a new set of challenges that most business leaders have not encountered before.
My team started working remotely in March. So far, the journey has been smooth with a few bumps along the way; which were expected. Today, I want to share with you a few lessons that you can implement within your team in this period.
1. Make sure everyone is set up
The first thing was to make sure that the team was set up in their homes. We quickly realised that not everyone had access to home internet and we had to make provision to buy weekly bundles. As we did this, we had to streamline internal systems to make requisition easier so that the team could get what they need faster. Without this, response times to client requests would be negatively impacted thus hurting the business. Working from home doesn’t mean that your processes need to come to a halt.
2. Centralize critical resources and communication
This is where the power of the cloud shines through. Having a central repository for all the documents and company resources is a lifesaver. We have been using Slack within the dev team, but we are now transitioning to Base Camp so that we can meet the whole organisation’s needs. Base Camp provides us with a variety of tools that help in resource planning and management across the board. The interface is a bit basic, but once you get a hang of it, it’s one of the best tools you can deploy within your team.
3. Maintain close contact
Working from home has taken away that close contact and comradery that we enjoyed while working from the office. To counter this, we hold daily catch-ups to go over the day and just have banter on the different things we’ve learnt. Working from home doesn’t need to be an ex-communication sentence.
Occasionally, you can throw an online happy hour, or play an online game to boost the morale of your team. Apart but A Part.
4. Change how you manage your team
Micromanagement and MBWA (Management By Walking Around) are next to impossible to do in the current work setup. As a leader, you have to trust your team more and do a lot of delegation. It helps to be transparent and honest with your team to inspire candour. Candour gets things moving along, hopefully without leaving body bags behind.
Empower your team more by being available and open to give guidance and coaching. Design and implement simple processes that enable them to think and act for themselves. In the long term, you’ll become a better leader with a more empowered and motivated team.
You also need to stay agile enough, as we cannot anticipate how long this will last, or whether remote working will be the new normal. Start laying down contingency plans that you can quickly revert to in case of any eventuality.
In these uncertain times, you have to help your team develop a work-life integration. Remote work means that work has now infiltrated their havens; spaces that they retreated to, after a long day at the office. Allow your team to take breaks and refresh. Working from home shouldn’t mean longer screen times or fewer breaks. Support your team as best as you can to avoid burnouts, which can have ripple effects across the entire organisation.
6. Hope for the best, expect the worst
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Be prepared and flexible enough to deal with the issues as they come up. As a leader, your team will always look up to you for guidance and direction. Be objective and realistic to remain afloat.
To all the team leaders out there, you are doing a great job. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed trying to catch up with the “digital transformation agendas”, and “going digital” but hey! This is new to all of us and you got it in check. Keep grinding and do what you do best. You got this!